For today’s Saturday Matinee let’s go back in time and take a look at Sarandon’s Best Actress Oscar winning performance in Dead Man Walking. Directed by husband Tim Robbins, Sarandon played Sister Helen Prejean, the nun who wrote a book about her experience as spiritual advisor to a convicted killer.
About the book
In 1982, Sister Helen Prejean became the spiritual advisor to Patrick Sonnier, the convicted killer of two teenagers who was sentenced to die in the electric chair of Louisiana’s Angola State Prison. In the months before Sonnier’s death, the Roman Catholic nun came to know a man who was as terrified as he had once been terrifying. She also came to know the families of the victims and the men whose job it was to execute—men who often harbored doubts about the rightness of what they were doing.Out of that dreadful intimacy comes a profoundly moving spiritual journey through our system of capital punishment. Here Sister Helen confronts both the plight of the condemned and the rage of the bereaved, the fears of a society shattered by violence and the Christian imperative of love. On its original publication in 1993, Dead Man Walking emerged as an unprecedented look at the human consequences of the death penalty.
About the movie
Both Robbins and Sean Penn who played the killer were nominated as was the movie’s song but only Sarandon—in a role that notably leaves her undeniable physical beauty by the wayside— took Oscar home.
In the words of the late Roger Ebert
Sister Helen, as played here by Sarandon and written and directed by Tim Robbins (from the memoir by the real Helen Prejean), is one of the few truly spiritual characters I have seen in the movies. Movies about "religion" are often only that - movies about secular organizations that deal in spirituality. It is so rare to find a movie character who truly does try to live according to the teachings of Jesus (or anyone else, for that matter) that it's a little disorienting: This character will behave according to what she thinks is right, not according to the needs of a plot, the requirements of a formula, or the pieties of those for whom religion, good grooming, polite manners and prosperity are all more or less the same thing.
Dead Man Walking is available to stream for $2.99 on Amazon, iTunes and Vudu. The film also happens to be running on Encore Suspense on Sunday 3/19.
I can’t find a trailer online but I did dig up an Oprah ‘Master Class’ session about Dead Man Walking. Let’s watch.
I have to say guys, she’s really something, isn’t she?