February 1, 2010

Monologue Monday: Ruth Popper in The Last Picture Show

This Monday I wanted to highlight the last scene from the last film I watched, The Last Picture Show. (Last!) Cloris Leachman won an Academy Award for her performance as Ruth Popper, the lonely and dejected wife of the small town's high school basketball coach who takes up with a senior (Timothy Bottoms). When he begins dating a girl his own age, he mostly forgets about Ruth, who suddenly isn't his only option anymore. By the film's end, he ends up back at Ruth's doorstep, who isn't dressed to see him (she's been watching TV in her bathrobe). At first she apologizes for not being dressed, and then as she's about to pour him a cup of coffee, she hurls the cup and the pot at the wall and lets loose.

The monologue below begins around 2:57.

Ruth: What am I doing apologizin' to you? Why am I always apologizin' to you, ya little bastard? Three months I been apologizing to you, without you even bein' here. I haven't done anything wrong - why can't I quit apologizin'? You're the one oughta be sorry. I wouldn't still be in my bathrobe if it hadn't been for you. I'da had my clothes on hours ago. You're the one made me quit carin' if I got dressed or not.

I guess just because your friend got killed you want me to forget what you did and make it all right. I'm not sorry for you. You'd've left Billy, too, just like you left me. I bet you left him plenty a nights, whenever Jacy whistled. I wouldn't treat a dog that way. I guess you thought I was so old and ugly you didn't owe me any explanation. You didn't need to be careful of me. There wasn't anythin' I could do about you and her - why should you be careful of me? You didn't love me. Look at me. Can't you even look at me?

[Sonny slowly turns and looks at her]

Y'see? You shouldn't have come here. I'm around that corner now. You've ruined it and it's lost completely. Just your needing me won't make it come back.

Until this moment, Ruth's been quiet, mumbly, subservient. Her affair with Sonny had brought out a fire in her, and when it was taken away without any explanation, all that anger went inside. Leachman famously did this scene in one take. I think some of the rest of her performance lacks nuance, but this monologue is lovely. The way she spits it at him, still loving him in spite of his actions and yet too proud and too defeated (not once but twice) by men she loved to forgive him.

Watch the rest of the video to see what happens.

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