Gorillas in the Mist (1988): Sigourney Weaver in Oscar Caliber Performance

Warner (Warner/Universal Production)
 
Sigourney Weaver, in her self-assured portrayal of the late anthropologist Dian Fossey, dominated every frame of Gorillas in the Mist, Michael Apted’s film about Fossey’s heroic struggle to save Africa’s declining breed of gorillas from poaching and extinction.
 
The script is based on anthropologist Fossey’s memoirs as well and an article by Harold T. P. Hayes. Some critics had reservations about the narrative structure and the watering-down of this quasi-faithful biopic to a too literal level in order to make the movie more accessible to the mass public. The romantic subplot between Fossey and Bryan Brown seems superfluous and unnecessary, detracting attention from the main, far more intriguing issue.
The film tries to present a blanaced portraiture between Fossey’s nobility of effort and obsessive personality, which ultimately cost her her life, when she was found dead. The portrait of Fossey that emerges is that of a determined, passionate woman who would do anything (even risk her life) to save the mountain gorillas she studies. Indeed, in the process, she almost single-mindedly draws international attention to their declining population. Yet her obsessive work to save the Gorillas also affects her personal life and brings her into dangerous confrontations with big-game hunters and impoverished native poachers.
For authenticity, director Michael Apted, still better known for his seminal British documentary series “7 UP/49 UP,” shot on location in Rwanda, where the anthropologist lived and worked.
 
Oscar Alert
 
Oscar Nominations: 5
 
Actress: Sigourney Weaver
Screenplay (Adapted): Anna Hamilton Phelan, screenplay; Phelan and Tab Murphy, story
Sound: Andy Nelson, Brian Saunders, and Peter Handford
Original Score; Maurice Jarre
Film Editing: Stuart Baird
 
Oscar Awards: None
 
Oscar Context:
 
A double nominee in q988, Weaver emerged as the big loser. The winner of the Best Actress Oscar was Jodie Foster for “The Accused,” and the winner of the Supporting Actress Oscar was Geena Davis for the comedy, “The Accidental Tourist; Weaver was also nominated for a comedy, “Working Girl.”
 
The Writing Oscar went to Brit Christopher Hampton for the period drama, “Dangerous Liaisons.” The Sound Oscar went to Clint Eastwood’s biopic, “Bird.”
 
Dave Grusin won the Score Oscar for Robert Redford’s “The Milagro Beanfield War,” and the Editing Oscar went to Arthur Schmidt for Robert Zemeckis’ technically inventive, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”