Now is the time to praise Margo Martindale, an actress who goes down easy, like a soft, soothing bourbon.
One of the more reassuring presences in modern films, Martindale first took my attention with an early role, her supporting turn as Birdy in Robert Benton's "Nobody's Fool" (1994), and perhaps was most memorable ten years later as Hilary Swank's crude, cruel "white trash" momma, perfectly named Earline, in Clint Eastwood's wrenching "Million Dollar Baby" (2004).
Most recently, she's shined as John C. Reilly's mother in "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," in a brief bits in Tamara Jenkins' "The Savages" and Tom McCarthy's "Win Win" and as Minnie Driver and Eddie Izzard's strange, game neighbor on the superior FX series, "The Riches."
But her long-coming breakthrough role, also on TV, is as the irrepressible Mags Bennett on Timothy Olyphant's "Justified," for which she's been Emmy-nominated, and this season, Martindale shows up opposite Patrick Wilson on ABC's "A Gifted Man."
But her most satisfying turn came as Carol, an American tourist, in "14ème Arrondissement," Alexander Payne's wry segment for the omnibus French film, "Paris, je t'aime" (2006), speaking fractured French with her familiar drawl. (She was born in Jacksonville, Texas.)
That's a scene from the film above.
Other roles include "Days of Thunder," "Practical Magic," "The Hours" and "The Human Stain," all with Nicole Kidman; "Lorenzo's Oil," "The Firm," "Twlight,"
"Earthly Possessions" and "Dead Man Walking," all with Susan Sarandon; and the recent "Feast of Love," "Rails and Ties," and "Stop-Loss," in which she simply contributes her mellow intonations in a voiceover.
On stage, Martindale orginated the part of Turvy (aka, "the Dolly Parton role") in "Steel Magnolias," was showcased in the remarkable one-woman show, "Always ... Patsy Cline" (playing a diehard Cline fane) and soared as Big Momma opposite Ned Beatty's Big Daddy in the recent revival of "Cat on the Hot Tin Roof," for which she was nominated for a Tony.