October 17, 2003
The Weisz Guide to Accents

weisz.jpgIn the very first issue of New York Magazine in 1968, Tom Wolfe penned a story called "Honks and Wonks" that attempted to explain—and gently mock, naturally—what he called "The New York accent." (You can find it anthologized in Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine.) Wolfe writes:
The oi sound in toiiiiime, by the way, is not to be confused with the so-called Brooklyn oi sound comedians always use to mimic: "Da oily boid gets da woim," "She reads da New Yoik Woild," "She lives on Toity-toid Street." These are examples of dropping r's and substituting oi for the er sound. Today you are only likely to hear it from older working-class people, such as some old cab drivers.

I think of this every time I see Rachel Weisz attempting to wrap her mouth around an "American" accent. Today, she co-stars in Runaway Jury and if the trailer is any indication, she speaks her every woid like an old cabbie. Her accent was one of the worst things about Neil LaBute's execrable The Shape of Things, as well. Yes, Shape took place in California and Jury takes place in New Orleans: that's why her dead end kid accent is even more baffling. Which is sad, since she was wonderful with her natural accent in About a Boy. I understand American casting directors' desire to tap overseas talent to play Americans on film (if the choice is between Kate Beckinsale and Denise Richards, it's really no choice) but stick with the ones who can do a convincing accent, okay?

There's the aforementioned Beckinsale. Helena Bonham Carter's American accent is pretty good. Week-after-week, I watch Joely Richardson on Nip/Tuck and never think about the fact that she's Vanessa Redgrave's kid. Emma Thompson did pretty good in Primary Colors. You'd think Weisz could practice her accent a little, since her boyfriend is a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn. I don't know how Runaway Jury is gonna be, but as long as Weisz is perpetrating that accent, it just ain't woith my toime.

Posted in a Shallow fashion.

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