Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is now available to stream on Netflix, and with that came a lot of praise but also a lot of criticism, especially over Anna Paquin’s character, Peggy Sheeran. And not because her performance wasn’t good, but because she had little to no dialogue, and most of her acting relied on facial expressions. Many viewers have expressed their disappointment (and, in some cases, anger) over Paquin’s “underused” talent in The Irishman, while many others have praised her ability to deliver a “haunting” performance without saying much.
The Irishman marks Scorsese’s return to mob films after exploring other genres for over a decade. The film follows truck driver Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), who gets involved with Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and his Pennsylvania crime family. Sheeran ends up becoming his top hitman, and goes to work with Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), a powerful Teamster linked to organized crime. Although the story focuses more on the aforementioned characters, viewers also get to know Frank’s daughter, Peggy, who ends up being the moral anchor, even if she only says a couple of words.
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Anna Paquin’s talent is undeniable, and it’s completely understandable that viewers were disappointed to find that she doesn’t have much dialogue – but that was exactly the point.
Anna Paquin Had No Dialogue Because Her Character Required It
Viewers first meet Peggy Sheeran as a child, and witness (along with her) how her father brutally beats the owner of a grocery store who pushed her for knocking over a product. This was the beginning of a very tense father-and-daughter relationship, as Peggy never trusts her father again and becomes afraid of him. Her distrust grows every time she sees her father leave for “work”, knowing that he is involved in dangerous businesses. Peggy doesn’t trust Russell Bufalino either, but she builds a strong bond with Jimmy Hoffa, who she comes to love as a father figure and more than her actual father. When Hoffa disappears, Peggy suspects Frank is behind it, and that prompts her to confront her father – and those are the only words she says.
Paquin didn’t have more lines because her character was afraid of her father, to the point of being scared of speaking up, and didn’t actually have a relationship with him. She only shouts at him by the end of the film because she does care about Jimmy Hoffa, her only father figure. Of course, she could have had something to say in the (brief) scenes she had with Hoffa, marking even more the contrast between her behavior towards the two men, but that was not the case. Even with no substantial dialogue, Paquin delivered a great performance in The Irishman that brought tension to Frank’s family life, and showed that some family bonds, once broken, can’t always be fixed.
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