NOT JUST FOR HER OSCAR-NOMINATED ROLE IN LINCOLN BUT also for her cracking portrayal of Nora Walker in Brothers and Sisters, the sadly defunct series about a multi-generational family in an affluent area of Southern California. If Nora Walker were to wear a hat, it would be vintage like her, stylish but comfortable, a little worn and battered but with an unmistakeable jaunty tilt which tells the world that she will survive.
And there is so much she has to deal with. Her late husband turns out to be an embezzler whose cheating isn’t confined to money. After his death not just one but two mistresses emerge, of whom one has his child and one uses the shedload of money he left her to buy her way into the family business. Nora copes with this and with the problems of her adult children, which include divorce, bereavement, cancer, the after-effects of army service in the Middle East, drug addiction, alcoholism and turbulent professional and personal lives.
The matriarch of the Walker clan, like all of us, gets it wrong sometimes. Often, actually. She’s demanding, meddling, opinionated. She’s maddening and manipulative.
But she also gets it right. Her heart is huge and her family’s happiness and well-being is its core. The scenes where family members gather round the table overflowing with the colourful and plentiful food she offers symbolise the importance of unity and togetherness in the face of adversity. She is strong, funny, determined.
At the same time, Nora works on building her own life. She raises money for a charity she establishes, securing investors and getting a centre built. She works as a florist. She becomes a broadcaster and hosts a call-in radio show.
Her love life, and yes, she has one, this mother of five grown-up children and grandmother of seven, is fraught with difficulty. There’s a con-man (pretty tough after her hubby’s goings-on), a still-too-married man and an old boyfriend who turns out to be…no, you need to get the box set. You really do.
There’s a pretty good soundtrack, too. Among many others, Roseanne Cash, Otis Redding, Lucinda Williams, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, a touch of Gershwin and a little bit of Madness enhance our enjoyment of Nora and her clan.