December 20, 2002
Daniel Fierman

“The Sopranos,” “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune,” and “Sunshine State.”

We need more women like Edie Falco. Women of spine and sad grace. This year, the 39‑year‑old Sopranos star turned up for her usual waltz with James Gandolfini and David Chase, reminding us again how many others have turned Mob wives into caricatures, and how good it is to have it otherwise. But then she floated above the big hair and pans of ziti that made her name. It was less that Falco did anything different ‑she's been this good for years‑ but she had the kind of showcases life before Carmela denied her. On Broadway, in Terrence McNally's Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Falco bared herself (literally) and took her Frankie from damaged mistrust to cautious love. The reviews ‑bordering on reverential‑ said it all. On screen, she effortlessly slipped into a role director John Sayles penned for her in his drama Sunshine State: Marly Temple, salty motel manager, lonely and, like all the best Sayles characters, just hanging in there. In both parts, the actress proved herself devoid of Hollywood tics and tricks‑the walking antidote to the gaping grins of stars. And for that alone, you can be assured of this: Carmela Soprano is only the beginning.