Audience feels both her character's love, pain

OSCAR QUOTIENT

PROS: Conveys joy of true love, damn what the neighbors think.

CONS: Possibility of getting overlooked alongside powerful perfs from Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson.

Playing a woman fleeing an abusive husband for a younger lover with whom her relationship goes tragically awry, Marisa Tomei says she strove to keep her character from becoming a cliched femme fatale in “In the Bedroom.”

“I wanted there to be a reason why he would want to be with me, and to not make her the total fall guy. I wanted to approach her nonjudgmentally,” Tomei says.

“In Todd’s hands,” she adds, referring to first-time director Todd Field, “she avoided being the fall guy. They had a true love. They really shared a worldview, and they were not getting confirmation outside of each other. He had a controlling mother, and I had my ex. They wanted to be with each other. There was tenderness, relief and peace there.”

Their romance is a pivotal plot point in “Bedroom,” and Tomei’s deft handling of the role has given her an opportunity to pick up her second supporting actress Oscar. To the surprise of many, she scored in 1993 opposite Joe Pesci for the comedy “My Cousin Vinny.”

Tomei says Field allowed all the actors to intuitively take their characters where they thought appropriate.

“We didn’t talk about it that much,” she recalls. “We just got in there, and he let the actors take a crack at it. There was never a really big push-pull. We were kind of instinctively swimming through it and landing on what we thought was right. There was a lot of trust in us.”

As for working with the the stellar cast, Tomei replies: “I love that everybody’s soul went into it. … We were like a little circus gang, a family going together. It’s been a joyful experience.”

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