my name is mayukh sen and i'm a student at stanford university studying film, history, and creative writing (or something like that). i happen to like jane fonda. a lot. CONTACT: firstname.lastname@example.org
BERENICE BEJO, THE ARTIST
Thursday, January 5, 2012 11:45 PM
Berenice Bejo does not capture my imagination in The Artist. The role requires her to be charming and compassionate, and she has these qualities in spades. But Bejo coasts on her charisma; she barely invents. She does not have the tools to consistently make these states of feeling seem interesting, fresh, and genuine. Her look is too contemporary for this role. That is a weird case to hold against her, especially considering Bejo is an incredibly beautiful woman, but her beauty does not have the classic force or authority of an actress I imagine could ignite popular opinion in her favor. (Kind of like how I felt about Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love – likable enough girl, hardly enough to inspire furious dramaturgical passion) This ultimately reveals the limitations of the way Hazanavicius conceives his world and his characters. Peppy, like all other characters, is a mere accessory to George. She is a narrative device ultimately in service of influencing his trajectory; she barely changes herself. The role could have been more complex. Though the writer and director are understandably to blame, a more expressive actress could have added shades of vanity to this character. There is a potentially rich power dynamic and role reversal between George and Peppy that isn't explored. As it stands, Peppy is merely the little girl who could. The film world barely corrupts her sense of morals; she is angelic and idealized in a way that tires quickly.
Still, I don't remember a smile as wide as the one I had when I saw her dance. Her charm does accomplish quite a lot. The Artist is a benign film and I don't mind that. We shouldn't expect it to contain some abstruse thesis just because of its high concept. Hazanavicius possesses uncommon grace in the way he structures the film. It is given weight because I feel the film's "happy ending" has a palpable sense of sadness – hearing those clinical human voices readying for the next take is, to put it bluntly, less than wondrous, and I love this subtle cynicism. But for a film whose central conceit, and claim to fame, is invention and challenge to convention, Bejo disappoints, and the ruse is uncovered. She's lost at sea in this role, a gorgeous talent from 2011 placed unwittingly in 1927. I don't really buy it.
SHAILENE WOODLEY, THE DESCENDANTS
Shailene Woodley is not yet a very fluid actress, but she remains for me one of the few vaguely insightful elements of a film I otherwise found painfully lacking in a basic understanding of human relationships. She cannot handle some terrible lines given to her (I don't ever want to hear her say the word "twat" again), and the way she handles her character's pottymouth is sometimes too awkward to really affect. But Woodley suggests the contradictions and complexities of that period in any teenager's life, particularly when one is forced to juggle impulses and duties against each other. She is ambivalent, wounded, and moody.
I was particularly impressed by the physical expressiveness of her turn. Whereas Clooney's body language suggests an uncomfortable tension (a polite way of saying that he's just not right for the role), Woodley's captures the combination of brashness and defensiveness of her character. Part of me wants to give her this role at the hands of a better writer and director and say, "try again"; she could knock this one out of the park. But I'm slightly interested to see what she's capable of doing. As it stands, this is the kind of "nice start; come back with more later" work from an ingenue. An Oscar nomination would be too much, but there have been worse performances recognized. Like I said on Twitter, it'd be a little odd if that girl from The Secret Life of the American Teenager got a nomination instead of Vanessa Redgrave. In a movie full of characters who cast contemplative, grieving stares into the distance, though, Woodley's ring true. Maybe there's a career here.
I don't know what to say. This must have been how people felt when they saw Julianne Moore in Boogie Nights or Meryl Streep in The Deer Hunter or James Dean in East of Eden. To know that you're seeing a major career forming in front of your eyes is overwhelming. I certainly didn't "get it" about Carey Mulligan (I still don't), and even if Lawrence bowled me over last year I didn't think she'd be much of a versatile actress. It's been months since I've seen this movie and I still can't get Olsen out of my head. I'm continually astounded by the imagination she brought to this role. It is a performance in which Olsen primarily reacts. She is intuitive, and her interactions with her fellow actors plumb the depths of human relationships that run the risk of seeming superficial on paper. This could've turned into a role full of ersatz emotionalism but Olsen expresses empathy for her character. It is enough to silence critics of the film who decry Durkin for not giving Martha a clear-cut "backstory". She is moody, full of spontaneity, and free of affect. Her outbursts are not method experiments, but, rather, genuine expressions of human suffering. You feel her longing to connect. Between Olsen and Jessica Chastain, I feel like American movies have finally been revitalized. Elizabeth Olsen has the kind of face that can inspire, arouse, and motivate directors. She makes me hope that this generation can produce cinema of thought and feeling.
BEST ACTRESS 1986Kathleen Turner, Peggy Sue Got Married
Sigourney Weaver, Aliens
Sissy Spacek, Crimes of the Heart
Jane Fonda, The Morning After
Marlee Matlin, Children of a Lesser God
(SOME OF) MY FAVORITE BEST ACTRESS LOSERS, POST-1970Julie Christie, McCabe & Mrs. Miller
Penelope Cruz, Volver
Judy Davis, A Passage to India
Jane Fonda, Julia
Valerie Perrine, Lenny
Susan Sarandon, Atlantic City
Liv Ullmann, The Emigrants
Debra Winger, An Officer and a Gentleman
Debra Winger, Terms of Endearment
CreditsLayout by daphne/cadmium.
Banner/Icons by collapsingnight.
Winona drawing from Fanpop.