Thursday, May 15, 2008
Nicole Kidman--A Mess of Contradictions
Nicole Kidman has gotten a lot of flack for her choice of roles. It's no secret that her post-Oscar career has been less than stellar, so much so that there's no point in even listing all the duds. I remained conflicted about her for the longest time, less forgiving of the projects she chooses to work on than say Halle Berry. Don't get me wrong. Berry has a lot to answer for too. But for a woman who looks like Nicole Kidman, you'd have a tough time convincing me that there aren't infinitely more opportunities for good roles than someone who looks like Halle Berry.
I recently saw Margot at the Wedding for the first time on DVD. I initially avoided it, not because of Nicole Kidman, but because of writer-director Noah Baumbach whose 2005 offering The Squid and the Whale annoyed me to no end (and when not even Laura Linney can't save a movie for me, that says a lot). Having now seen his second feature, I can now respectfully call Mr. Baumbach a hack. He incorporates the worst parts of Wes Anderson's writing-style, with absolutely none of Wes Anderson's charmingly meticulous attention to detail, nor his flair for art direction. With the exception of Nicole Kidman (whose characterization of a loving yet spiteful and biting woman is spot on--anyone who has a sister will especially recognize this), it's almost all quirk, no substance. Straight out of "Indie-Screenwriter 101" and it's probably no coincidence that The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Anderson's worst film to date, was co-written by Baumbach. But this isn't about him.
After watching Margot at the Wedding, and then re-watching The Hours for about the tenth time a few days ago, I'm now convinced more than ever that the talent is there for Nicole Kidman--in spades, actually. She's actually better in Margot at the Wedding than she's been in years, so much so that I'm beginning to question why there was no Oscar nomination here? People have certainly gotten nominations for worse performances in worse films, and I know that the Academy is just waiting to invite her back to the party. It's their way of justifying who they give Oscars too. How else would you explain Hilary Swank's second win for Million Dollar Baby, or Charlize Theron's throwaway nomination in 2005 for doing the exact same thing she did two years earlier?
I never thought I'd be writing a post defending Nicole Kidman, but I just don't understand the reaction to her performance here (or lack of a reaction.) I know I'm months too late, but it's a little baffling to me. With the exception of Marion Cotillard, I sincerely believe that the Academy got all the acting awards right this year. But that doesn't change the fact that they rarely reward performers for taking risks and stepping outside of their comfort zone. Nicole did that with Margot at the Wedding by daring to play such a complex, unlikable woman. I've been trying to rationalize it, and I can't come up with anything. It's a great performance in a bad movie, but the Academy has rewarded those before, so that doesn't seem to be an issue. Baffling...
Review of Margot at the Wedding: C- (Some good ideas, but try again Mr. Baumbach)
Review for Nicole Kidman's performance: A (Note perfect. Better than she's been in years)