Saturday, December 15, 2007

Muriel Awards 2007 FYC #10

Best Lead Actress: Nicole Kidman, Margot at the Wedding

I've always found Nicole Kidman to have an uneasy fit with the movie-star racket. Something about her demeanor just doesn't wash with the public perception of what a star ought to be- she's got the glamour down cold, but she lacks the no-nonsense fierceness of Jodie Foster or the warm everygal appeal of Reese Witherspoon. In this way, both the disappointing box office for would-be blockbusters like Bewitched and The Invasion and the incongruousness of her presence in films of this sort cast into relief the idea that she's not a bone-deep movie star, but rather an actress who plays a star for the cameras. Strangely, it's that very element of Kidman's persona that prevents the masses from fully embracing her as a star- her brittleness- that might be the most fascinating characteristic of her best performances. And make no mistake, Margot at the Wedding is definitely one of her best performances, if not the best. In the film's title role, Kidman magnificently plays the kind of person who's all too common in certain circles in society, the sort who believes her intelligence and cultured status gives her license to pass withering judgment on the world around her. She's a misanthrope who believes she's a truth teller, and the kind of minor literary celebrity who's uncomfortable receiving compliments about her work but secretly loves the accolades. She's a control freak and a neurotic mess, the sort who has to wear a mouthpiece to bed lest she grind her teeth. It's rare to find a female protagonist this deeply unsympathetic in American film- even in a comedy- lest the filmmakers court charges of misogyny, but it's even rarer to see a star of Kidman's stature playing a part like this. One would almost forgive her had she soft-pedaled the role, but instead she tackles it head on, never winking at the audience of angling for its affection. The result is an exciting performance, the first to really play to all of her strengths since the halcyon days of Eyes Wide Shut and To Die For, and one gets the feeling that after years of making nice for the Hollywood machine she saw the role as not only a change of pace, but strangely liberating. Welcome back, Nicole. We've missed you.

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