Annette Bening’s tightly wound Alpha-mom and Julianne Moore’s warm and sensual earth mother as Woman of the Year? The answer is, you don’t! We at Movie Dearest are pleased to honor two of our finest contemporary actresses for their perfectly in-sync performances in Lisa Cholodenko’s deceptively subversive family comedy, The Kids Are All Right. As uptight Nic and laidback Jules, Bening and Moore made their unconventional family feel normal yet universal. Each woman nailed their character’s comic highs and dramatic depths and more than that, Bening and Moore truly made you believe that they were in a loving, long-term marriage.
Right before the film opened in June, Bening experienced an ironic family situation that undoubtedly dimmed her euphoria over her well-received performance. Her daughter Kathlyn Beatty was quoted as officially announcing her intention to get gender reassignment surgery and the tabloids trumpeted how “devastated” Bening’s husband Warren Beatty was at the prospect. Moore, on the other hand, found herself having to defend her character’s decision to sleep with her children’s donor father, slyly played by Mark Ruffalo. Many (lesbians and others, including our own Father Chris) cried foul, but Moore was eloquent in her praise of gay and lesbian parents and her commitment to her character’s motives and sexual orientation.
The very fact that both women give such rich, full-bodied performances in the same film may cost them each an Oscar, but we at Movie Dearest think that Moore and Bening are much more than “all right”, we think they’re perfect!
It must be harrowing as an actress to go where director Darren Aronofsky sends you; who can ever forget Jennifer Connelly’s vile degradation at the end of Requiem for a Dream? However, few actresses could make such a sublime experience out of losing her mind as Natalie Portman in Black Swan. The notorious perfectionist was perfectly cast as high-strung NYC ballerina Nina Sayers, who dramatically unravels once cast as the Swan Queen in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Who knew that plastic actress who played Queen Amidala in the Star Wars films had it in her? Her character’s latent lesbian desires towards her sexy rival Lily (Mila Kunis) only force her closer to and then over the edge. It’s a red-eyed, feathered freak-out you’ll never forget, and we’re in agreement with Nina herself when she says, sizing up her opening night performance, “It was perfect.”
Noomi Rapace, the previously little-known actress, made a huge international impression this year as Lisbeth Salander in the Millennium trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest), the fierce vigilante at the heart of the bestselling books and their hit Swedish film adaptations. Unfamiliar with the character prior to seeing these movies in 2010, we were struck by the vengeful, bisexual pixie in leather but even more so by Rapace. Her full-throttle dedication to the role, which entailed harrowing scenes of sexual abuse as well as exhilarating moments of justice long denied being served, testifies to Rapace's talent and commitment. She will soon be seen in bigger projects (including the Sherlock Holmes sequel) but I expect Lisbeth will be the role for which Rapace shall be remembered.
By Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.