Friday, February 26, 2010
(My) Best of 09: Supporting Actress.
5. Mélanie Laurent in "Inglourious Basterds" (read my review)
As Shosanna Dreyfus, French beauty Laurent becomes the vessel of revenge in Quentin Tarantino's historical fantasy.
She's your archetype QT female character: driven, intimidating and so damn cool. Laurent's perfect dramatic timing serves her greatly in scenes with Christoph Waltz and in her most iconic moment she is able to evoke Nastassja Kinski and "The Wizard of Oz", all at the same time.
4. Gwyneth Paltrow in "Two Lovers" (read my review)
As a woman completely unaware of her power over men, Gwyneth Paltrow gives "Two Lovers" its central theme: our ability or inability to escape from who we're becoming.
She plays Michelle, next door neighbor to Leonard (Joaquin Phoenix), an indecisive young man who sees in her the opportunity to start over. She makes it clear that she's in love with someone else and Leonard willingly enters her world of self destruction.
She takes Michelle to femme fatale levels as she becomes an addiction to Leonard. We know she's no good and we know her hysterics and drama are the last thing we need, but we would never refuse an invitation to join her on the dancefloor.
3. Penélope Cruz in "Nine" (read my review)
For someone who first catches our attention by stating she's not wearing any clothes, it's a miracle that Penélope Cruz gives Carla her best moments dressed head to toe and looking as if hell walked over her.
As the mistress of famed director Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) she sizzles in the hilarious, if a bit underwhelming "A Call from the Vatican", but Cruz knows better than to give it all to us at once and the number, contrary to our beliefs, is nothing but foreplay.
She's brilliant in latter scenes where she quietly lets Guido put makeup on her, fully aware that she is after all another character he needs to direct in his life and she breaks your heart upon the realization that she will never ascend to a lead role.
She might be wearing gorgeous clothes but it's in these introspective, dark moments where Cruz seems completely naked.
2. Rosamund Pike in "An Education" (read my review)
Helen (Pike) is the kind of woman who would've been played by Marilyn Monroe or Gloria Grahame in the 1950's. Characters around her would've described her as someone "who's dumb and knows it" and as trophy girlfriend to a distinguished bachelor (Dominic Cooper in this case) she would've been used mainly for comedic relief and eye candy.
But what Rosamund Pike does with Helen goes beyond beauty and perfect, almost musical, comedic timing (few actors delivered their lines better in any 2009 film) she finds the truth inside her that characters around her are so desperate to find.
The film's lead (Carey Mulligan) is trying to find a reason; Helen may not have found hers' but she's so self aware of her limitations that she is not willing to compromise inner peace for mere survival.
1. Marion Cotillard in "Nine" (read my review)
Contrary to what she thinks, Luisa Contini (Cotillard) might just be the most special character in "Nine". As wife of Guido Contini (Daniel Day-Lewis) she does more than stand his infidelities, deal with his paranoia and give good social face.
She also happens to be his muse and moral center. Of course this isn't enough to keep a person alive, especially when there is nothing in it for you.
Just as Guido must learn to appreciate her more, Luisa needs to learn the difference between obligation and love. She's as guilty as Guido in how they both have turned their marriage into an addiction, yet we can't accuse her of weakness. Cotillard turns Luisa into someone who has made a lifestyle out of submission.
But the actress is so subtle that she gives Luisa a wordless backstory that make us become fascinated by the enigma she represents.
When she sings the heartbreaking "My Husband Makes Movies" she establishes who she is at the moment and when we get to the harrowing, almost brutal "Take it All" she finally takes her own stand.
Cotillard of course doesn't make this an obvious transition from backbone-less being to proud amazon; but a smooth, beautiful realization that to love someone else we must love ourselves first.