Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Actress Profiles: The Bening

Annette Bening isn't as frequently a subject of discussion at this site as she is at Nathaniel's; much less is she an occasional guest columnist, as she has been for him. (For at least a short time, you can brush up on her cameos at the pre-redesign Film Experience blog here.) She is, however, an increasingly intriguing actress to me. There's usually stuff in her best performances I would change, there are always things in my less-favorite performances that I enjoy and admire, and she certainly keeps me surprised from role to role. I also seem to get most attached to the work she's done in parts where she didn't get enough credit, or the movie got unfortunately cold-shouldered, or both. And I agree with a lot of people that she's been on an incredible roll these last few years, which is only winning me over more strongly. Plus, she herself comes across in interviews as the bee's knees. Using her recent Oscar nod for The Kids Are All Right as an excuse, in part because it's easily my favorite of her Academy-tipped performances, I've brushed up on more of her filmography and selected her as my newest entry in the Who's Who Profiles at the Best Actress Special Section at my website. What do I think about when I think about The Bening? I think about this.

Also, I'm sure I'm wrong... but I'm starting to wonder, might she win?

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Anonymous Brittany said...

I will love you forever for writing this. The Bening is seriously underappreciated and misunderstood. Thank you.

3:14 PM, February 09, 2011  
Blogger Robert Hamer said...

"... but I'm starting to wonder, might she win?"

She certainly deserves to, at least if it really is just a two horse-race between her and Portman at this point. But in a weird way, I sort of don't want her to win, because it'll be attacked from all corners of the internet for having beaten The Greatest Performance Ever Graced to Us By God. The headache from having to deal with the obvious sexist rage (how DARE an older actress win an Oscar!!!) is almost not worth seeing her victorious.

5:38 PM, February 09, 2011  
Blogger James T said...

Though we don't see Bening in the same way (Not that we disagree, just that I don't form impressions on actors as rich and specific as you do) I'm at the same point as you seem to be about her in the sense that after Kids she totally had me. I don't mean it in a "big fan" way but in the "she's now done enough to make care a lot" way.

Magnificent piece and I'm, as you are, very fond of her personality. Her lack of warmth inspires respect without seeming cold or defensive. She's always polite but her attitude will not let you think of asking a silly question.

Acting-wise I think she has the most expressive face possible and it's just a matter of how accurately she'll use it.

If there is one thing I disagree is re:her flirting with the young guy in Being Julia. I don't really remember if she tried to seem foolish or not, but I totally bought how she seemed excited that he wanted her. I actually loved her performance in that part of the movie and that performance in general.

I do hope the Academy won't see her as what you reminded us she is, that is less of a veteran than Portman because that would just eliminate her already weak chances. Grr. I want her to win!

Again, thank you for this unexpected, even-greater-than-usual piece!

5:52 PM, February 09, 2011  
Anonymous bluemoon02 said...

Thank you for your piece on Annette Bening. Like you, I do not think she is cold and glacial, I just feel that she is always being tactfully firm with a tinge of kindness. And she gives very thoughtful and well-articulated answers during interviews. That said, I do think her performance in The Grifters is the best amongst her 4 Academy nominated ones. Nick, do u think she should have won that Oscar in 1991?

Somehow, I sense the tides has change towards Annette. I have a feeling that through repeated viewings, Academy members would find themselves questioning the emotional depth of Natalie's perf in Black Swan, as compared to Kidman and Williams especially. And her TKAAR's role is just right I feel.

Are you going to do a Kidman piece? haha.

1:24 AM, February 10, 2011  
Anonymous Laika said...

Glad to hear that someone else likes her performance in 'The American President' almost as much as I do - probably my favourite thing she's ever done.

Part of Bening's huge appeal for me is her way with character-specific comedy and humour - she can put a spin on almost any line that both feels true and is hilarious. Streep is probably her only peer in that regard (Moore on a good day). Her advocacy for comedy in TKAAR suggests to me in part that she knows this is a strength for her and wants more opportunities to exercise it.

Love this write up - probably the only piece of writing that could have left me yearning to see Love Story, let alone What Planet Are You From?. I hope you're using your rhetorical powers for the forces of good...

5:39 AM, February 10, 2011  
Blogger CCW said...

Nick, in your profile of Joanne Woodward in Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams, you stated that you would of liked to see Woodward tackle Bening's role in Mother and Child. I thought this idea you had was very interesting. Could you share some more musings/thoughts on what sparked this connection between the two?

6:45 PM, February 10, 2011  
Anonymous /3rtfu11 said...

It reads as your best write-up so far. I’m praying for an upset. You don’t even have Portman on standby for the Champs section – I guess this means you’re praying.

Two suggestions for future write-ups Best Actress: Pariahs (Mia Farrow) – Best Actress: Icons (Sharon Stone).

1:03 AM, February 11, 2011  
Blogger Andrew K. said...

This entry rivals the ones on Emma Thompson and Katharine Hepburn as favourites of mine. I have a territorial love for Annette as an actor and as much as I love her performances a significant portion of that has to do with how she comes across in interviews. As far as her contemporaries go (barring, perhaps, Kidman and Bonham Carter) I’m not as willing to listen to any actor wax on about the business) and though her screen roles often come off as much harsher she brings the same amount of “watchability”; as if demanding that you must listen to what her character has to say.

My first meeting with Bening was The American President and I’ll bashfully admit that same sort of talky character seemingly crafted around her actual personality (and distinctive speaking voice) is one of the reason that I often think of her as a modern day Katharine Hepburn. Not necessarily in terms of hits, but in things like her natural cadence and that way you say her career seems to be rarely filled with fillers. I always forget how much of a fan of hers you were in Running With Scissors because I remember weeping through the Emmy’s and Golden Globes when she lost for Mrs Harris and Running With Scissors, two of her greater performances – though my own nepotism is high.

I always regret that she never did get the Catwoman role, not because I don’t think Pfeiffer is great there but because as you rightfully note she’s always been a very “adult” actor. Other than The Grifters her characters (even Julia Lambert) seem marked by an almost strident intelligence. I love her work in Being Julia, but I’ll agree that she doesn’t seem authentically foolish – though I attribute that to her take on the character. Still, when Bening’s name comes up I’m always there (which explains why I sat through The Women).

Great write-up.

4:10 PM, February 11, 2011  

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