Famous Women, played brilliantly

THE EYES OF TAMMY FAYE

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Michael Showalter’s dramatic adaptation of Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s 2000 documentary about Tammy Faye Bakker and her entrepreneurial evangelistic husband Jim Bakker is fuelled by fantastic performances. Jessica Chastain declares her intentions (to be awesome!) in a single, long close-up that opens the film, and she doesn’t disappoint, giving one of the great turns of 2021. But Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of the deeply complicated Jim sneaks up on you; as Jim ages, Garfield’s interpretation grows more intriguing, sly and effective. This is a film that becomes more compelling as it goes, saving its best ammunition for acts two and three, and if you had pre-conceived notions of Tammy Faye – as I did – it’s an eye-opener.

SPENCER

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Pablo Larraín’s ‘fable inspired by a true tragedy’, fantastically and poetically imagining a version of three days over Christmas spent by Princess Diana at Sandringham, sits thematically comfortably (or uncomfortably) alongside his Jackie from 2016. Both films intimately examine the most famous women in the world at the peak moments of their fame, and how that intense glare affects them. In Diana’s case, played exquisitely by Kristen Stewart, we are on the edge of existential despair and mental illness.

The film is stunning to look at and, with Jonny Greenwood’s score, dreamy, evocative and haunting. Indeed, at times it feels like a horror movie, a Polanski-like mental descent. Don’t come for any kind of history lesson; come for the vibe.

The Cooling Flame

article-2173384-140DC805000005DC-996_634x691I saw Jessica Chastain today in Whole Foods. If not, I saw her stand-in (these are people paid to stand on a movie actor’s mark while the DP lights the setting; they are often extremely close physical types so the lighting can be as precise as possible, and they often are employed by a movie actor on movie after movie for this reason). It made me wonder what she was working on. Then I thought of how quickly these days the flame of fame can cool. It’s not just that Jennifer Lawrence is the new Jessica Chastain – it’s that Lupita Nyong’O is the new Jennifer Lawrence.091013-global-kenyan-actress-lupita-nyongo-tiff

And then I thought, what if, unlike the above-mentioned, your level of beauty steps far outside the “Hollywood” norm? I was tremendously guilty of thinking this when Gabourey Sidibe stepped out to present an Oscar this year: “Boy, you haven’t capitalised on being an Oscar nominee, have you?” The capitalisation, of course, being to lose weight.

gabourey-sidibe-2010-oscars-red-carpet-01This led me to worry about Barkhad Abdi, especially since I read in the Sydney Morning Herald that he’d been paid slave wages to appear in Captain Phillips and was now destitute and surviving on “per diems”. He was actually, in turns out, paid sixty-five thousand American dollars for his role – pretty sweet for an amateur – and personally, I would like a Hollywood Studio’s per diem. Turns out the studio was also paying for his accommodation. The Herald also reported that he was “lent a suit” but almost every actor at the Oscars has been lent a suit. You think they’re all given those Alexander McQueens, Georgio Armanis, Tom Fords and the like? Think again.maxresdefault

Luckily, the Herald redeemed itself by making me feel better about Abdi. Turns out “He has reportedly been in talks over starring in The Place That Hits the Sun, a drama about South African marathon runner Willie Mtolo, who won the New York marathon in 1992 once sanctions against South African athletes competing internationally were lifted.” If this is true, obviously this is a script that’s been kicking around, waiting for an appropriate actor. Abdi is nothing if not that actor.

But if that project pans out for Abdi, it’s very much “right place at right time”. I don’t know what the key is to capitalising on an Oscar or a Nomination, but I know one thing: do it immediately. Because the flame dies quickly. No-one at Whole Foods seemed to notice Chastain, even if it was her stand-in.