Thursday, August 07, 2008

Charlize @ 33

I read a fine novel some months ago called Don't Make a Scene. It was all about a single 39 year-old cinephile running a repertory moviehouse in NYC. In one chapter she's featuring a film series on "Age, Hollywood and the Worship of Youth". She has three acquaintances who were all actresses in the early years of cinema. The two Americans quit acting when they started aging. The French woman continued...
Was it the essence of the star -as diplayed on the face of the star -that the audience fell in love with? Or was it the face itself? And if the face itself was succumbing to the forces of nature, did you still want to watch it? According to Catherine Merveille, the answer was oui: the audience wanted to watch her real face as a conduit of her authentic self. Of course this was not the ruling aesthetic...

Estelle had stopped working at the age of twenty-eight; thus she was immortalized in celluloid at what Paul Veyne once called "the canonical age," the age at which one has achieved full maturity, but before time has altered the facial features.
My own tastes for a "canonical age" skew older than 28. I think the mid 30s are the most beautiful age for Hollywood stars ...and probably people in general for that matter. Faces might have started that shift but they are finally wholly representing the person underneath them.

I've found that the most fulfilling times in the careers of actresses (for the audience I mean) is the mid 30s. Charlize Theron, who keeps on impressing (note: I didn't see Hancock) turns 33 today and I find myself anxious to see what the next few years hold. What does this South African superstar have in store for us?

I know a lot of people think she'll never top Monster but for me --and I'm a complete Oscar contrarian in this particular way -- career peaks only very rarely involve roles in which the actor or actress is plainer than usual or made to look unlike themselves (i.e. biopics). To my way of thinking, career peaks for movie stars --both men and women -- generally happen when the thespian's big beauty and big talent fuse together in the service of a role that either a) fits them like a glove or b) reveals them anew in a startling and fresh way.

Consider the following actresses / performances (ages are approximate to when the film debuted): Michelle Pfeiffer (@31) Fabulous Baker Boys (the beauty!), Kathleen Turner (@32) Peggy Sue Got Married, Judy Garland (@32) A Star is Born, Audrey Hepburn (@32) Breakfast at Tiffany's, Penelope Cruz (@32) Volver, Faye Dunaway (@33) Chinatown, Meryl Streep (@33) Sophie's Choice, Elizabeth Taylor (@33) Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf --the exception to the rule in that the greatest work and greatest role is actually within a deglam situation, Marilyn Monroe (@ 34) Some Like it Hot (previous post), Nicole Kidman (@34) Moulin Rouge! (retro bliss), Michelle Pfeiffer again (@34) Batman Returns, Cate Blanchett (@35) The Aviator, Julianne Moore (@37) Boogie Nights, Greer Garson (@38) Mrs Miniver.

This isn't to say that there aren't other triumphs both earlier and later. Actresses can and do deliver great work at every age (if they have the talent and Hollywood gives them the chance). It's just that the 30s are the common time frame for these magic roles that end up truly defining (at least the women --with men I'm guessing it's more early 40s). Some of this has to do with Hollywood's casting biases but some of it is also, I believe, this moment in life when fully adult beauty meets the explosion of confidence that comes when talent has matured, too. Talent and beauty both in full bloom? Be still my beating movie-loving heart.


What does Charlize's future hold? Take a guess in the comments.
*

21 comments:

Emma said...

I like Charlize v. much and could see her winning an Oscar for Supporting Actress in the next 5 years.

vinci said...

My theory is that Charlize will be one of those few actresses of her generation that will be a multiple lead nominee (ala Streep, Spacek and Lange in their 30's and Sarandon in her 40's).

vinci said...

... but I thought Kidman was going to also slip into that category at one time too ...

warholmuse said...

I absolutely agree with you that the 30s is generally THE prime time for Hollywood actresses. I also think the most beautiful actresses truly blossom into their looks around their 30s. One such case is Michelle Pfeiffer (nathaniel, you like her, right?=p). When she was in her early to mid 20s, she still had that sweet, cherubic look. Her face hadn't lost the baby fat yet, and it was much less defined. Don't get me wrong, she was still pretty, but when she hit her 30s, she become STUNNING. Cheekbones popped out, and her eyes became fiery and hypnotic. Another example is Angelina Jolie. I didn't think she was truly ravishing (in terms of looks) until she hit her late 20s/early 30s. That "canonical" age I would say is a range; from late 20s to mid 30s. The most beautiful actresses are at their most ravshing between that time period.
There are hundreds of pretty, cute starlets and bimbos in their 20s but their faces show little character. Time needs to mature and define the face- give it some character. The 30s truly is that "canonical" age for many beautiful actresses when the face has reached maturity but time has not yet ravaged it yet.

Anonymous said...

Charlize is stunning, and can act up a storm. Saw the potential with Devil's Advocate (rising above the material), really began to take notice with Celebrity (the only memorable thing about that movie), and adored her in Monster (I have her second that year behind the unnominated Evan Rachel Wood). I also much endorsed her nomination for North Country, though I know I'm in the Film Experience minority when it comes to that particular nod...

Strongly agree with Vinci that she could easily land multiple nominations, and hope she gets the material to make it happen.

Anyone who pulls a Best Actress speech back from the brink of tears is a goddess in my eyes. (Unless they're Hilary, obviously.)

Happy Birthday, Charlize!

Rob

Anonymous said...

I'm agree with Vinci's comment but I have another three names at that list: Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet and Cate Blanchett. My theory is Theron and Cotillard are the only recent Oscar Lead actresses will return to the leading category again after won their prizes. They're talented, beautiful and foreign actresses and even they're born at the same year-1975!. In the case of Cate Blanchett I think she WILL win the Lead Oscar to the next years. About Winslet, depends exactly how AMPAS gaves her deserving Oscar 2008 or 2009? And Wich Category? But apparently Kate is beloved. Two Nominations at 22 years old, 4 at 29 and 5 at 31... That's a great record.

Interesting that the four actresses are foreigners (Australia, France, UK, South Africa)

verninino said...

Hancock was my favorite super hero movie this summer (yes, I saw Iron Man and Dark Knight) in large part due Charlize hitting her marks (radiant yet cynical, vulnerably defensive, hot and furious).

Oscar wins always strike me as torture, analogous to Russian roulette. That said, I wouldn't mind her grabbing a bunch of noms for another decade, to keep her in the public eye, on the A-list, enabling her to pick and choose.

She looks like should could age naturally, gracefully -- a la Denueve. I suppose it all depends on her resilience. She strikes me as more whimsical than shrewd; a major industry handicap.

I'd love to see a precocious and innovative scribe/director re-stylize a formulaic noir with her cast as a shrewd, ruthlessly angelic femme fatale. Or a screwball bio-pic (e.g. Kaufman/ Jonze) of Grace Kelly.

JS said...

First step for Charlize to start getting nominated again is to stop playing brunettes.

mrripley said...

i see her winning a 2nd and she really should embrace comedy and horror again she was fantastic in her 2 horor films and in 2 bit parts in woody allen movies,i don't want to be a cliche but i feel her beauty holds her back.

also she deserved the nom in 2005 way more than dench or huffman!!!

i see breat things in 2009 maybe a supp or lead nod.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if she is still in that rumoured Hedy Lamarr biopic? Perhaps that might be THE role for her.

Alexander Beaverhousen a.k.a. Transvestitia transvestitenstein a.k.a. The Medwenitsch said...

i think she will defenitely be nominated for THE ROAD, it just sounds too oscar bait to me...
also a VERY limited part usually doesn't hurt if the role is very crucial to the story, and i think that's exactly the case here.
and who knows how the burning plain is going to be like???

does anybody know what happened to her movie THE ICE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE WORLD???

NATHANIEL R said...

ripley --agreed. at the time i preferred Dench (though neither of them made my list) but now I don't know what i was thinking. She's SO much better than the movie she's in (north country) but the role is still a dud. the movie is just so boring and uninspired...something oscar has seen a 1000 times

mrripley said...

agreed nat but she is like a solid lange in that film my beef is her constantly being singled out as the wrong nominee in the top 5 she is third way above dench and felicity when it's the laziness of the academy voting for judi "nominate me i just coughed" dench and felicity "it worked for swank" huffman,apparently therons role in the road has been expanded,a supp actress nom is looking good.

mrripley said...

agreed nat but she is like a solid lange in that film my beef is her constantly being singled out as the wrong nominee in the top 5 she is third way above dench and felicity when it's the laziness of the academy voting for judi "nominate me i just coughed" dench and felicity "it worked for swank" huffman,apparently therons role in the road has been expanded,a supp actress nom is looking good.

adam k. said...

Yeah I see her maybe following the Jane Fonda pattern and getting a few more noms and another win (this is best case, of course), and then not getting nommed anymore once she starts getting older. I don't think she's one of those actresses who will remain in her prime as she gets into her 50s and 60s. Not that she's not talented, but I just think she's one of those whose looks and sex appeal are kind of fused into her talent. She's best when she's either GLAM or major de-glam (shock value). Not like Streep or Winslet, for example, who are not particularly known for their glam factor.

Brooke Cloudbuster said...

I've never really considered Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf a deglam moment for Elizabeth Taylor. I mean, maybe it's just in comparison to her usual role, but she definitely still looks amazing and glamorous even when de-glammed.

Janice said...

//I've never really considered Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf a deglam moment for Elizabeth Taylor. I mean, maybe it's just in comparison to her usual role, but she definitely still looks amazing and glamorous even when de-glammed.//

Perhaps now it doesn't seem so when EVERY actress deglams at least once to try to get an Oscar, but back in the day her performance was definitely deglam, compared to what she had done previously.

Shall I mention how depressing I find this post as a woman who just turned 40, realizes that the chances to see "myself" reflected back to me onscreen through mature female characters is diminshing rapidly as aging men are still given lead roles - opposite younger and younger actresses, while the women their own age, full of talent and wisdom and STILL beautiful, are pushed to the sides or excluded entirely? Can we talk about that?

Transvestitia Transvestitenstein said...

of course it's totally socially constructed that we think women look best when they're in their 20s and 30s. natural beauty does not exist i say, because what is considered natural AND beautiful changes over time.

Anonymous said...

I never thought of Charlize Theron as an especially deep actress (and I'd say it was more of the kind of roles she was receiving versus a perceived lack of talent), but she did a lot to change that overall perception with "Monster". I have a feeling that she'll never top that role. It's her signature role in such a way that it will be very hard to eclipse it with some other performance. That sounds more limiting than I mean for it to be, but topping Aileen Wuornos? Good luck with that. I do think she'll be nominated a few more times, and I also look forward to seeing what she'll come up with in the next decade. The role as written in "The Road" is Oscar-bait too, so another nod could be right on the horizon.

Mohammed said...

this woman is so hot God bless her!
The future... well, she got an Oscar what else does she want?

NATHANIEL R said...

Janice and Tranvestitia... i am definitely in support of roles for older actresses. i didn't want this post to come across as ageist at all.

and in fact... things are getting much better for actresses i think than they used to be. You still have a lot of powerhouse actresses these days getting big roles until their late 40s. That's better than they got in the early days when careers seemed to wrap up in the late 30s.

that said there's still a clear disconnect when it comes to the men but that's less a problem of ageism and more a problem of sexism.