Jose here with a look at one of the most misunderstood performances of the decade.
Nicole Kidman is arguably the actress of the decade. The woman did everything in the past ten years: thrillers, Ingmar Bergman redux, classy biopics, astonishing musicals, big special effects epics and even Lars von Trier. The last few years however have been full of incomprehensible Kidman hate (if this were the 1930's she'd be deemed box office poison and sent to oblivion).
The backlash began with the release of Cold Mountain Anthony Minghella's Civil War epic which some had decided would be the new Gone With the Wind the minute it started shooting. When it was released and Nicole's Ada Monroe just wasn't Scarlett O'Hara, it was as if people decided Nicole had cheated them from what they all thought would be a third consecutive Best Actress Oscar nomination (it says a lot that she was the only member of the principle cast not to receive a nod, in a year where all the Best Actress nominees seemed rushed and second choices).
Nicole had had a so-so year at the box office with The Human Stain turning out to be a disappointment and Dogville deemed too shocking and even anti-American by more conservative crowds. Right away the attacks began and Kidman became the target of cosmetic surgery jokes and labelled a two-trick wonder. Some even found her age to be a fault. Perhaps her character in Cold Mountain didn't play out like the second coming of Vivien Leigh, but she turned out a wonderful performance.
Critics complained that you never felt the passion between Ada and Inman (Jude Law) and found it unconvincing that they spent almost three hours longing for each other. To me this was the very thing that made the movie fascinating. It's by no means a love movie, in the same way Gone With the Wind isn't a Civil War flick, instead it was a film about what to do once your entire world turns upside down. You never feel the intense love, because there's just no intense love to be felt there, Ada and Inman have become symbols for each other, a way to hold on to a lifestyle that has ceased to exist. They are illusions and their ideals of each other is the only thing that seems real in the middle of a battlefield or while planting corn with Renée Zellweger.
Cold Mountain doesn't turn out to be the sweeping, romantic epic everyone wanted it to, but a dark study on what makes people want to stay alive. And as such Kidman was as brilliant as ever.