Editor's note: This post is from Craig of Dark Eye Socket, which I've been enjoying a lot lately. I invited him because he wanted to talk about Abbie and I'm all ears! Next up for Abbie are two supporting roles in Zach Snyder's Alice in Wonderland inspired Sucker Punch and Madonna's period romantic drama W.E. Do you want more Abbie soon?
Abbie Cornish was a Bright Star last year, but five years ago she shone bright enough, in her debut lead role in Somersault, to get noticed snagging three Australian acting awards. As Heidi, a girl who escapes the dullness of small-town Canberra for a ski resort in Jindabyne, she clapped and gleamed her way to a more eventful life and a near seduction of pre-Action Man Sam Worthington. Nice idea, Abs.
Since then, she’s steadily honed her talents in a handful of higher profile films which have all made great use of her ability to be both subtle and determined. Her bohemian defiance in Candy, followed by sterling support in Elizabeth: The Golden Age and A Good Year – then hooking up with Ryan Phillippe (much to the future chagrin of Reese Witherspoon) on Stop-Loss, and providing muse duties for Ben Whishaw on Bright Star – have given Cornish ample chance to re-ignite the screen in the years since her Somersaulting turn. That she’s only sparkled at half-brightness so far (in some folks’ eyes) merely points to the fact she’s in it for the long haul, not the quick trip: she’s eking out an enduring résumé; her future’s brighter.
The mid-‘00s saw a surplus of flighty females coax guys into their orbits: Zooey Deschanel in All the Real Girls, Julie Delpy in Before Sunset and – to the tune of an Oscar nod – Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine, to name three, all deservedly gained critical attention. But Cornish’s equally deserving Somersault role, despite the three awards, didn’t inspire quite as much universal adoration. Like that film’s landscapes, maybe she’s seen as a touch too frosty, too oblique for wider appeal. Maybe some folk don’t like that she hangs with the guys too much (most of her co-stars have been male) – something that got Heidi into hot water in Somersault. And she hasn’t exactly taken roles which have been too easy to warm to. But stick to your guns Abbie - more power to you, I say.
She gave one of ‘09’s best performances in Bright Star (couldn’t they have extended the acting categories to ten, too?), but is she still too much the newcomer to appear on Oscar’s radar yet? Recent nominations say otherwise: Carey Mulligan, another demure and elfin movie novice, got an early stab at Oscar; the Academy loved a quirky Ellen Page and a corseted Keira Knightley; and Hathaway and Portman got to make a grab for the bald man. Cornish will just have to wait her turn. Maybe in time she’ll prove herself a capable comedienne and do a Bullock, or take a left turn down the Jennifer Jason Leigh route. A role in a Kathryn Bigelow flick wouldn’t do any harm right now either.
Somersault gave Cornish her best role yet. She was awkwardly, intimately indefinable; viewers, like the film’s characters, skirted around her, curious to see what she'd do next. It was a subtly immersive performance, one that’s perhaps characterised Cornish’s career so far. To paraphrase Bright Star’s strapline: First Roles Burn Brightest.