Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Abbie Cornish: Spinning Career Somersaults

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 didn't look upset 'bout that snub at Vanity Fair's post-Oscar bash

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.


whitney said...

Wow! That's crazy how similar those posters are. Same font. Same pallet. She has a type! I look forward to seeing more of her, too.

cal roth said...

I think she is pretty strong in Bright Star, but that performance aside, I must say she is absolutely O V E R R A T E D.

whitney said...

Well, not quite the same pallet, now that I look at it again. But definitely similar placement!

joanna said...

She's a great actress, she's got a lot of talent and she's absolutely shining! She diserves to be nominated for the Oscars, even though she's a newcomer. Talent and hard work are the aspects that should matter for this type of a nomination, not the seniority as an actor.

Anonymous said...

she is really involving in somersault.

Jack said...

I swear Abbie Cornish's face changes every time I see her. That blonde picture of her doesn't look a thing like the girl from 'Bright Star', and when I saw that film I barely recognised her as the girl from 'Stop-Loss' either. And I'm great with faces.

If no one can pin her down it's definitely going to hinder her chances of becoming a big star.


JACK -- totally agree. that is my challenge with her too. Now, technically... that should be a good attribute for an actor. Only it can also work against you obviously if you're trying to get leading roles.

CAL -- have you seen her two most acclaimed performances before Bright Star (i actually haven't so i'm curious. btu Craig seems to like them)

cal roth said...

Only missed Somersault, but still it'd be 2 rights and 4 left me cold/mediocre performance/outperformed by the great and amazing Samantha Morton.

If you're a raising actress and want to be a star you have to give 100% in all your movies and roles, like, that late 90's early 00's... Samantha Morton. You can't be a hit or miss actress when you are this young and everybody expects you to be next Cate Blanchett.

You know, how long did it take for Kate Winslet to deliver a lazy perfomance? Enigma came in 2001 and she was absolutely amazing since Heavenly Creatures, in 1994!

I know it's not fair to compare anyone to Kate Winslet, but people talk about Abbie Cornish like she is the next major big two-time academy winner! You know, she is not THAT great, at least, not all the time. She's definitely not deserving of all that praise, like she is a great actress. She's given two strong performances (and I'm counting this acclaimed one I haven't seen - I believe in your guests:)) but she doesn't have that impressive of a career...

Glenn said...

I'm gonna make a crazy prediction that Abbie Cornish could be a Nicole Kidman for this decade. Something about her just screams "i'm great playing tortured women that cinema just doesn't understand" and so forth.

I'm intrigued by Abbie making movies like Sucker Punch and W.E. (isn't that one a musical?)

She is very good in Somersault and Candy, excellent in Bright Star. Hope she can keep it up.

Craig Bloomfield said...

Cal: (Hi, btw) - I really loved her performance in Somersault (could ya tell?) and she was very good in Candy, too. Maybe give Somersault a go, I say - it might convince you how good she can be. I think it's her best (tied w/ Bright Star), but the smaller roles - Golden Age, A Good Year etc - are maybe more like stepping stones, roles that keep her in the spotlight and working between the bigger, more prominent stuff.

I really hoped that she'd be more recognised for Bright Star, and that the film itself was too (only Oscar and Bafta nods for costumes!). Hopefully with each new film she'll expand her style and try out different genres etc. I'd definitely have preferred her in Oscar's line-up this year than one or two others...

Cornish can be as good as some of the newer names I mentioned (for me, she's better on some occasions) but just hasn't had the same exposure yet. Some get the immediate breaks and some toil away for a few years beforehand. I think she's hopefully got the smarts for career longevity though.

I totally agree that Samantha Morton is one of the best though (she's perhaps more in the vein of that Jennifer Jason leigh type). She's been amazing in just about every film I've seen of hers!

Burning Reels said...

I thought she was excellent in Somersault but only that and Bright Star (and to an extent Candy) have given her the opportunity to show how excellent she can be.

Anonymous said...


I didn’t understand why she was so snubbed for Bright Star, she was so marvelous in that film, and it was such baity Oscar film.

I asked a journalist who was covering the Oscar race pretty close and he said that during the campaign phase, she didn’t make an impact like Mulligan, who in person is very charming and warm, and I have to say I was surprised because I thought she was going to completely overshadow Carey.

I am still sad about this; I really think she deserved an Oscar nomination.

BTW - I adore Mulligan too, lets make this pretty clear.

archer said...

Somersault was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. Abbie Cornish was so talented in it, many journalists was under Abbie's spell. They have appreciated her talent and some of them (lazy ones ?) have compared her to Nicole kidman. As for me, even if it's always strange to compare actresses, I would have compared to Sarah Polley (thinking about her portrait of Heidi).
Since her role in Somersault, I have appreciated to follow the development of her art (Candy, Bright Star and so on).

George P. said...

I completely forgot she was in "A Good Year." Ooh, she's been giving me some memorable performances ("Somersault" "Candy" "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" "Stop-Loss") throughout the years. I hope she continues to pick interesting roles.