Sunday, November 21, 2010

Take Three: Melissa George

Craig here with Take Three. Today: Melissa George


Take One: This is the Girl

She was indeed the girl. But which girl? Camilla Rhodes? Just another nameless blond wannabe actress lip-syncing for her life? A slinky id to further lead Betty down Hollywood’s hellish rabbit hole - or take Diane for a five-dollar fool? She embodied what Betty/Diane always wanted; she represented what killed Betty/Diane. Of course she was Melissa George making the fake fifties pretty by miming her way through Linda Scott’s ‘I’ve Told Every Little Star’. The camera catches her pouts, puckers and pretend act up close and personal. She's the girl in a glossy 10x8; a haunting headshot in your face. One thing’s for sure: we’ll never know what, why or indeed who Camilla was. That’s the big unanswered anomaly of David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. (2001). 

But it was that kiss that did it. A while back I briefly mentioned the screen bitchery of it all, but the nails dug in further than that. However amazing Laura Haring (the recipient of the kiss) and Naomi Watts (the recipient of the tease) were as co-leads, George defined Mulholland Dr.’s raunchy raison d'être. You can lead a girl to Hollywood, but you can’t make her a star, the film painfully posited. Someone like Camilla always gets there first. She embodied the poisonous allure of envy in one lipstick smear; that scorching make-up mark was the hurtful hot spot out of which revenge was born. George’s Camilla was the key player in Betty’s downfall. We should hate her for this, but something about her face, her pouty glance a split second after that kiss, inspires fascination. She’s pure wickedness. She was definitely the girl.

It ended with a kiss: Melissa George kills with a kiss in Mulholland Dr.

Take Two: George of the genre jungle

There’s much to be said for a stint of hard work. I’d never bemoan an actor their adulation just for being an overnight sensation, but the hard grafters, those willing to take ongoing employment to remain on the radar, often deserve extra kudos in my book. George has never been one to sniff at a hearty genre role. After the mini Mulholland break she took on a spate of roles, mostly horrors and thrillers, which many an actress in her shoes may have dispatched to their out tray with much haste. But the following quintet of genre titles from the '00s mid-section contained some of George's best work: The Amityville Horror (2005), Derailed (2005), Turistas/Paradise Lost (2006), wΔz and 30 Days of Night (both 2007).

George does genre: ambushing Amityville (left); 30 days of fright (right)

One could say the above flicks are as derivative as they come, and maybe they'd be right, but isn’t that partly the name of the genre game? Many of today’s established acting favourites started with a trek down generic lane. George is paying her dues and adding much characterful determination to these work-a-day projects (and has often been the best thing about them). She was good as the worrisome wife with a demonically-possessed husband in Amityville; and as Clive Owen’s cuckolded Mrs. in Derailed. Admittedly the dreadlocked hair she sported in Turistas was a mistake, but her spirited turn wasn’t. In wΔz she was the only cast member who looked like she knew what she was doing, and walked off with her own, and indeed everyone else’s, acting honours. And her forthright, no-nonsense approach to all things vampiric in 30 Days of Night impressed me greatly. These "guilty" pleasures, added to her sterling turn in Take Three’s film below, make her the number one genre gal of choice.

Take Three: Three-point turn

Arguably George gave her best performance to date as the mysterious, bedraggled and refreshingly unlikely main protagonist trapped aboard an abandoned phantom ship with six other bewildered souls in 2009’s time-warping mystery-thriller Triangle. (Imagine Donnie Darko committing a few Timecrimes whilst adrift on Hitchcock’s Lifeboat.) George's character, young single mum Jess, is desperate to get back on dry land - and within a stable time zone - to take care of her son – or to maybe clear up a few secret matters that she, and writer-director Christopher Smith, have been carefully withholding from us. George was better in this solid scary offering than many of her direct contemporaries have been in their last few higher-profile "legit" films. But there's little awards buzz around George as yet, though there should be. She's that good - and in wonderfully unexpected ways.

Jess' fear and exhaustion, which gradually and convincingly turns to forceful resourcefulness, is vividly conveyed by George through some highly tricky, elaborate scenes. Like the narrative, she never falters for a moment; her performance keeps the film afloat, and makes its often daft yet exciting twisty turns work well. In the film's final stretch she’s better than ever, and displays immense skill and depth during several rug-pull moments. It's these scenes that should convince anyone just how good she truly is. It’s a committed, bolshy turn from an exciting actress. I'd gladly watch George navigate her way through Triangle on a loop. Over and over and over...

Mel G shoots first, asks questions later (literally) in Triangle

20 comments:

Alex said...

I think it's fascinating that her film work is SO different from her TV work (notably "In Treatment".

Wallace McKelvey said...

I thought I was the only one to stumble across Triangle, that wonderful gem of a film. From the outset, it seemed like thoroughly conventional Bermuda Triangle flick, but luckily it (and George) had some surprisingly provocative tricks up its sleeve. The ending alone is mind-blowing in what it reveals about both George's character and the afterlife.

Liz said...

Wow, this surprises me. I actually haven't seen her in any films (I know, no "Mullholland Drive," for shame), but I've seen her in numerous TV appearances, and she's been absolutely terrible in all of them. Except "In Treatment," in which she was merely adequate.

She must do quite a 180 when she switches mediums.

Anonymous said...

Melissa George? Now you're just scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Merseytart said...

She'll always be Angel from Home and Away to me.

Glenn said...

Oh boy. I "grew up watching" her on Aussie TV (can I get a "WTF?!?" from any other Australians regarding that strange bubble dress that she wore to that awards show that shall not be named - quite embarrassing) and it's been fascinating watching her in America. The "Mulholland Drive" disection is spot on and, yup, "Triangle" is quite excellent. As is George, surprisingly so since I wasn't liking what she was doing until the plot came full circle.

"Triangle", for what it's worth, does better with it's multiple levels of reality/dream/fantasy/whatever than "inception" and that's not being contrary, I'm being entirely serious. The way that movie's plot unfolds is fascinating and far more intricate.

Bia said...

She has the most beautiful face...I can't believe she didn't blow up more like Naomi did!

Anonymous said...

she's really good in triangle and she definitely is a fine genre actress and god bless her for that.

NATHANIEL R said...

i thoroughly don't "get" Melissa George so this one comes as a surprise to me. Nice Mulholland writeup though (hated her -- and everything else -- in 30 days of night)

7Bis said...

Merseytart - EXACTLY!! She's the only problem I have with Mulholland Drive - how can Angel from Home & Away be mysterious???!! I wish she was a good enough actress to transcend all those soapy years, but I still can't forget... Radha Mitchell was great even when she was in Neighbours, so it's not just a case of soap-bias.

Glenn said...

Nat, I didn't so much as not "get" her, but I wasn't a fan. After Triangle I'm far more interested.

rosecityjesse said...

PERFECT Mulholland Drive segment. I can't stand her work outside of it, yet Lynch introduced me to her face - she fits perfectly in the imagery for me. It helps she never says much! <3 Radha Mitchell

Murph said...

Watch her in HBO's In Treatment - Season 1. She is sexy and obsessed, and Gabriel Byrne falls in love with her

Anonymous said...

Not a sentence about "In Treatment"? That trumped every film mentioned about her in this article.

Erich Kuersten said...

Whoa, thanks for the tip on this actress, now I finally want to put Triangle back on the flixtant streamque!

Craig Bloomfield said...

Wallace - I think you're spot on, esp. about the ending. It's an involving, fun and surprising genre movie up to a point... then it becomes a strange(r), intriguing and extra warped character study (plus all those former things on top, too).

Anonymous 6:39pm - I guess we differ in opinion here. Fair enough. Have you seen Triangle? imo she was better in that than the last 6 best actress Oscar winners, but that's just me. Also, I'm the kinda guy who would've preferred, say, Changeling as a cheap & fast John Waters/Mink Stole gig than a prestigious & dishwater-dull Eastwood/Jolie project, to give you an idea of what I consider scraping and bottom and barrel.

Anonymous 11:58 AM - Yes, shame I couldn't mention it, but I haven't seen any of that show, and I never write about stuff I haven't seen. Also, I try to keep just to movies as it's ostensibly a cinema column (if I mentioned TV work as well, each piece could get extra long - they are already between 750-1000 words on average).

Nat/rosecityjesse - Thanks (re: Mulholland)

Glenn - Thanks. I think Triangle is the clincher, the possible mind-changer here. She was extremely good in it. I couldn't agree more with what you say (esp. the Inception bit).

George P. said...

I remember her from The Amityville Horror remake, as well as Turistas. I thought she was good, but never really stood out as a favorite actress to follow for me. Perhaps I will check out Triangle now.

Has anyone checked out her drama Music Within with Ron Livingston and Michael Sheen?

Glenn Dunks said...

Triangle certainly has ONE SCENE that I actually bolted upright and gasped at the screen. The one with the mallet. :)

Even if you're just watching it as a fun genre flick is works, but it can be taken in so many different ways. It's certainly one of the strongest horror flicks of the last several years.

troyhopper said...

Given the right material, Melissa George can be a compelling on-screen presence. Case in point, "Triangle," which I had the good fortune to stumble upon streaming movies online through Netflix. Put her in something like that arc she had on "Grey's Anatomy," and wolf -- but then again, that's almost anyone where "Grey's" is concerned.

wiggipop said...

I've always felt she's been hard done by most people, I've always admired her work. Just saw her in 'In Treatment' which was just amazing. I think I have to see 'Triangle'.