Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Signatures: Naomi Watts

Adam of Club Silencio here with a look at my favorite actresses and their distinguishing claims to fame.

Good grief.

How better to describe Naomi Watts career? It's amazing how quickly she burst into into our cinematic lives and cemented such high esteem. It doesn't hurt that she's working with choice auteurs, but being told off by Lily Tomlin has to be a sign that you've arrived. But knowing Naomi she'll probably find some way to take it badly... Although it's understandable. She's gone through so much in so little time. And in that brief period she's taught us that there really is an exquisite process to grieving.

Stage 1: SHOCK (Funny Games)
Turns out the funny games aren't so funny. Dead family? An evening with Michael Pitt? She may as well end it all.

Stage 2: DENIAL (King Kong)
Probably never going to work out anyways... Naomi'd have to put him down easy - if he wasn't shot down with helicopters first. We feel her interspecies pain.

Stage 3: BARGAINING (The Ring)
To save her own skin and that of her (irritating) child, Naomi decides to pass the videotaped death penalty onto her babysitter. Grief sometimes leads to poor choices -- like losing childcare living with that kid. You win some, you lose some, and for the sake of Naomi in action, we always hope for the loss.

Stage 4: GUILT (Mulholland Drive)
You arrive in Hollywood with big dreams and you leave taking a hit out on your mean bisexual lover. Same sad Hollywood tale. Try as she might (and by god does Naomi try), she never can deal with her fatal farewell.

Stage 5: DEPRESSION (21 Grams)
Naomi's got a lot on her plate. This time it's another dead family. Words can't describe the loss, but taking a hit out on the man responsible might just cover it. Apparently Naomi's still learning how to channel that rage.

Stage 6: ACCEPTANCE AND HOPE (I Heart Huckabees)
Naomi finally learns to deal with griefs like a demeaning job and a sexless marriage by being both dirty and Amish. Grief does indeed take many forms.

Naomi says she's not oblivious to the high-wire state of her characters, "Everyone's experienced some degree of depression in their life and I definitely have, but not to the point where I didn't get out of bed or shower for days." Although in describing her stunning double-turn as buoyant Betty and dour Diane in Mulholland Drive, she equates the experience to her own form of counseling, "David (Lynch) saw me for myself and was OK with my self-doubts. And I give him the part of myself I felt I'd been hiding for so long, that didn't need to be hidden. But he's an artist and he knows that creativity, humor and sexuality all come out of a dark place."

Unlike her tragic lives on-screen, Naomi seems of the mindset that tomorrow is a new day. But then we all know where this kind of optimism has gotten her so far...


Film Knower said...

Naw Tomlin's a bitch. Poor Naomi.

Anonymous said...

Naomi will be back with awards thanks to Mother and Child alongside... Annette Bening.

These two together will be interesting. Subdued vs Ham


guinea ... i believe that this is the only time i've ever heard someone attempt to sell Watts as a "subdued" actress.

not the adjective i'd use ;)

but this was fun to read because I have such ambivalence about her as an actress and maybe it's this grief issue -- i do have very strong reactions to depictions of grief (both good and bad)

Adam said...

I'd side on ambivalence with many of her films, but she's won me over time and again, especially with "Mulholland Drive" of course. She does have a savvy for choosing roles that play to her tragic strengths. I am, however, annoyed by her playing in several remakes, and being a contender for yet another ("The Birds"), even if she's perfect for it.

Anonymous said...

But who else could manage to grab a Best Actress award from a respectable award group for a blockbuster like King Kong ?

I think she was excellent in Eastern Promises as well because she doesn't try to ACT, she just IS the character. She doesn't rely on phony mannerism or theatrical grandeur

Catherine said...


Janice said...

this post reminds me that I need to see more of her work...for that matter, I've hardly seen any of it, but she won me over with The Painted Veil, in which she is delightfully warm, human, petulant, spoiled, tender, etc - in other words, she's everything the character needs to be and not the least bit showy about it.

Janice said...

Yikes, where are my manners? I meant to say "thank you" to Adam for the post - also to point out that there's no mention of La Kidman in the 2001 article, which was probably the last time that happened, right?

Chris Na Taraja said...

I heart Huckabee is one of my favorite films that no one else gets or loves.

Chris Na Taraja said...

this is awesome. which actor would you say has done the 7 deadly sins? for some reason Renne Z comes to mind. Or Christian Bale. : )