Sunday, June 21, 2009

Signatures: Laura Dern

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

I had a dream. In fact, it was the night I met you. In the dream there was our world, and the world was dark because there weren't any robins... and the robins represented love. And for the longest time there was just this darkness. And all of a sudden, thousands of robins were set free and they flew down and brought this blinding light of love! And it seemed like that love would be the only thing that would make any difference... And it did. So I guess it means there is trouble till the robins come.
Martin Luther King Jr. and Laura Dern; civil rights or robins of love. Both valid dreams from inspirational dreamers. Laura Dern is one of our most bright, inspiring and expressive actresses -- an angelic beauty with an edge. Expressive not only because she's lovingly referred to as "The Face" 'round these parts, but because she has the rare ability to capture the internal conflicts in some of cinema's most ambiguous dilemmas.

She's always drawn to characters in the midst of significant grey areas: the abortion argument, the peak of adolescent sexuality and nosedive of innocence, the perils of monogamy, and cloning prehistoric species on remote islands for tourism. Her characters always seem to hold the crux between right and wrong, naivete and danger, hope and tragedy. As good with smooth talk as she is a rambling rose, Laura's greatest gift is playing to both sides of the spectrum and finding a harmonious balance.

Sweetly asking, "When will the robins come?" or theorizing that "the whole world's wild at heart and weird and top," Laura's characters ground her films with an enchanting idealism that undercuts much of the darkness surrounding them. "It's a strange world," indeed. Take it from David Lynch, her frequent collaborator who uses this dual dynamic best. In describing some of her essential roles he says, "'If you wanted to buy a bottle of innocence as a shampoo, you'd buy Sandy in Blue Velvet.' Lula, I guess, is a bottle of passion-flavored bubble gum." Laura always walks this idyllic fine line with an elegance that often dips into dangerous territory as her films progress. Whether she's snapping bubble gum in Wild at Heart, or snapping her fingers to the tune of prostitution in Inland Empire, Laura's beauty and grace can easily transform in situations of devastating circumstance.

...Whether a movie part comes to me or I seek it out, there's always this journey to darkness through light, or vice versa; that element has been in almost everything I've done.
Laura often acts as the guiding light through her film's bleakest depths. Even as Ruth Stoops, a hopeless huffer and propaganda-piece in Citizen Ruth, she manages to highlight the moral divide while giving birth to the sixth or seventh child she can't support. With a character seemingly devoid of conscience or concern, Laura manages to shed light on the controversy and still give this woman a purpose as potent as paint fumes. So many of her films (We Don't Live Here Anymore, Rambling Rose, Smooth Talk) paint her as this glowing figure whose inner light dims, flickers and fades (and seizure strobes in the case of Inland Empire) as the films progress, but usually in the end Laura's light is back and burning brighter than ever.

It's a strange world, wild at heart and weird on top, but we can depend on Laura to light the way. As we hold out for the robins, let us bask in our ever blinding love for Laura Dern.


adelutza said...

"blinding love for Laura Dern" . Well said.

Anonymous said...



I like your posts about your favorite actresses… One of the posts I liked the most was the one about Gena Rowlands because you did some good observations and… well, I really love Gena.

Now your pick is Laura Dern… couldn’t be a better pick, I really, really love her… she’s fantastic, easily one of my top 10 favorite actresses of all time.

What Laura offers throughout her voice, corporal expression and (especially) her face (oh… “the face”) is unique, completely unique… I think that Laura Dern is interesting, original, creative, her best performances are nothing less than amazing and she knows how to mesmerize me.

My top 5 favorite performances are (in order of preference):

2. Nikki Grace/Susan Blue in INLAND EMPIRE
3. Katherine Harris in RECOUNT (the more I think about it, the more I think she’s simply terrific in this HBO film).
4. Lula in WILD AT HEART
5. Sandy in BLUE VELVET

Well… Greets, and congratulations for your actresses!!!

P.S. I wonder what do you think about Uma Thurman (since she’s a highly divisive actress) because I think she’s awesome but surprisingly there are people who don’t share this opinion. I want to know your point of view first because you’re a nice actressexual and also because you DID watch “Hysterical Blindness” (an overlooked little film in which she delivers a sensational a-la-Gena Rowlands performance).


ooh. i don't give 'The Face' enough love so that's for highlighting.

my 4 favorite performances are (in no particular order): WILD AT HEART, SMOOTH TALK, INLAND EMPIRE and RAMBLING ROSE

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

Why does no one other than Lynch turn to this hypnotic, acute, disturbingly brilliant woman these days?

Surely there's a role for her in that Osage County adaptation. I think she'd make a terrific Barbara at the very least. And in a few years, she'd be my pick for Violet. In fact, they should wait a few years with that adapatation - at least until Streep is well and truly out of commission. I understand that she is beloved around these circles and there's no real way this will be avoided, but her headlining Osage County would rank on my list of most abysmal casting decisions since Brad Pitt's widely-expected, thankfully-aborted casting as Dean Moriarty in that adaptation of Kerouac's 'On the Road' that was rumoured a few years back. Or Damon and Affleck as Jack and Ennis. That's another one of my favourite aborted apocalypse scenarious.

Adam said...

Thanks Luigi! I'm actually holding out to do a post on Uma Thurman, and "Hysterical Blindness" will be mentioned since it is one of my absolute favorites from her. Gena Rowlands, Uma and Juliette Lewis! It's like an exquisite fantasy... set in dumpy New Jersey bars.

If I'm to pick my favorite Dern performances I think I have to just lump all of her performances for Lynch into the number one spot. Also I give special love for "Citizen Ruth" in this post just because I think it highlights how great she is at handling comedy. Same with "Recount" and "Year of the Dog." But I'll be honest, I really just want to see her cry.

Anonymous said...


Oh man, I kinda LOVE you... I mean, can't wait to see the post about Uma Thurman.

"Hysterical Blindness" is one of my favorite movies ever, shame it was so overlooked... Four Oscar caliber performances (Uma, Juliette, Gena and Ben Gazzara)!!!

And yes, Uma, Gena and Juliette together in movie is a fantasy... a really good one.

P.S. Laura Dern rules!!!

Chris Na Taraja said...

Didn't Laura Dern Kiss Ellen Degenerous on her infamous....television show?

Wayne B. said...

I thought she was great in "Happy Endings." That scene with Charlie, Gil and Diane where they lay everything out on the table is one of my favourites in the movie. Even though there's four characters all conversing over on top of each other, my eyes never left her. Her inflections and eye movement help flesh out the relationship she has with Gil.


SHIT. i forgot Citizen Ruth. she's BRILLIANT in that movie.

y kant i love Streep yes. But I agree that she's not the best choice for Violet. My current dream is either Judy Davis or maybe Joan Allen (if they're skewing a big younger which movies usually do) but really i'd love to see them cast actresses who we don't get to see that much since the roles are so juicy... and i'd particularly love it if they cast with actual family resemblance in mind... though I know they never do that.

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

Judy Davis! Yes! I didn't think of that. Joan Allen I could live with also, though she is too young.

And I also agree that perhaps casting beyond Oscar-nomination tallies and box office pull, and perhaps considering family resemblances and perhaps some remarkable Broadway divas that I and the world should know but don't yet because we don't live in New York.. Yeah, that might also do the trick.

Meantime, I'm all for Judy Davis. There's something about the woman I generally find unbearable off-screen, but she is certainly one of the finest actresses within that age range and Violet could become her quite well.

Glenn said...

Judy Davis or Jane Fonda, it needs to be done. I've been saying it ever since I saw the play though - Laura Dern needs to play Karen purely because the actress I saw perform her was clearly channeling Dern.

LOVE Dern. Her face is mesmerising. Recently saw her in Recount (she won the Golden Globe for it) and she was quite great.