Nicole Kidman at Cannes 2001 / Wikimedia Commons
In a landscape of blonde actresses with chiseled jaws and pearly white teeth, there’s something different about Nicole Kidman. Yes, she’s got all of those things, but she’s also got that indefinable quality that marks the difference between people who act in movies, and movie stars. Nicole Kidman is a movie star in the same way Tilda Swinton and Cate Blanchett are movie stars, and while she may not possess Swinton’s steely mystique or Blanchett’s domineering cool, she’s somehow carved out a more intriguing career for herself than either of them.
If you’ve been watching films or prestige television lately, you’ve probably been wondering if Nicole Kidman sleeps. In the last three years she’s starred as the Christian mother of a gay son in Boy Erased, the teacher at a girls’ school in Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, a doctor’s wife in the experimental The Killing of a Sacred Deer, a torn-up detective in Karyn Kusama’s The Destroyer, an old-school punk in How to Talk to Girls at Parties, a personal assistant in The Upside and the Queen of Atlantis in Aquaman.
Not to mention television. In 2017, she went grey in Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake – a criminally underrated drama starring Elizabeth Moss with a pretty bloody good Kiwi accent and a cop uniform. More significantly, from 2017 through til now, she’s played Celeste Wright in the wildly popular Big Little Lies. Allow me to reiterate; everything mentioned above has come out in the last three years alone.
Celeste is inarguably the meatiest role in Big Little Lies, even if other characters have given us some especially iconic lines lately (I will NOT not be rich!). Come awards season, that meatiness was recognised in the form of an Emmy, a Golden Globe, a SAG Award, and some of the best press she’s ever received. And it was entirely deserved – Kidman infuses the character with a deep, confused, loving, defensive, sexual, can’t-put-your-finger-on-it quality that you can’t imagine any of the other Lies stars bringing to their parts. Kidman, quite naturally, just goes there.
It’s hard to believe, given her intense creative output lately, that critics quite recently agreed Nicole Kidman was over. In 2013, when she was 46, the Grace Kelly biopic Grace of Monaco flopped so badly reviewers were basically writing the actress’ obit. Approaching 50, and having not made anything significant in years, the notion abounded that Kidman would be buttoning up her cardigan and making cameos in dusty biopics for the rest of her life. Instead, the opposite happened. Kidman sought out the experimental, the risky, the specific, and the sexual. At age 52, she’s taking on some of her most sexual roles since 1999’s Eyes Wide Shut.
She’s also worked with legions of women directors, and in 2017 pledged to do so every 18 months. With her mega wattage, that’s a huge boon for woman directors, and if others in the industry – dare I say, men – made the same pledge, some significant change would occur. For comparison, her ex-husband Tom Cruise has worked with one woman director over his entire career. Other actors of a similar caliber, like Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, have similarly worked with one or two women directors in their lives. (Keanu Reeves is the exception to this dire rule, having worked with women directors 13 times.)
Up next, Kidman is starring in the first major movie to come out of the Me Too movement. She’s also got The Goldfinch in post-production.
I just can’t with this woman.
A part of me wishes she’d take a break, if only for her sleep cycle. But then I remember how women are supposed to fade to black post-50. How they’re supposed to become respectable and stuffy after having children. How the flops and the flubs are supposed to stick to us like glue. And I smile. Nicole Kidman is a 52-year-old mother of four with an unrelenting desire to do experimental, sexual, emotionally devastating work.
Let the woman work.Support Villainesse