It is a glib book. It feels like the rumination was rushed, even though he gets into crazy specifics, like when he traces back to when the first Kidmans arrived in Australia in 1839. There is a ridiculous chapter on how Nicole must smell, and how her ad campaign for Chanel No. 5 somehow relates to the concept of celebrity endurance. There are bright spots, especially when he speculates on what ended the Kidman-Cruise marriage. He also fills in the blanks of Kidman's personality, which in real life always comes across as shifty at best, incomplete at worst. But there is a fire and ambition in her, if we are to believe Thomson. It's certainly evident in her filmmaking, though.
Thomson says he wrote the book to "honor desire," and he admits that sometimes he seems to be "on the brink of erotic collision with Ms. Kidman" in his dreams. Despite the admission, Thomson's schoolyard ogling is sometimes pervy:
...it may be easier to focus on the critical intersection in the enjoyment of To Die For: the fertile gap between the dumb cunning of Suzanne Stone and the brilliant innocence of Nicole Kidman ... the two personae fit together as tidily and as prettily as...well, as Kidman's breasts in the violent-colored underwear she sports in one scene.
And sometimes I was desperate for footnotes, like when Thomson relates this anecdote about Kidman and Tom Cruise meeting Stanley Kubrick at his house in Hertfordshire:
[Kidman and Cruise] sat on the sofa holding hands while he told them about the picture. "He'd look at her," said Kubrick, "and she'd look at him and he'd say, 'Okay, Nic?' and she'd say, 'If it is with you.' They're a truly married couple. It was kind of touching." Later, when the marriage was over, Nicole will say they lived in a bubble.
When and where did they say this? C'mon, Thomson. This may be a love letter, but you still need to cite your sources. And there are two glaring errors that should not have eluded any editor of any film book. Thomson writes that Kidman won the SAG Award in 2002 and that she was a shoo-in for the Oscar. Not so. Zellweger took the SAG for Chicago -- and Diane Lane and Julianne Moore were heavy critical favorites -- so Kidman's win was not a sure thing. And Thomson writes that Anthony Minghella won a screenplay Oscar for The English Patient. C'mon! That was Billy Bob Thornton.
Anyway. I devoured the book because this is my thing: think pieces about movies. Thomson's writing is delicious, generally. He puts Kidman in a context, which she's always eluded because her work is so varied and her personal life so enigmatic. After finishing the book, I am eager to revisit To Die For and Moulin Rouge!, and to see Dead Calm for the first time. It's quite a filmography, as Thomson reminds us.
What are your feelings about the woman, dear readers? Love her or hate her, and why? What's her best work, and her best moment? For me, well, I love her. When I think of Kidman's brilliance, I think of the moment she says, in The Hours, "I can't think of anything more exhilirating than a trip to London." Go back and look at her face, her eyes, the way she sucks the very life out of her cigarette, knowing the tobacco will never match the terrible ecstasy churning in her brain.
Related posts: The ravishment of Birth, Kidman in Fur, The algebraic sweep of thomson's "Whole Equation."