Thursday, October 05, 2006

'I think it's true: she tries to be what you want her to be'

That quote is David Thomson on Nicole Kidman in his new book, scandalously titled "Nicole Kidman." It is an outgrowth of his last intriguing book, "The Whole Equation," which featured a lengthy tangent about Kidman. In this new one, he gives himself 270 pages to slobber over her.

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: 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."


Alanna said...

I'm not totally sure why I hate her. Maybe it's the icy, vacant stare she gives everyone when she's on the red carpet. Maybe it's her resemblance to a creepy Victorian doll. Maybe it's because so many movie produces seem to think she's the only worthwhile actress on the planet, and she's over-cast, and more interesting (though less glamorous) actresses are squandered so that we can all be privileged enough to witness The Kidman's range. Maybe it's because I think Moulin Rouge is a travesty vomited upon the world by a flamboyant, tacky Satan, or that her Virginia Woolf was lousy, her prosthetic nose won the Oscar, and she didn't even thank Woolf in her Oscar speech. Maybe it's that dreadful Chanel No. 5 commercial, which may be even more irritating than the Audrey Hepburn Gap advertisements. I don't know. I just wish she'd go away.

J.J. said...

Over-cast, yes. Bewitched. The Interpreter. Stepford Wives. No need for those. Thomson addresses this, and makes the point that she really doesn't make any hits (money-wise), so why are producers clamoring to cast her?

I urge you to see Birth, and to watch The Hours again. The nose only allows her to do the best work she's capable of. It does not add to the performance. It allows *us* to see the truth of the acting, rather than be distracted by her normally luminous appearance; I am being serious; beautiful actors are often at a disadvantage if they want to really sink into a role. Kidman's performance in The Hours is all in her eyes. Watch it again. And as for thanking Woolf in her Oscar speech, I mean, Woolf is dead. It'd be like thanking God.

Did I just imply that God is dead?

Anyway, I *hate* the Audrey Hepburn Gap ads. I dislike Audrey to begin with, but that ad is so shoddy and off-putting.

Alanna said...

I'll give you this, Nietszche: I am interested in seeing Birth, something about the previews makes it look Lynchian. And I love me some Lynch.

Why is Audrey such an icon these days? Her whole cutesy act bores me.

millie said...

i've never been thrilled by nicole kidman. i think she's gorgeous, though.

my opinion is her best was "the hours".

AND ... i don't watch boston legal because i don't like law shows. too many of them. but judging by your ALL CAPS comments, perhaps i should adjust my rules.

Middento said...

The fact that Alanna's bitter little rant made me feel defenseive must mean I'm a fan of some sort. For me, To Die For is still an acting coup, although I have soft spots in my heart for both Moulin Rouge! and, as always, Flirting. I will be interested to see what Wong Kar-Wai does with her in the Lady from Shaghai remake.

Kamikaze Camel said...

I'm very much a Kidman whore. I love her heaps. Dogville, Birth and Moulin Rouge! and three of my favourite performances of the last decade. Top 10 all of them. Stunning. Plus, The Others, To Die For, Eyes Wide Shut, The Hours, Dead Calm, Bangkok Hilton, Vietnam... all so good. I couldn't give a crap about whether she's "icy" or whatever.

BTW, Birth is probably more Kubrickian than Lynchian.

Anonymous said...

Neither love nor hate. I think she's a good actress, yes, but not one of the best.

Amazing in Dogville though.

Jeanette said...

God, I love her, but LOOK AT THAT FIVE HEAD!

Anonymous said...

I don't totally hate her but the intense gushing that some people seem to do over her makes me come close to hating her sometimes.

JoJo said...

I think is is perfection. Love her to death.