Archive | Five of the best RSS feed for this section

FIVE OF THE BEST: Geek girls

11 Nov

katelibby1. Angelina Jolie – Kate ‘Acid Burn’ Libby in Hackers (1995)

Potently sexual, self-assured and an out-and-proud computer geek who is both respected and desired by her male cohorts. Despite the dreadful pseudo-tech speak littered throughout the film and the unconvincing way it’s delivered by an otherwise charismatic Jolie, Kate Libby is the kind of fantastical heroine geek girls everywhere can celebrate. Although Libby is perhaps not the most accurate representation of girl geekiness, she at least offers an alternative to the a sea of valley girls and bubble headed blondes commonly found on-screen. While Libby is hardly a feminist heroine, at the very least Jolie’s enticing smart-sexiness is a whole lot of fun to watch.

dawnweiner2. Heather Matarazzo – Dawn Wiener in Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)

And from the sexy-smart to the painfully, hideously real. Everything about Dawn seems unfortunate. Dawn’s ‘Wiener-dog’ nickname, paegant-perfect little sister and generally unappreciative family all solidly contribute to the despair, frustration and confusion that Matarazzo expertly conveys to the audience. This is teenage isolation at it’s most awkwardly realistic. Dawn is no hipster with a token cool best friend, nor an ugly duckling-turned-princess set to win the heart of the high-school hero, just a clueless young girl with nowhere to go. If this were Disney, by the films end we might see Dawn allowed some kind of hint of happiness. However,  as anybody that’s seen Palindromes might know, director Solondz isn’t really given to happy endings.

123046__election_l3. Reese Witherspoon – Tracy Flick in Election (1999)

“Pick Flick!” Tracy Flick craves success like no other. Witherspoon’s trademark sunniness is here twisted into a scarily determined, over-achieving nightmare that seems a far-cry from her usual ‘feisty damsel looking for love’ fare. An outcast of her own choosing, highly-driven Tracy wants nothing more than to be named student body president. Although originally assuming she would run unopposed, when she finds herself pitted against two potentially formidable opponents, her evilly manipulative nature is pushed to the fore. The bane of teacher Jim McAllister’s (Matthew Broderick) life despite her confirmed success in her adult life, McAllister’s suggestion that she will never be truly happy because she has nobody around her that truly cares for her seems likely to be true.

cherish4. Robin Tunney – Zoe in Cherish (2002)

Although Tunney was in her mid-twenties when she portrayed troubled outcasts Debra in Empire Records (1995) and Sarah in The Craft (1996), her depiction of angst-ridden adolescence was particularly believable in both these films. However, while such characters were certainly on the fringes of society, neither were strictly speaking, ‘geeks’. Enter Zoe. A desperate thirty-something seemingly rejected by the men in her life and her co-workers, peering out into the world through a mess of frizzy-hair, it’s here that Tunney is at her most awkward and most engaging. After being wrongfully convicted of a hit-and-run and lumbered with a dangerous love-song-dedication DJ stalker, Zoe is forced to call upon an inner strength and cunning previously unknown to her. All the while, she also manages to captivate the hapless Daly (Tim Blake Nelson), a police stooge assigned to her case.  Although there is a hint of dodgy ‘take the glasses off, no more ugly duckling’ about Cherish, the transformation that Zoe undergoes is both charming and engrossing.

whip_iblisst_035. Ellen PageBliss ‘Babe Ruthless’ Cavendar in Whip It (2009)

Drew Barrymore’s directional debut has all the makings of an indie-chick-hit; hipster soundtrack, Kooks-esque skinny boy heart-throb, alternative sports, fishnets and larger than life characters. As Bliss Page is a dorky revelation and far more engaging here than in Juno (and less frustratingly too ‘honest-to-blog’ cool). Although the Whip It story is itself fairly ordinary – misfit teen finds happiness and acceptance with new friends, all the while pissing off her parents and dabbling in heart-wrenching first love in the process – a stellar cast lifts what could have otherwise been a somewhat novelty venture. That Page is so noteworthy amongst such an established cast is quite the achievement. After secretly making her way onto the Roller Derby scene, she passionately pleads with her furious parents that she can’t stop because (in her own words), “I love this!” Whilst such standard dialogue might sound trite from a lesser actor, given Page’s full commitment to the role, you don’t doubt her for a second.

Advertisements

FIVE OF THE BEST: Child performances

20 Aug

stanley - magnolia

1. Jeremy Blackman – Stanley Spector in Magnolia (1999)
Although his genius is confirmed by his record-breaking winning streak on a ‘children vs. adults’ quiz show, lonely Stanley Spector dodges the cliche precociousness found amongst many other child roles. Ignored and misunderstood by those around him, Blackman manages to convey not only a believable and touching sadness to the audience, but more importantly, a determined inner strength. Holding his own against an impressive ensemble cast in one of the best scenes of the film, Stanley informs his callouss father, quite simply, that “he needs to be nicer to him”. Only the coldest heart could possibly disagree.

hayley - hard candy2. Ellen Page – Hayley Stark in Hard Candy (2005)
As a pregnant hipster in the indie darling Juno, Page displayed a kind of sunny charm that seemed to come to her so naturally, it could be argued that she was maybe playing herself. However, her versatility is well proven here as the sardonic Hayley, a scheming teen with a vendetta against suspected paedophile Jeff. The quiet intensity of Page’s anger lifts occasionally hammy dialogue, and despite her diminutive figure, her power over Jeff is rarely in doubt.

annie - lovely and amazing3. Raven Goodwin – Annie Marks in Lovely & Amazing (2001)
Adopted into a bewildering upper-class white world, it is clear that life is, and will continue to be, hard for overweight African American child Annie. Her role models – two much older sisters and her adoptive mother – are dysfunctional and neurotic, and a carer found through a ‘big sister’ program refuses to continue their relationship after Annie tells a racial joke. Despite these moments of lashing out at the cruel world around her, Goodwin’s doe-eyed smile and undeniable charisma make her a lovable and memorable character.

 

son_of_rambow_movie_image__2_-14. Bill Milner & Will Poulter – Will Proudfoot and Leigh Carter in Son of Rambow (2007)
Although the story of the misfit nerd befriending the seemingly tough school bully is certainly nothing new, Rambow is a charming version of the lion and the mouse fable. Milner (as the slight and sheltered Will) and Poulter (as the rough around the edges Leigh) develop a believable bond and effect each other in a way that is both genuine and touching. Solid performances from Milner and Poulter ensure that Rambow steers clear of unbearable sentimentality or cliche pap.

tracey - 135. Evan Rachel Wood – Tracey Freeland in Thirteen (2003)
Although co-star Nikki Reed also delivers a solid performance as vampy, sexually promiscuous rebel Evie Samora, it is Wood who shines in this almost anti-coming-of-age film. A make-over movie with a difference, Tracey’s swift transformation (or disintegration) from unassuming nerd into a rebellious, pill-popping, thong-wearing nightmare is both painful and mesmerising to watch. A vivid mess of anger, dangerous curiosity, determination and confusion, it is hard to know whether to hug or lock up this Lolita of the new age.