The perkiest nuclear destruction you’re likely to see is Ginger and Rosa, a slight coming of age movie from filmmaker Sally Potter (Orlando), notable mainly for Elle Fanning’s presence as the appropriately nicknamed Ginger.
I won’t call it a performance, despite all the raves. A.O. Scott gushes that she’s a young Meryl Streep; sometimes film critics say the silliest things when the latest It Girl rears her head. Fanning is extremely pretty and photogenic, handles the Brit accent with aplomb (the same cannot be said for poor Christina Hendricks, who proves with each movie performance how lucky she and Mad Men‘s Joan are to have found each other), and progresses from all smiles to all shook up over the movie’s 90 minutes. In a wonderful touch, we glimpse that she’s bitten her nails down to the quick, a real girl tic that works well for the character.
Like Jennifer Lawrence, Elle Fanning has tremendous talent and terrific screen presence; you want to watch either of them whenever they’re in a frame. This, though, isn’t acting. This is what young Julia Roberts had (Pretty Woman, a movie I detest but in which I must admit she’s eminently watchable), then lost (Mary Reilly), then came back to claim like gangbusters (Erin Brockovich). And THEN, in Charlie Wilson’s War and Duplicity, she was an actress, with deft comic timing and visible self-knowledge. I hope she does more stuff like those two movies and less Eat, Pray, Love. In fact, let’s just hope for as few Eat, Pray, Loves as possible.
Some actresses come out of the gate swinging at a very young age. Cary Mulligan is one, Saoirsie Ronan another. Jodie Foster was much more interesting as a kid than an adult, unless of course you count that weird coming out speech at that one awards show. Margaret O’Brien just absolutely rocked in Meet Me in St. Louis, but….is that acting? Time tells; Mulligan and Ronan definitely have plenty of interesting stuff ahead of them.
And from this movie, Rosa, played by Jane Campion’s daughter Alice Englert, will be an interesting show biz kid to watch. She doesn’t have Fanning’s kewpie doll adorableness, but rather smolders as much as such a wee bairn can; she reminded me quite a bit of the wonderful actress Mike Leigh has used often, Katrin Cartlidge. She provides the only real darkness in a movie that otherwise feels surprisingly weightless, not such a great thing when you’re dealing with the terror of an oncoming holocaust. Annette Bening is all earnest and dowdy, Oliver Platt is comfy queeny, Timothy Spall is his usual lovely bad-teeth self, and everyone tries to muddle through a script that isn’t quite as deep as your average teenage angst novel. I’m sorry, because I really wanted to like it.
In other news, my 16-year-old son LOVED Gatsby, deeming it perfectly cast, with enough departures from the book that he just plain ate it up. It was sheer delight to argue, in the true sense of the word, what we saw as the merits of the movie as well as debate why I liked most of it quite a bit less than he did. The experience of sharing art (or good craft) is so key to healthy relationships. Watch the same movie, together or separately, then talk about it. It’s a wonderful life, indeed.