letters to the stars: dear nicole kidman

Art & Culture

Dear Nicole Kidman,

This looks like being a busy year for you. You’ve fallen off the radar somewhat in the last five years, but in 2013, you have three new films, and in 2014, you take on the role of Grace Kelly, which is bound to cause a lot of hot air. So where does your reputation stand, at the age of 45, after 30 years in the business?

Although you were only 22 when you had your first hit (in Dead Calm), you had been working since the age of 16, so you were not an overnight sensation (very few people are). But you were young, pretty, Australian and possessed of a certain feisty vulnerability that made your woman-in-peril role very appealing. Unfortunately, in 1990, you then took a role alongside Tom Cruise in Days Of Thunder, an archetypally stupid car racing movie. Worse still, you married the little guy, and suddenly you were catapulted into that world of flashing lights and front page tabloid headlines, from which you only escaped ten years later when you and TC split up. In other words, an entire decade was spent under the shadow of being Tom Cruise’s wife. Do you ever regret that decision? I know I would

It would be unfair to suggest that every film you made in that decade was worthless, although we do have to nominate the following as pretty close to moronic – Far and Away, Batman Forever, Practical Magic, The Peacemaker and Eyes Wide Shut. On the positive side, you and Jane Campion did a brave if unsuccessful job of adapting Henry James’Portrait of a Lady, and you were excellent in Gus van Sant’s To Die For. Not all bad, and at the age of 33, you still had a lot of life ahead of you, and maybe even a Hollywood career, although women are rarely allowed to flower post-35.

Since then you have subtly steered a course between being appearing in expensive high profile dross, and interesting and quirky indie films. You can guess which I prefer, and I suspect you secretly agree. Films like Nine, The Stepford Wives, The Invasion andBewitched are forgotten by all but the most anorak-like of film statisticians, and I expect you would rather forget them too. They cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and generated about 1% of that. But at the same time, you starred in a lot of smaller, cheaper and worthier films, which you should be (mostly) proud of. And there are a number of films in between –The Interpreter, Cold Mountain, Moulin Rouge, The Human Stain – which have their admirers, though I am not one of them.

I suppose that your favourite is The Hours, courtesy of a fake nose, despite the fact that you were only one of three leading actresses, perhaps because voting vicariously for Virginia Woolf made Academy members feel that they were participating in literary genius. Though I doubt that any of them have read To The Lighthouse or Mrs Dalloway. I am a little underimpressed by The Hours, but there are others which display you at your most impressive. Despite the fact that it was directed by the man who made Sexy Beast, almost no one went to see Birth, which is a shame because you give an extraordinary performance as a woman who becomes convinced that a boy is her dead husband reincarnated. Even bolder is Fur, a peculiar and fascinating film about eccentric photographer Diane Arbus, alongside Robert DowneyJr. That, plus your unpleasant Margot in Margot At The Wedding, which confirms that when you dispense with issues of vanity, you are a terrific actress.

More recently, Rabbit Hole gave you another opportunity to show your skills, as a woman dealing with the loss of her son in her own idiosyncratic way. Once again, the success of film was inversely proportionate to its quality. Now you’re back in the multiplex with Stoker aka Stinker, and the much superior The Paperboy. n the first film, you do your fey and brittle routine excellently, but there isn’t a film for your performance to go with. In the later, you reveal just how out there you are willing to be. It’s not just the pissing on Zac Efron, and the Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct homage, but you bring wacky life that starts over the top, and just keeps going.

I could never claim that you are one of the great cinema actresses of modern times; you’ve made too many stiffs.

Phil Raby