Kristen Stewart doesn’t act so much as inhabit a persona. She has consistently and remarkably portrayed emotionally broken characters who are trying to keep their life together. Gone are the days when she was recruited to play porcelain-faced damsels in insipid projects. Lately, Kristen’s unflagging working style has made her an art-house and indie favourite. Born in 1990 in Los Angeles to TV producer father and a script supervisor mother, Kristen started off as a child actor. In her first big role in David Fincher’s Panic Room (2002), she starred alongside seasoned actors like Jodie Foster and Forest Whitaker. Barring a few missteps, Kristen Stewart’s career decisions so far have been smart and fascinating. Here’s a look back at some of her sterling performances:
10. The Yellow Handkerchief (2008)
Udayan Prasad’s character-driven indie drama revolves around three strangers, embarking on a road trip through Louisiana. Kristen Stewart plays 15-year old Martine, a troubled young girl keenly aware of her budding sexuality. The other two characters are played by Eddie Redmayne and veteran actor William Hurt. The film cooks up an improbable situation and suffers from an under-developed story. Nevertheless, the three leads are solidly convincing and lend the narrative some good, breezy moments.
9. The Runaways (2010)
Floria Sigismondi’s film tells the biographical tale of a 1970s all-girl rock band. The primary players are Joan Jett, a struggling guitar player and Cherie Currie, a steely young singer. The Runaways does follow the familiar template of rock-n-roll dramas with its drugs and sexual excess. Ultimately, though, the actors do a wonderful job lending a heady quality to the proceedings. Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart effortlessly slip into their sexually liberated roles. Kristen brilliantly captures the undying spirit of Joan Jett.
8. Adventureland (2009)
Greg Mottola’s enjoyable rom-com is set in summer 1987. It centers on a broke college graduate in need of a summer job to pay for grad school (Eisenberg). He lands a job at a local amusement park where he develops a fragile relationship with one of his troubled co-workers (Stewart). Generally speaking, both Eisenberg and Stewart have a knack for playing insecure characters and they are perfect here. Kristen Stewart particularly serves as the emotional anchor and her performance straddles between equanimity and vulnerability. Meanwhile, director Mottola also does well by not overplaying the dramatic or conventional elements.
7. Still Alice (2014)
Julianne Moore delivered a powerhouse performance playing the 50-year old Alice Howland (winning the ‘Best Actress’ Oscar that year) diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. The film is based on the best-selling novel, which chronicles Alice’s struggle as her memory keeps eroding. Moore was ably supported by Kristen Stewart, who plays Alice’s moody young daughter Lydia. Watching Alice’s gradual descent through Lydia is even more heartbreaking. Clearly, she matches Moore at every step in offering emotional heft and depth.
6. Welcome to the Rileys (2010)
Jake Scott’s visually mesmerizing indie feature deals with a stale relationship between Lois and Doug Riley, a respected Indiana couple. The death of the their daughter eight years ago continues to afflict them. James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo masterfully play the depressed, grieving characters. One day, Doug heads off alone for a convention to New Orleans. There, he encounters Mallory (Kristen Stewart) at a strip bar. He seeks Mallory (stripper/prostitute) and takes on a strange path to heal his inner pain. By and large, Kristen’s raw and rewarding performance rescues the stripper character from being a petulant, one-dimensional figure.
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5. Camp X-Ray (2014)
Peter Sattler’s Guantanamo Bay drama is a microcosmic look at the post-9/11 political milieu. Kristen Stewart plays Amy Cole, a bored, small-town girl who wanted to fight for her nation. But she is assigned the role of a prison guard at the notorious Guantanamo Bay detention camp. There she meets the intrepid and overly talkative detainee Ali (Peyman Moaadi). She also forms an unlikely friendship with him. Kristen’s clipped delivery and dissociative facade help her easily get into the character. Besides, her standoffish looks and subtle emotions bring a distinguished class to the role.
4. Speak (2004)
Jessica Sharzer’s indie drama gave Kristen Stewart, who plays a 14-year-old Melinda Sordino, her first leading role. Speak is a poignant tale of a traumatized teen, confronting her inner demons. Kristen enacts the character with astounding maturity, conveying the crushing torment through her eyes. For the most part, director Jessica does a commendable job extracting a compelling yet non-melodramatic performance. Elizabeth Perkins as Melinda’s mother and Steve Zahn as the compassionate art teacher also ably support Kristen.
3. Café Society (2016)
Woody Allen’s engaging romantic drama is set in the 1930s Hollywood. An upbeat Bronx native Bobby (Jessie Eisenberg) falls in love with Vonnie who is seeing a married man. Café Society marks the third on-screen collaboration between Eisenberg and Stewart. The pair once again carries a natural, luminous chemistry. Stewart’s Vonnie is the star of the movie, who conveys her character’s depth with a passing glance. Vonnie initially appears to reject the glitz and pizazz of Hollywood. But gradually Kristen reveals different layers of Vonnie through subtle inflections.
2. Personal Shopper (2016)
Olivier Assayas’ strange and intriguing drama chronicles a grief-ridden young woman’s inner journey. American expat Maureen lives in Paris and works as a personal shopper for a wealthy socialite Kyra. She moves to a dilapidated mansion outside the city, hoping to make contact with her twin brother, who earlier died there. Things become more complicated, when Maureen receives text messages from a mysterious personality. One look at Kristen’s face — a face that brims with insecurity, fragility and sadness — and we know she is perfect as Maureen. Kristen Stewart marvelously carries this narrative full of repressed emotions with a very subtle physical performance. Similarly, Maureen completes Kristen’s wonderful transformation from being the star of the Twilight franchise to a respected indie actress.
1. Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)
In Olivier Assayas’ superb showbiz drama, Kristen Stewart plays Valentine, the personal assistant to celebrated actress Maria (Juliette Binoche). The ageing actress is trying to come to terms with her changing position in the global celebrity culture. The film’s set-up might remind one of the classic drama All About Eve (1950). Nonetheless, this story centered on the complexities of female relationships shares a lot in common with Persona and Mulholland Drive. Above all, the complex, multi-layered relationship between Binoche and Stewart is thoroughly captivating. Stewart’s Val is a brilliantly written character, who quietly observes stardom from the periphery. She received the French Caesar Award for her role — the first non-French actress to win the award.
By Arun Kumar
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