The names of the actors who turned in my two favorite film performances of 2017 were not read from the podium at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony.
Jennifer Lawrence’s twisted-with-a-heart-of-gold — literally — turn in Mother! must’ve been too meta-theatrically perverse for Oscars’ tastes. And for less explicable reasons, Vicky Krieps’ breakthrough in The Phantom Thread was somehow overlooked, even though her starrier cast-mates that comprise the central love triangle (of a different color) were recognized with nominations.
Though Krieps has appeared in a surprising number of previous films — a whopping 39, according to IMDB, most of which are obscure titles, and she didn’t make much of an impression in the more memorable ones like Hanna — P.T. Anderson’s latest masterpiece shines a richly-deserved spotlight on her since-recognized talent. And yet, I still wondered if The Phantom Thread would turn out to be a flash-in-the-pan for her, with credit belonging at the feet of one of the most hailed actor’s-directors of his generation.
The Young Marx — her followup lead role released mere months after her rise to notoriety — confirms she’s the real deal, destined for a career worth following wherever it may lead. She’s just radiantly luminous onscreen, with an old-school look and a new-age approach to externalized introspective interiority. More simply put, you can’t take your damn eyes off her, much like Hollywood stars of lore. With her thoughtfully-instinctual gestures, soft-yet-passionately powerful facial expressions, and meaning-pack eyes and voice, she displays and conveys multitudes of intellectual and emotional layers not only to explore and uncover, but also to get lost in.
She imbues Karl Marx’s wife with the sort of deep humanity scantly found elsewhere in this misdirected chronicling of the titular Marx’s early years. Though it’s tempting to snidely tell director Raoul Peck — an Oscar nominee in his own right for last year’s James Baldwin-centric I Am Not Your Negro — to stick to documentaries, he’s actually not at fault here.
That unfortunate distinction falls on the shoulders of the writers tasked with bringing to life the life and writing of one of the most important writers in the history of life itself. Though helmers of such bores should of course shoulder some of the blame, the writers would’ve been wise to retroactively channel Peck’s dirty, handheld directorial hand. Instead, the screenplay is dense with ideas and stuffed with stuffy period sensibilities.
It’s really only worth seeing for completists interested in tracking the totality of Krieps’ ascent. For the rest of you, take my word for it that Krieps should reside firmly on your radars going forward; let’s hope someone else in the near future offers her worthy material that will firmly entrench her in the ranks of the silver screen elite.