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Thread: Actress of the Month: ANNETTE BENING (May 2023)

  1. #101
    Senior Member electric_storm's Avatar
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    Am I crazy or did Cinesnatch miss 20CW in their (amazing) write ups? My favourite of hers.

  2. #102
    A Fan of Dakota Johnson Since A Bigger Splash Cinesnatch's Avatar
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    Oh, McTeague and Electric! Your timing and comments

    I am not done yet, though (I hope not!). I had more revisits to do than I realised! This is a marathon, but I will cross the finish line, damnit!

    Bening has made a career out of taking complex, displeasing characters and daring the audience not to fall in love with them. Her journey in 20th Century Women (2016) is almost the reverse, even if her Dorothea Fields can be a bit stubborn. She plays one of the coolest, and probably most likeable women she has ever taken on. Dorothea is a woman born too late, yet ahead of her time. She’s caught between her progressive inclinations and resistance to change balancing the nurturing needs of her child and morality. Faced with a teenager who is starting to make poor choices, Dorothea negotiates this new phase of motherhood with patience, fear, and determination. As an actor, in some sense, the job might be “easier,” as she essentially already has the viewer on board with her. But she has none of the bells and whistles she has had in the past, and must dig deep to give us the revelation she ends up delivering.

    There is a “plainness” to Bening’s performance when compared to her so many fiery characters of her past. Yet, it’s in every way an original creation which sits along the menagerie of her best. Just compare it to her Karen in Mother and Child, another “quiet,” but equally transfixing turn. If the stakes feel high with either of those roles, it’s because Bening makes them so without being showy about it. In Bening’s warm, open visage, we watch Dorothea recalibrating after each result of her choices whilst giving her child space, as she provides him with the guidance he needs. We witness this in the way she may stretch her upper lip over her teeth or her emotions gentle seguing into the next as she registers surprise, confusion, and helplessness when her son turns the tables on her in what is supposed to be a teachable moment for him. Or, when Bening breaks down in tears, she doesn’t play to the camera, it’s authentic. Left not knowing what else to do, she hunches her shoulders in, covers her face, and breaks down. It’s a grounded, tactile, and nuanced performance with an incredible amount of detail which the film bestows with a light ethereal touch. Additionally, on a superficial level, this was one of favourite hairstyles of hers committed to film. And, I don't think she has ever smoked onscreen as much as she has here. I want to say even more than in Bugsy! The gifs are endless.

    20th Century Women is one of 2016’s best and my personal favourite starring Bening. In the vast majority of her movies, she often elevates her role and the film (singlehandedly sometimes), but this is one where the film matches her greatness every step of the way. Considering that most actors make their best movies when their career is at their hottest, it’s a testament to Bening’s enduring talent that she can get cast and deliver in a film of 20th Century’s caliber nearly three decades after her Hollywood career began. With its ruminating score and soundtrack and carefully staged shots, Mills’ valentine to the influences on his youth surprised many filmgoers by making a movie that felt auteurist. He takes an extremely personal part of his biography and instead of making a fictionalised, navel-gazing look at his life, he creates something more universal, beautiful, and simultaneously joyful and quietly heartbreaking in a very cinematic manner. Bening is surrounded by a wonderful supporting cast (including Elle Faning’s droll, but vulnerable teenager whose deadpan tone and effortlessly cutting looks absolutely slayed me and made me an, er, fan). It’s the kind of film that I wish Bening’s filmography had more of.

    20th Century Women filmed its exteriors in Santa Barbara and premiered at NYFF 2016, eventually grossing back its budget of $7M. The critical ink unanimously praised Bening and the movie. I actually collated pages upon pages of pull-quotes in the AW 20th Century News Thread, which has since aged out. But here are a few I quickly dug up from MC:

    Empire: “Oozing wit and wisdom, she is a delight to behold.” David Edelstein (Vulture), “I can’t think of another actress who could make Dorothea so full. This is the kind of acting that makes you feel more alive.” Seattle Times believed Bening “gives a master class in acting.” The superlatives were everywhere as you might imagine: “Marvellous” (WeGotThisCovered); “Wonderful (Mick LaSalle - SF Gate); and “Masterfully played” and “expertly portrays” (ThePlaylist). Peter Travers (Rolling Stone) couldn’t stop himself with one either, writing, she “shines” in addition to being “brilliant,” “magnificent,” and “simply glorious.” She “leads a stellar cast” and plays Dorothea “with riveting complexity and compassion.” Christian Science Monitor called her “a marvel” and opened their review with the question, “Has Annette Bening ever given a bad performance?” A lot of publications flat-out wrote this was her best, if not right at the top: “certainly one of Bening’s finest” (Justin Chang - LA Times); “it's one of the best performances of the year (and one of Bening's personal best as well)” (; “best role of her career” and she returns “the favour in spades” (Austin Chronicle); “one of the finest performances of her career” (Richard Roeper - Chicago Sun Times); and “Bening … has never been better” (New York Post).

    Nevada Film Critics would give Bening the win for Best Actress. She would receive nominations from the Globes, ISA, Gotham, Critics Choice, Dallas, Phoenix (PCC), Florida, North Carolina, Denver, Georgia, San Francisco, San Diego, DC, Detroit, Las Vegas, Austin, and Indiana. For the critics who saw most everything that year, Bening would appear on a slew of critic Top Performances of the Year lists (Hollywood Reporter, Rolling Stone, IndieWire, The Playlist—the latter of which rated her third best of 2016). The film would get shut out by INOCA/ICA ( ), but those who have arrived late to the movie, fall in love with it and Bening’s performance, as evidenced by such occurrences as Bening getting a first RU mention at NSFC (the last of the major critic groups to give out awards, one month after NYFCC/LAFCA), and the AMPAS choosing the screenplay for their Original category was something of a surprise.

    In some ways, 20th Century not realising its full commercial potential was a “casualty” to Moonlight. A24 placed most of their chips on that touching drama, which turned out to be a smart gamble. Ironically enough, it was Bening’s husband Warren Beatty, who, along with Faye Dunaway, created one of the most infamous gaffes and memes in Oscar history by reading the card that had the Best Actress winner’s name instead of Best Picture. Bening called him on his mobile and spoke to him almost instantly after it happened.

    If you haven’t seen this film, I highly recommend you try before sending in your ballot.

    For posterity, here is the AW Review Thread for the film.
    Last edited by Cinesnatch; Today at 09:51 AM.

    Vote for your favourite Annette Bening performances.

  3. #103
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    Vote for your favorite Annette Bening performances.

  4. #104
    Senior Member Liron's Avatar
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    literally bookmarking this page.

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