…examining some 2012 forgotten turns in the run-up to my year in review citations…
Ensemble outings are an easy way to become a forgotten character especially when your character is so clearly a plot-point. And, like the last entry this one reeks somewhat of an actor slumming it. Still, the forgotten nature of a performance becomes more pronounced when you realise the difference between a respected actor slumming it and an ignored performer taking whatever roles are available. This performance, unfortunately, seems to be more like the latter.
Julia Stiles in Silver Linings Playbook
as Veronica Maxwell
Back-story: from 1999 to 2003 with 10 Things I Hate About You through Hamlet through Save the Last Dance through The Bourne Identity Stiles was one of those up-and-coming young actors that seemed certain to become a big name. Her last significant main role during that stretch in Mona Lisa Smile saw co-stars Kirsten Dunst, Maggie Gylenhaall and Ginnifer Goodwin all going on to varying degrees of success but other than a fine supporting turn on season5 of Dexter Stiles’ star seems to have been stuck in transit. So, going in blind to Silver Linings Playbook last month imagine my surprise (and excitement) when early on Stiles appears in her affable way. A role to resurrect things, maybe? Alas, ‘twas not to be – for the prickly but well-meaning Veronica was destined to turn into a forgotten character.
We meet Veronica first as the vaguely shrewish (as far as the film is concerned) wife of Pat’s on-and-off friend Ronnie, and friend of his estranged wife Nikki. “Veronica hates me,” Pat maintains even as Ronnie tries to convince him that she invited him to dinner. One of the first things she has to say (shout) is the rasping: “Ronnie, get in here, please. I need you!” It’s that initial indication of abrasiveness which makes our next meeting with Veronica so interesting.
“No, no. We haven’t even finished the salad, yet. Or the duck. I made the fire and ice cake.”
Not that Tiffany cares. The way in which the narrative develops makes me suspect as an audience member I should find empathy for Tiffany, the family disappointment, against the more conventionally put-together Veronica. “You love it when I fail,” Tiffany claims and Veronica’s responds with:
“No, I don’t. I don’t. I just – I just wanted to have a nice dinner.”
But that line always gets me, more for Stiles plaintive reading than the line itself. And how I know the narrative doesn’t mean for us to invest in Veronica? That the camera does not even return to watch Veronica’s countenance, certainly dejected, as Tiffany makes her departure. Not that Russell’s to blame, specifically – Veronica and her sadness at being unable to reach common ground with her sister is obviously not where the heart of the story is meant to be.
And yet, as much as Cooper easily appears as my favourite part of the film, I sure would love a glimpse into the lives of Tiffany and Veronica. Or, I wondered, couldn't 31 year old Stiles have been a perfect candidate for Tiffany? Her ability to play prickly characters giving way to warmth beneath would have been so excellent here. Are the shades under the surface in the seemingly perfect Veronica degrees of Russell’s script or just shrewdness in Stiles performance? I’m not sure. The true rub of the way Veronica is so forgotten, though, came when Stiles bit role didn’t even get a citation when the film earned its Screen Actors Ensemble nomination. Unsurprisingly of course. Who else would remember the slight frazzled hostess emanating from this forgotten performer?
Nobody else but me.
Previously Forgotten in 2012: Ann Mitchell in The Deep Blue Sea / Laura Dern in The Master
Full 2012 Forgotten Characters Ballot: HERE
Anyone else hoping for Stiles to earn a role worthy of her talent? Did you remember her slighted sister here?