Kurt here. Considering the overall deficit of good roles for great black actresses (an issue to which this site is no stranger), moviegoers really can't be too hard on Nicole Beharie for offering them such rare and infrequent peeks at her remarkable talent. Still, watching those peeks (and they're watchable indeed), it's easy to send "grrrs" in this petite, 26-year-old beauty's direction, as she's thus far only appeared in five movies, two of them not even on the big screen. Why must she deprive us so? Her phone has to at least be ringing a little bit, and it can't just be about her selectivity, as the titles she's appeared in, on the whole, aren't exactly of the street-cred variety. So, what, then, has she been doing?
Quite a lot, as it turns out. My first exposure to Beharie was in early 2009, in a little film called American Violet, which screened at that year's Philadelphia Film Festival and had a very limited theatrical run. To be frank, the movie is glorified Lifetime rubbish, focusing on a real-life single mom who fought back against a corrupt system after being wrongfully charged with drug-dealing in a persecuted Texas housing project (wah-wah). But Beharie is knock-you-out stellar in the lead role, and she easily made my personal Best Actress top five. Since then the Juilliard grad has been toiling away on various projects that are slowly making their way to screens. Some may have caught her in the Precious wannabe Sins of the Mother (which, incidentally, was developed for Lifetime), while others may have seen her work in the football movie The Express, but she's also starring in at least four as-yet-to-be-released films, including everyone's favorite fleshy hype-magnet, Shame.
In the Steve McQueen sex-addiction drama, Beharie plays Marianne, a co-worker of the lead nympho, Brandon (Michael Fassbender). She offers him a shot at pure, normal intimacy. Beharie doesn't upstage Fassbender or Carey Mulligan (it's not that kind of role), but she brings more than what you'd normally expect from such a character (SPOILER ALERT: she is introduced for the very purpose of being dismissed). Her ability to be extraordinarily sexy in a heated makeout session (which may just be the mixed-bag movie's most well-choreographed scene) is hypnotic, as much a small feat of physicality as in-the-moment focus.
Compared to her character in American Violet (a headlining part Beharie has said she doesn't expect to land again), the sidelined Marianne is rather thankless. But nothing but good can come from the fact that Beharie is starring in a movie that anyone who gives a hoot about film is absolutely going to see. It's bound to give her profile a long-overdue boost.
Beharie flicks on the horizon include the sports drama The Last Fall, and the afro-centric Small of Her Back and Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day. Jot those titles down. Beharie will likely be reason enough to see them.