Jodie Foster gets a bum rap for comedy. A consummate actress who has long been championed for her dramatic talents, Foster is rarely recognized for her comedic efforts, a scant few that round out an already impressive career. It’s not that the criticisms don’t carry some validity; her work in last year’s Polanski vehicle Carnage was an example of taking the clearest path in interpreting an admittedly difficult character. The piety and self-pity comingling with textbook liberal martyrdom is a fine line, a high-wire act that few could tiptoe across seemingly without any effort. (Emma Thompson is one actress that comes to mind. But then, what can’t Emma Thompson do?)
And this brings me to a point, in that few actresses can so easily traverse the heavy terrain between genres and come to their destination relatively unscathed. Foster struggles, but so does [MORE...]
Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Winslet, in their respective starring vehicles. A film is a foundation built around a star with a very specific hue; change the lighting and the house looks different. (Fincher noted this when casting Foster to take over the lead role in Panic Room, after Kidman was forced to drop out on account of a knee injury she’d suffered during the making of Moulin Rouge!) Panic Room with Kidman as a light would have been a Grace Kelly, old fashioned Hitchcock affair. Panic Room with Foster became a different film entirely, a political one, a mercilessly violent one.
The hue that Foster radiates in Maverick is a playful one, a Western femme fetale less concerned with playing the game and more excited about getting caught. It’s a largely sensual character, something that Foster very rarely got the opportunity to take advantage of; her physicality suggests timidity, when really it’s a playful predatory nature. Less concerned with devouring her prey, more interested in playing with it like a child at a dinner table. She knows how men taste; she prefers watching them squirm.
Foster knew this and took advantage of it. The self-seriousness that she’s so often affiliated with is absent; in its place is a flighty, energetic girl who looks at a social ladder in the Old West, sees the very top, and surveys the elevating prospects in speedy pursuit of attaining that goal. Here, men are elevators; all she has to do is gracefully set herself on their coattails, fan herself, and make sure no one else is going to jeopardize this ascent into power. Emblematic of the best figurative climbers, the trick is not to exert energy and effort, but to evade and entertain.
And what an entertainment is Annabelle Bransford. Her gesturing, her posing, her flirting and politics make her a beautiful stranger to behold. Foster has never been more comfortable onscreen, more self-assured. Her quick, high-pitched responses and subconscious tics test her ability to maintain a high-low profile, but she always manages to stay on top. Bransford’s sex and sensibility give her what she wants as the film comes to an end, or is it what we think she wants? The nature of desire isn’t to be satisfied, but sublimated. Annabelle isn’t interested in the peak.
She's fascinated by the climb.
She never stops.