[Editor's Note: The FYC series brings together all Film Experience contributors to highlight our favorite fringe Oscar contenders. Jose Solis asks you to reconsider Cameron Diaz's supporting performance in The Counselor.]
It’s not only her scenery chewing, her car-fucking skills, her ability to pull off excess jewelry and animal print or the lustful-yet-motherly way in which she looks at her pet cheetahs. It's her commitment to this insanity that makes Cameron Diaz brilliant in The Counselor. Playing the heartless envoy from hell, Malkina, she creates one of the most compelling visions of evil contemporary cinema has given us. Because her evil seems to have roots in a horrifying childhood (her parents were thrown out of a helicopter!) she escapes the burden of just being a universal symbol of cruelty (a la Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men). She even shows us a glimpse of what might be underlying human qualities underneath her faux-bronzed skin when she shows envy and certain disappointment at not being able to love the way her friend Laura (Pé) does. Diaz delivers Cormac McCarthy’s senselessly beautiful lines with such passion and purpose that we can’t help but pretend we know what on Earth she’s going on about or why anything is in this movie.
The film was trashed by both critics and audiences; they failed to see beyond the movie's failure as a thriller and recognize that this is experimental film of the highest order, with references to American literature, Italian excess cinema and one of the most chilling reinterpretations of a Tennessee Williams scene I’ve seen. The Counselor is post-noir cinema. The best way I've found to explain why I loved Diaz was to compare the film to classic noir and suggest that if The Counselor had been made in the 1940’s, Malkina would have been played by Gloria Grahame. Like that Oscar winning actress, Diaz is the kind of “dame” who would make us kill for her and then slit our throats when we came back looking for the reward she promised us.
previously: World War Z