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« Review: "Halloween" | Main | Months of Meryl: It's Complicated (2009) »
Thursday
Oct182018

Carey Mulligan Shines in 'Wildlife'

by Murtada Elfadl

Carey Mulligan always impresses. She gave the best performance I’ve seen on stage in Skylight in 2015. Earlier this year I was again astounded by her stage presence in the one woman show, Girls and Boys. It was an emotionally devastating theater experience, thanks to her command of the stage and of the language inflections. But despite being biased for her, I wasn’t ready for how blazing she comes out in Paul Dano’s Wildlife.

This is her shining moment. It’s her Blanche Dubois moment. Her Jeanette, a Montana housewife dealing with the repercussions of a crumbling marriage, is untethered yet Mulligan is in complete control. She holds the performance in her voice, as it trembles with emotion - hurt, confusion, anger, uncertainty  - all is clear to the audience through the timber of her voice.

She has many bombastic scenes; screaming and fighting with her husband (Jake Gyllenhaal), drunkley dancing like a delirious Salome trying to seduce a rich older man (Bill Camp). However Mulligan is at her best in the quiet scenes when Jeanette is thinking about what she should do, or regretting what she has done while vacillating between despondency and determination. Her choices as an actor are as smart as Jeanette's are mystifying but just as unpredictable. She put it best herself when she described the character in a recent interview as "going off the rails while staying in tracks." Her performance is the reason to see the film.

Mulligan has had to defend her character during the film’s press tour. Jeanette’s downfall include some infidelity and a tragic meltdown, witnessed by her 14 year old son. Great stuff for an actress to work with but apparently also comes with audience derision. You’ve probably already of her measured smart response at a New York Film Festival screening to an audience member who expressed hatred for the character.

I was furious at another NYFF post screening Q and A when the male moderator and the male audience members he kept choosing for questions, ignored Mulligan in favor of heaping praise on Gyllenhaal for his embodiment of sensitive manhood. So much so that Gyllenhaal was embarrassed and tried to deflect by saying that movie belongs to Mulligan. It sure does! Carey was looking every inch the movie star in sparkly Valentino couture and had just rocked my world with her blistering performance, yet men couldn’t see her performance because her character is the dreaded “unlikeable.” So correct that, and go see her now.

Wildlife opens in New York and LA tomorrow October 19th, expanding elsewhere soon thereafter.

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Reader Comments (17)

I love her and hope she gets lots of good vibrations from this role.

October 18, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterrdf

Obviously I too am biased (I've worshipped the ground she walks on ever since An Education), but she is so objectively good in this (far better, as you note, than the film itself), it will be a crying (literally in my case) shame when she is inevitably snubbed by the Academy and the rest of the award-giving bodies this year. Really not sure what she needs to do to get back in their good graces.

Also if it makes you feel any better Murtada, the crowd went WILD when she came out for the Q&A at the screening I went to. Reception for Jake was considerably more muted. I've never been more proud of a group of strangers.

October 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJes V.

She was snubbed for her best performance in Shame, and will likely be snubbed for this. It's not really about the roles you choose or how good you are, unless you're a Streep or Michael Shannon you better pick films they love, otherwise you'll get snubbed. Gyllenhaal has the same problem.

October 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTr

Underrated Mulligan performance and movie: Never Let Me Go (2010).

October 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBruno

Love her. It's not coming to my city until two weeks unfortunately. Never Let Me Go has to be my favorite work from her. Just exquisite.

October 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMya

Really love her, she's such a magnetic actress commanding the screen with ease , Mulligan should be an Oscar Winner by now ( for An Education, talk about a star turn performance, she had no real competiton in 2010 but was won over Sandra Bullock star power, Sandy is a fine actress, but there's just no scenario where she deserved that Oscar ) with two other nods ( Shame, huge snubs for everybody here; and Mudbound ), her work in the TV mini-series Collateral is also remarkable so I sure hope that Oscar voters show her some love for Wildlife ( and also for Gyllenhaal) .

October 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEder Arcas

She just doesn't play the game enough, I get the impression she's got no interest in becoming a 'star', and she's happy just living her life, working on interesting projects that she wants to do. You really feel like she's in charge of her own career path, and good for her. She's sure setting herself up to become one of the greats.

October 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJB

She will have a long and fruitful career. I see her like the next Charlotte Rampling. Aging gracefully carrying complicated roles in complicated movies.

October 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I especially loved her in Inside Llewyn Davis

October 19, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

She can be rather bland even with excellence surrounding her (see Drive for one blatant example). BUT when she is on, she is on fire. Phenomonal in Shame and Never Let Me Go.

October 19, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterhuh

I first noticed her in Pride & Prejudice, and I've unabashedly loved her since Never Let Me Go and An Education. She nearly always impresses. Her performances in Shame and Inside Llewyn Davis are right up there, and I liked her (though not much else) in The Great Gatsby.

That said, I was vastly underwhelmed by Mudbound - not just her acting, everything about it was insanely overhyped - and Suffragette, which I found an overly familiar weren't-women-horribly-mistreated-back-then slog.

But mostly, a new Carey Mulligan role is always something to look forward to.

October 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDoctor Strange

Miscasting has really hurt her career. She was all wrong for both Gatsby and Far From the Madding Crowd. But she could be another Nicole in that after a decade, then really things start happening for her. Fingers crossed.

October 19, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I really hope my theater opens this film. I love Mulligan, Dano, and Gyllenhaal.

October 20, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBrittani

I've not watched Wildlife yet

Never Let Me Go continues to be my favourite performance of hers; she's outstanding in it

October 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

I agree that she was miscast in Gatsby and Drive. She's far too intelligent to play those male fantasy idea parts. Though she did get Daisy's "full of money" voice. But I think Madding Crowd is one of her best roles; she gave it wit and grit and was a much Bethsheba than Julie Christie.

I love all the love for Never let Me Go - such a great underseen film.

October 21, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermurtada

Let me add my voice to the general love for Never Let Me Go and Carey Mulligan.

NLMG is such a beautiful film -- every scene was calibrated precisely and emotionally to the quiet tragedy of the lives of the Hailsham folks (including Miss Lucy). The sublime melancholy of the score, photography and above all, the superb performances, are what elevate it to a very very good film. And mature Tommy's final outburst never fails to reduce me to near-tears. Carey Mulligan as Ruth is excellent; I especially like her voice-overs.

I also think that Carey was miscast in Drive. When I think of that film, I remember Christina Hendricks, Katyna Rainieri's "Oh My Love" song and the near-gratuitous violence involving Ryan Gosling's character, and I don't remember Carey in it much. But I like her vulnerability as Daisy in The Great Gatsby much more than Farrow. I also think her Bathsheba in Far from the Madding Crowd was more believable than Julie Christie. The chemistry Carey's Bathsheba with Martin Sheen, Martin Schoenaerts and Tom Sturridge is undeniable.

One last thing: when I saw Shame Carey did not make much of an impression. I thought Michelle Williams might be more appropriate, but when Carey sang "New York, New York" live in that scene, I am like Michael Fassbender -- stunned and also teary-eyed. Later I read that Fassbender did not expect that scene to happen the way it did -- seeing his sister at work and with that slowed-down rendition of that popularly-swing-y tune, he gained a degree of appreciation, empathy and probably love towards his troubled sister. Carey's Sissy is multi-dimensional: she is irritating and lovable and several shades more.

Haven't seen Mudbound yet. Excited for Wildlife.

October 21, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterOwl

I actually love Carey in Drive. People seem to confuse roles where an actress isn't given much to do with bad performances. But her and Gosling's chemistry in that film is on fire, and it's all due to the silences between them.

October 22, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTr

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