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FYC: Nicole Kidman in "Destroyer"

Eric here, with a brief plea for Oscar consideration for a dark horse candidate for Best Actress:  Nicole Kidman for Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer. For harmony in numbers, here’s five reasons why Nicole should be one of our final five when nominations are announced next Tuesday...

Reason 1:  You really never have seen her like this.  Commercials and trailers for the film have all selected quotes from reviews along the lines of how Destroyer is nothing like Nicole has done.  And it’s true. This goes beyond the makeup and the physical transformation we see for her character, police officer Erin Bell.  Nicole drops her voice down a few octaves, pitching her lines in a pre-death rattle that makes you lean in to her every moment. She’s quite scary here… while Nicole has that special gift for often making you worry about her and the character she’s playing, here you’re worried what she might do to others.  Nicole carries and brandishes a gun with a surprising authority: you could be laughing at her slender statuesque frame during these scenes, but you decidedly do not due to Nicole altering her entire being. It’s a flip on her usual screen persona: her vibrancy has been stripped, and her face seems to get more dead as the film progresses, without losing purpose or intent as an actress.  It’s a go-for-broke performance for a go-for-broke character in a go-for-broke movie.

Reason 2:  She gets to play two characters, and she slays the other one too.  In the film’s numerous flashbacks, we see Erin Bell in her pre-traumatic-event days.  In these scenes, we get a Nicole we know and love, looking vaguely like her character in Birthday Girl (an unjustly forgotten movie that Nicole is also great in).  Assigned to go undercover with some very nasty drug dealers, Flashback Erin has a hope and sweetness that eventually is lost, and Nicole makes you feel that loss. The last quarter of the film gives us Nicole’s Erin making a series of complex and quite horrifying decisions, the kind we don’t usually see our film heroines making, and this actress’ blend of fear and hope during this stretch of the film is both joy and torture to watch.

Reason 3:  She gets to play a role that men usually get to play, but adds more dimensions.  Destroyer could easily have been a Sidney Lumet movie in the 70s, probably with Al Pacino, or at least Roy Scheider.  One of those guys would have had a teenage daughter, like Erin Bell does in this film, but they wouldn’t have had the scenes with that daughter like the ones Nicole plays to the bitter hilt here.  It’s none of the usual emotional tenor between mothers and daughters that we usually see. Nicole never goes mushy in these scenes; she knows the relationship is lost, and she’s simply trying to save something for her daughter, with no heroism in mind.  It’s sharp-edged and uncompromising acting that’s purely committed to the script and the larger themes.

Reason 4:  She’s Nicole Kidman, giving a performance to rank in the canon of her finest performances.  Like Nathaniel, I’ve been thrilled/annoyed that in the last two years, everyone has accepted Nicole as one of our best, as if she hadn’t been all along.  I personally clock her with having given us at least seven truly great pieces of acting: To Die For, Eyes Wide Shut, The Hours, Dogville, Birth, Margot at the Wedding, and Rabbit Hole.  Eight if you count Big Little Lies.  Several others come close to great (and I know all of you would negate some of my choices and add some of your own).  But the point is that there is legendary talent happening here, and her work in Destroyer is the balls.

Reason 5:  She’s giving one of the most thorough, nuanced performances of the year against this year’s competition.  The amount of careful thought and minutely-calibrated detail that Nicole puts into this character is mind-boggling.  She climbs huge dramatic mountains here: it’s a large-scale part where she gets to play a colossal arc, and she nails it.  She gets to do far more than a few of the ladies in play, and has the incredible technique that a few of them lack.

Despite her Golden Globe nomination for this performance, it’s unlikely she will be on the final list of names for Best Actress, but here's hoping for a big warm surprise.

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Reader Comments (39)

Can I be a voice of dissent? Personally, I found it to be one of her career worsts actually. It's not entirely her fault, the film sadly isn't particularly great either, with contrivances abound and plenty of shortcomings including the character. So it often leaves her feeling like stunt casting, more for the relevance of seeing Nicole in a role like this than the actual performance (see for example, argument number 1 being that we've never seen her like this). She's working hard (all too evidently to ever get sucked into the performance as anything more than effort) but it's a role she's miscast for, that the makeup nor the writing ever properly sell, and Kidman's valiant effort ultimately doesn't pay off. I like that she's always willing to take risks, but for me this was a massive disappointment all around.

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAlexD

I sort of dissent too. I don't think the makeup and hair do her any favors. The inherent performance is good and strong that she didn't need the make-up to make her look dried up and worn out. It's a distraction. It's kind of a distraction, and every time a character mentions how terrible she looks it comes off to me as funny for pointing out how extreme she looks.

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

I love that I can contribute to the comment section of this with complete of authority having actually seen Destroyer on New Year's Day theatrically. Kidman's been better so the notices for her here are entirely based on people who ignored her genius when it was cool to publicly bash, mock, or be utterly indifferent to her. The movie itself is a failure on all levels except for how watchable Kidman is in it with that ghoulish meth face makeup. The movie would never see the light of day theatrically were Kidman not the lead. The Academy has yet to anoint an R rated Nicole Kidman vehicle with a nomination for her -- better Boy Erased than Destroyer. Although, Nic needs that fourth nod in Best Actress for Nick Davis to upgrade her status from Champ to Pet at his site.

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

I clearly remember the beginning of September when the fanboys attempted to drown everything with "YEAH, LEADING NOD FOR DESTROYER, SUPPORTING NOD FOR BOY ERASED, OMG KIDMAN'S THE BEST, SOMETHING SOMETHING"

and here we are today, her performance in Boy Erased is by no means something exceptional *cough* Sacred Deer, The Beguiled *cough*, and the film made less than $7 million in the U.S.

her performance in Destroyer attracts huge admiration but has a good number of critics; also, it doesn't have the Toni Collettee in Hereditary praise now, does it? Kidman is supporting female directors, yes, great, but the film has mixed reviews.

As I've said it before, bravery alone great performances and/or movies does not generate.

The fact that Kidman is underrated at the Oscars in terms of nods, does not mean we should go in the opposite direction and overrate her work in the comments section. Art is not a binary.

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

I agree with what has been said here,I thought she was miscast in both films and the hair n make up in both do her no favours and neither do each films supporting cast.

I too would rather her get a 5th for something truly worthy of her best and neither of this years roles are it.

Very true a lot of supported her even when her Hollywood films were bombing but The Syepford Wives is huge fun.

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

Isn't Bill Skarsgaard in IT the first photo?

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBrown Cow Stunning

Eric, ITA. We saw Destroyer and is that title ever apt. Nicole burns through the screen with such force but never at the expense of truth. Shattering work. She is also my No. 5 of last year.

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I'll add to my comment that I did find her fantastic in Boy Erased though. It's a small part, but she really lifts it up and basically carries the emotional weight the movie otherwise lacks. Good stuff, she's not in a personal top 5 of mine but I wouldn't mind if she got a nod for that instead since I do agree that her nomination count is lower than it should be.

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAlexD

I don't get people thinking she should have more nominations. How many should she have? 5? 7? 10?

She has four nods, including a win. That's an impressive feat especially when many actors of her talent have maybe one or even none and her most recent nod was only two years ago.

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMya


Kidman's body of work easily eclipses Meryl Streep.

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

I found this whole performance to be a complete misfire and so self conscious.

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Rech

I am the opposite of most of the opinions here. Is this her best work? No. But I think this is still a great performance from her. For me, the make up doesn't distract me from enjoying this performance and I think Nicole really gets the core of this character.

Destroyer is definitely a flawed movie but I find it really engrossing and it's great seeing Nicole sink her teeth into a character who lost everything and the one responsible for it without way of redemption.

The lead actress competition is tough this year but if she makes it to final fine, IMO it's a deserving nomination.

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterDrew

Kidman should've been nominated for Birth in 2004, it's a serious, grievous snub

she was also magnificent in The Golden Compass, so that's a supporting nod that should've happened, I think.

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

Not being nominated for "To Die For" looks pretty damned wrong in retrospect, too.

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBruno

The beauty of being Nicole Kidman (or Charlize, or Tilda or—increasingly—Natalie Portman) is not needing an Oscar because you already have one. That's pretty liberating.

I'd rather have five more Young Adults than ten more North Countries, even if Oscar ignored every single one of them. At a certain point it's not about what the Academy decides is great/exciting.

All to say, it'd be fun to see Nicole get a nomination but she's no worse off if she doesn't. Only people in purgatory (Glenn, Amy, Annette) need to strategize for the Oscars. And it's best when they don't (20th Century Women, Arrival).

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterHayden

@Mya As the original comment not in favour of Kidman's work in Destroyer. I would personally give her

-To Die For
-Moulin Rouge!
-Rabbit Hole
-The Paperboy

That's 6. So, she should have more but I as you said, she has 4 and a win. She's doing fine.

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterAlexD

@3rtful. You are delusional

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRdf

3rtful: we're talking about the fabulous Nicole Kidman here so why must it be always something to do with Meryl Streep when you hate her so much?

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMe

Nicole should have 7 noms by now. The 4 she has (all for great performances) plus To Die For, Birth (Dogville was in 2004, so she could only have 1 that year) and Paperboy.

She obviously has at least 3 more all-timer performances in her. And this comes with 0 exaggeration, she is that great.

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterLuiserghio

Good as she maybe in Destroyer n Boy Erased, I dun tink the voters r in a hurry to nom her when they r spoiled for choice this yr..n thr r so much more betta choices for the voters!!

Compare to Blunt n Collette who r jostling for their 1st Lead nom, Kidman alr has 4 noms n 1 win. There is no urgency to nom her again so soon...

I'm a bit upset at Annapurna strategy to throw all three o their prestige projects: Beale St, Destroyer n Vice into the Dec bloodfest.

A film like Destroyer needs time n word o mouth to build up its lead's award momentum! SPC had previously used the same strategy n botched up Bening's chances last yr, but they had learnt their lesson n did v well w The Wife this yr.

Had Destroyer been given a good proper run in Aug 2019, tinks might b different,l n Kidman's prospect might b betta, but I guess the ship had sailed now.

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterClaran

I personally felt Destroyer was a beautiful, beautiful piece of filmmaking. I'm immensely surprised how overlooked it was when it came to award nominations.
Nicole Kidman as Erin Bell was marvelous. She was nuanced yet fierce. Restrained yet valiant. Damaged yet fathomable. I think - and hope - this performance will only amass more admiration with time.

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSJ

To be honest, in a world where Meryl Streep has 20+ Oscar nominations, I can easily make a case where Kidman could deserve be on 14 + nominations.

To Die For
Portrait Of A Lady
Eyes Wide Shut
Moulin Rouge
The Others
The Hours
Margot At The Wedding
Rabbit Hole
The Paperboy
The Killing Of A Sacred Deer
Boy Erased

She's in, or just outside my line-up for all these perfromances. I'm not sure the Academy have an issue with Kidman per se, moreso that they don't like most of her movies where she's at her best. To get nodded for the majority of these roles, she'd have to be the film's sole nomination, and that is not easy to do, no matter who you are. Kate Winslet has never gotten nominated as the sole nomination for her movie. Cate Blanchett has only managed it once (as has Kidman for Rabbit Hole). Amy Adams has one lone nomination (Junebug), but is on the verge of her 6th nod because she consistently coattails on movie the Academy responds to in general. Adams wouldn't get anywhere with Dogville, Killing Of A Sacred Deer Deer or Birth either

It's just very hard to get nominated when there isn't enough passion for a movie by the Academy outside of one performance in it. It's why she's probably on the outside looking in for Destroyer and Boy Erased. She'd probably be the only nomination for both movies if they happened.

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterJanuz

I loved her in Birth but am pretty meh on her in general. Thought she was the weakest of the Best Actress nominees when she was up for Rabbit Hole and was an adequate but not brilliant winner for The Hours.

There are actors who are overrated by the industry, actors who are overrated by the critics, and actors who are overrated by cinephiles. Kidman falls in the last group for me.

January 14, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Sorry, my second comment failed to mention Nick Davis's ranking system. I have brought shame unto myself.

January 15, 2019 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful?

Yavor : yeah that snub for Birth still stings. One of the great performances of the early aughts. Also , had Sharon Stone gone Supporting for Casino Kidman would have gotten that fifth slot for To Die For.

January 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

You always do. @/3rtful.

January 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterRdf

Nicole's fans always say she should have been nominated for To Die For, but 1995 was one of the strongest Best Actress years ever. The five nominees are basically unreproachable, and then you have:

Toni Collette - Muriel's Wedding
Alicia Silverstone - Clueless
Julianne Moore - [safe]
Annette Bening - The American President
Julie Delpy - Before Sunrise
Jennifer Jason Leigh - Georgia

I'm sure many here will still say that she should have been nominated, but it's hard to single out any one actress as having been excluded with that group.

Personally, I think her nomination for Rabbit Hole should have gone to Tilda's magnificent performance in I Am Love (if it had, the 2010 lineup would have been one of the greatest of all-time). It goes both ways.

January 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I only have my own awards to go by for proof and I've nominated her 7 times

MOULIN ROUGE! (silver medal)
RABBIT HOLE (gold medal)
THE PAPERBOY (gold medal)
LION (silver medal)

the film bitch awards weren't around in the 1990s but as much as I think she's incredible in TO DIE FOR I'm not sure I would have had room for her because it was one of *those* actress years and my nominees would have been

Julianne Moore - [safe] (silver)
Elisabeth Shue -Leaving Las Vegas (gold)
Susan Sarandon -Dead Men Walking (bronze)

with a bloodbath war for spots #4 and #5 between:
Kidman (To Die For)
Streep (Bridges of Madison County)
Collette (Muriel's Wedding)
Thompson (Sense & Sensibility)
Silverstone (Clueless),
Bassett (Waiting to Exhale)
Lange (Rob Roy)

January 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Premiere Magazine named Kidman's performance in To Die For the 40th greatest film performance of all time (in their 100 greatest perfromances list). It's not just Kidman fans that recognise it as an all-timer.

I'd argue none of the performances by any actress in 1995 has been as influential as what Kidman did with her character in To Die For. I genuinely feel Suzanne Stone was a new archetype of film character we hadn't seen before, satirising the ruthless vacuousness of a certain type of woman in a media driven society. Today Suzanne would be a instagram "influencer" or a Kardashian. But the perfromance wouldnt have to change at all. It almost feels predictive and ahead of it's time. And I feel like a lot of actresses since have tried to channel Kidman's turn as Suzanne Stone (Emma Watson in The Bling Ring being one of the more blatent examples. And Watson was honest in admitting she was trying to channel Kidman's performance).

There were a lot of great female performances from 1995, but even so Kidman in To Die For is an egregious snub.

There were great, baity emotional turns that deservedly got nominated (Shue, Sarandon etc), but for sheer boldness, originality and lasting impact, Kidman probably most deserved to win the Oscar that year in hindsight. It was a great line-up though and I'd probably bounce Streep if I had to.

January 15, 2019 | Unregistered Commentertye

That 1995 list, to me, has quite a few overrated performances. Starting with Shue (sorry, everybody). I could easily make room for Nicole there, though I probably couldn't muster her the win over Julianne's best performance ever.

January 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBruno

My fave Julianne Moore lead roles are: Maps to the Stars, Safe, and Far From Heaven.

If I had to choose, I think I'd nominate Moore over Kidman in 1995. Also, Safe is a better movie than To Die For.

Regardless of what anyone says, I keep YouTube-ing Kidman scenes from The Golden Compass she's that good in that role. So perfect and memorable.

January 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

so much hatred and jealousy for Nicole?

January 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCate Blanchett

You get me, "Cate Blanchett." I am very jealous of Nicole for getting that last sale Rag & Bone handbag at the Milwaukee Nordstrom over New Year's.

January 15, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne


give me your add, will mail that handbag for you.
now stop the hate


January 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCate Blanchett

I'll watch Nicole in anything, and always find something to admire. Recently was the highlight of both Aquaman and The Upside for me. That being said I don't particularly care if she gets nominated this year. I've yet to see the films but already the hair and make up is a big distraction, cartoonish even. I honestly wouldn't care if she'd been left out for Lion and Rabbit Hole if they could only have recognised her legendary work in To Die For and Birth. Both films should have been nominated for multiple awards by the way. Margot at the Wedding also is terrific. She is a screen icon and has nothing to prove.

January 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterEoghan McQ

@Eoghan McQ: Yeah, the hair in Boy Erased was even distracting. She didn't really capture my attention until late in the film, but I think she'd deserve a nom if she got it.

January 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterBruno

LOL at that first picture of Nicole. She is always trying too hard to be ACTING. I find her sometimes very talented, but she is often opaque, dreary and an acquired taste at best.

January 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKeith

Keith, are you saying that because you are my fans?

January 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterCate Blanchett

Wow, Nathaniel, Lange in Rob Roy? To begin, I remember her as clear supporting player. Maybe she wasn't too memorable to me?

1995 also had Thompson's Carrington, and I think an incredibly overlooked performance by Julia Ormond in Sabrina (her response to Greg Kinnear when he asks if she knows how beautiful she is).

January 17, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMe

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