Tim here. The career and talents of Nicole Kidman have been well-examined at the Film Experience through the years, but never by me. So I hope you’ll forgive the indulgence if I take advantage of her birthday to launch into a little celebration of my favorite working actress, one of the only people in the world with a legitimate claim to being both movie star and serious artist. For every big bit of Hollywood nonsense she deepens and improves with her steady presence, there’s an adventurous, even dangerous film that she makes with some of the most interesting directors out there, and she’s equally great in both modes, the odd Stepford Wives remake notwithstanding.
To celebrate, I'd like to share my 5 favorite Kidman performances, in chronological order:
Grace Stewart, The Others (2001)
I yield to no one in my love of Moulin Rouge! and Kidman’s performance therein, but this has always been my pick for her best performance of 2001, and not least because Alejandro Amenábar is less interested in ceding huge chunks of the film’s landscape to her than Baz Luhrmann. Providing the human core to an abnormally handsome, ultimately generic haunted house movie couldn’t have been anyone’s idea of a rewarding assignment, but Kidman dives with intelligence and restraint into the role of a stern matriarch, terrified by the empty old house she lives in. She turns out a leading performance that is deeply sensitive and wounding (that meeting with her husband!) while also paying scrupulous attention to the mechanical needs of the horror script. She’s especially good at converting the twist ending from something ludicrous into a genuinely moving moment.