Monday, September 20, 2010

Carey Mulligan's Deeply Resonating Nothingness

I wasn't hugely shocked to see Carey Mulligan was on the cover of Vogue, since she's fallen into Anna Wintour's Brit starlets hall of fame (these girls land Vogue covers irrespective of their career trajectory; Sienna Miller and Keira Knightley have like 10 covers between 'em). Still, it was a curious profile. The writer, Joan Juliet Buck, paints a portrait of a very simple, plainspoken gal with simple, plain pop tastes and a 'tude so unpretentious it's practically flat. Said her costar in "Never Let Me Go," Andrew Garfield: “We were asked to name our favorite films, and everyone was showing off about which Michael Haneke they loved the most. Carey said, ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,’ and I woke up.”

Comments on her acting describe the exact opposite and this is precisely what is so fascinating about Carey: she can convey such profound emotional depth while having very little emotional depth personally. Even as she says she has almost no heartbreak/failure/drama to draw on, she had some brilliant turn as world-weary in Chekhov's The Seagull that was described as "almost unbearably affecting." From whence comes the power of her style? Mark Romanek, who directed her in the aforementioned "Never Let Me Go," described her essential talent as a "deeply resonant minimalism." OK, now we're getting somewhere!

The photos contribute to this theory significantly: Mulligan is pretty and yet sort of nondescript or blank. You take nary one look at her curious little face before moving right over to the clothes or the costume. This beauty that's easily overwritten by other things seems like it could be really useful for an actress, if you consider the inverse: when I saw the trailer for "The Tourist" yesterday, I found, at this point, the effect of Angelina Jolie's glamour and celebrity so overwhelming as to be unnavigable. As the viewer, it's enough to make you want to throw in the towel.


  1. You're an awesome blogerina! I hadn't seen the vogue pics yet buy I think you're spot on with her canvas-like quality. Maybe her success as an actress (and fancy clothes model?) has more to do with the skill of the director or grace coddington equivalent -- the molders -- than of Carey herself. The question that remains to be seen is if this is a passing trend, or the ideal relationship btn artist and "clay"? I tip my beret to you!

  2. Clairest! I found your post to be thought-provoking myself, having perused (read: looked only at the pics) the Vogue piece in the hair salon just yesterday! At the time, I respected Ms Mulligan for not plastering on a fake smile in every shot, but I admit her face was a bit blank. This post does raise an interesting question, though: do you have to have suffered to portray suffering?

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