Few actresses have matched Nicole Kidman’s hot streak in the early 2000s. Not that she set the box office on fire, more our imaginations. People watch this accidental movie star fully embody a variety of characters with not only ease, but technical perfection. She is a consummate professional when it comes to characterization and the emotional control she displays over her characters. This perfection draws the audience to her even when she shares the screen with others more famous. Although now she is a household name, that is only because she snatched it away from those who couldn’t hold onto audiences quite like her.
Sure, Kidman “got ugly” to get her Oscar, but the power and feeling she injects into Virginia Woolf is nothing short of amazing. The movie pulsates with the author’s influence on two women in two other time periods, but Kidman shows us that the real flesh of the story was with the source of that inspiration. Woolf’s anguish and maddening writer’s block comes through in every frame of this brilliant performance.
Lars von Trier is known for getting great performances from his actresses, and they are all different. With Kidman at his disposal, he strips away the set and lets her hold the magnificent stage virtually on her own. The cast of her tormentors serve her acting talent as well as the director’s ideas. She goes through the entire cycle of emotions, bringing the audience to a conclusion they may think they have pegged, but thanks to her it’s even more of a surprise.
Eyes Wide Shut
Though it will always be known as Stanley Kubrick’s last film, Eyes Wide Shut should also be marked as the point in Kidman’s career when she really proved herself. She steals the screen from Tom Cruise, who at that time was arguably the biggest movie star in the world. She’s so good as his wife that when the film follows him to an masked orgy, you still wonder what she’s up to. She bears it all, whether it be her body or her soul. Sometimes, she does it all in one scene.
Margot At the Wedding
Margot is one of the most fully realized characters that has been created in recent American comedies, and though she is superbly written by Noah Baumbach, most of the credit goes to Kidman’s refusal to judge her. Baumbach writes characters that we love to hate, and she shouldn’t be any different, but she is. Despite her blatant attempts to sabotage her sister’s happiness, her eyes suggest unspeakable pain.
This controversial movie wouldn’t have gotten any attention unless it had an outstanding performance at its core. Kidman provides that as Anna, a woman haunted by a child who claims to be her dead husband reborn. The film takes the realistic approach over fantasy, wallowing in the moments of grief and lingering in the lonely walls of Anna’s life instead of the fantasy element of reincarnation. Her emotionally demanding portrayal is consistently riveting even if the movie is forgettable without it and its controversy.
Other notable performances: Rabbit Hole, Moulin Rouge!, Cold Mountain, The Others, To Die For, and The Golden Compass