December 9, 2008

Blaming Nicole Kidman

I take offense to two harsh pieces about Nicole Kidman's box office prowess (or lack thereof) in the LA Times and The Guardian. The titles are even inflammatory- The Guardian: Nicole Kidman is queen of the flops; LA Times: Nicole Kidman: Movie star or box-office loser? Let's be honest, Australia has some good things in it, but it is not a good movie. It just doesn't work. That is Baz Lurhmann's fault, not Kidman's. While her performance was way too stiff in the beginning, she, and her character relaxed and I wound up enjoyed her and Hugh Jackman. But the story was dreadful, and again that is not her fault.

Has anyone taken the time to write about Hugh Jackman's box office issues? He's made a bunch of duds (Deception, The Fountain) but is a star (and the Sexiest Man according to People Magazine) because of the X-Men franchise. Get a guy a franchise and and he's a star. Women have a harder time being franchise players. For example Halle Berry. No one is going to make a movie about her X-Men character, but they sure did make a movie about Wolverine.

It's strange that there are a bunch of articles written about Nicole Kidman as a box office star when we don't get articles like that for women like Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet and until recently Meryl Streep. They are just fantastic actresses.

Kidman really has never been a box office star on her own (and I would venture to say that she could care less about it) but she for some reason has been painted with this brush. Is it because she was married to Tom Cruise or that she was in a Batman movie? The films she took that are supposed to be commercial have sucked (Bewitched, The Stepford Wives). Her non-commercial ones are better. However, I couldn't get through Fur, (as I couldn't get through Jackman's The Fountain) but liked Birth and Margot at the Wedding a lot. Her most recent "flop" before Australia, The Golden Compass made $70 million in the US but over $300 million overseas which is a big deal since the story was about a girl. (God forbid she should get any credit for that, she only gets blamed for the flops.)

But most importantly, Kidman is just emblematic of the obsession with opening weekend dollars and how women still can't rate compared to the guys. Instead of blaming the actresses why don't we figure out a way for them to be successful?

From Patrick Goldstein at the LA Times: What's really depressing is that when you ask marketing execs to name the actresses that do earn their keep, you're usually met with silence. There are always caveats: Meryl Streep in the right role, as with "Mamma Mia!" Angelina Jolie, who can put some extra oomph in a genre film like "Wanted." Reese Witherspoon or Sandra Bullock in the right kind of comedy. In today's Hollywood, it's a lot easier to build a career as a respected actress than as a box-office icon. Whether you're Nicole Kidman or anyone else, it's a man's, man's, man's world.
No wonder she talks about quitting acting. She can't do anything right. I for one will keep pulling for her simply because her performance as Virginia Woolf in The Hours was breathtaking and I am hopeful she has a couple of more of those inside her.

photo: Insodefoto/PR Photos