​In praise of Kristen Stewart

An actress with an on-camera presence all her own has caught the attention of our critic David Edelstein:

This year eyebrows shot up when France's Oscar equivalent, the Cesar, went to Kristen Stewart in the French-made showbiz drama, "Clouds of Sils Maria," now out in the United States.

Oui, mes amis! Kristen Stewart, known for fidgeting through four "Twilight" movies, her emotions (according to some critics) ranging from sullen to ill-at-ease, mocked for looking on red carpets like an unwashed stoner chick ordered to smile at gunpoint.

The thing is -- laugh all you want, I've always thought Stewart was a really good actress. You just have to accept that she never, ever wants to be caught acting.

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Kristen Stewart in "Clouds of Sils Maria." IFC Films

She grew up around movies -- her parents worked on crews -- and didn't have the typical kid actor's look-at-me vibe.

She's thoughtful and self-possessed as a tomboy, almost gender-neutral, in "The Safety of Objects," and as Jodie Foster's daughter in "Panic Room."

And soon, "Twilight." In the first installment, as a teen with a chemical attraction to a ghoul who'd potentially drain her blood, she's better at conveying physical hunger than the vampires.

Then she became "KStew" and had a public romance with co-star Robert Pattinson. Her work in other "Twilight" films, and even as rocker Joan Jett in "The Runaways" was a little ... dull.

But she still inhabited those roles. I think she'd rather do things small than do them false.

Her comeback was in "Still Alice" as the daughter of early-onset Alzheimer's sufferer Julianne Moore -- a completely credible, unformed young woman, an emotional misfit in a house of high-accomplishers.

Now comes "Clouds of Sils Maria," a mystical talkfest that's absolutely marvelous.

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The relationship of a famed actress (Juliette Binoche, left) and her personal assistant (Kristen Stewart) begins to mirror the dynamic of the actress' new play in Olivier Assayas' mesmerizing film, "Clouds of Sils Maria." IFC Films

Stewart is the personal assistant of the star played by the superb Juliet Binoche, and she's unusually comfortable -- by which I mean she uses her patented squirmy discomfort to differentiate herself from the actors playing actors, as if pretending to take care of an actress liberates her from being one.

Look, Stewart is not an ac-tress the way, say, Keira Knightley is in "A Dangerous Method." Admirable or horrible, that's someone going for broke.

I don't know where Stewart's going. But the awkwardness that irritates people could lead her down extraordinary paths.

For now, her irresolution is tantalizing, and true.

To watch the international trailer for "Clouds of Sils Maria," click on the video player below. The film is now playing in select theatres.


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