What makes her big-screen work this year — in “The Beguiled” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” — even more astonishing is that she brought that sweet spot with her, infusing those movies with an element of vitality they would otherwise have lacked. Both of them are hothouse blossoms, exercises in sensibility for directors (Sofia Coppola and Yorgos Lanthimos, respectively) with very particular agendas. “The Beguiled” remakes a pulpy early-’70s study in sexual hysteria into an arch melodrama of beleaguered femininity. As the headmistress of a school full of Southern belles who welcome a wounded Yankee into their midst, Kidman is an avatar of Victorian womanhood. Her character is also the only one to understand how absurd the situation is and to grasp the raw currents of power and lust that surge under the decorous surface.
Kidman herself disrupts the film’s decorum, much as she complicates the mechanical allegory of Lanthimos’s film. Everyone else in “Sacred Deer” is slotted into a carefully measured box, working in the service of what is essentially a literary conceit. A young man places a curse on a modern, upper-middle-class family, who must contemplate a horrible crime if they wish to break it. While the other actors obey the director’s fairy-tale strictures, Kidman behaves like a real person. All of the film’s moments of genuine emotion, which means real humor as well as authentic terror, belong to her. A.O.S.
Film: Girls Trip
Please bear with me. I’m about to use too many italics. But that’s because Tiffany Haddish is an italics type of actor. She bends every word she speaks toward her. They’re not leaning, though. They’re bowing down. Haddish is that charismatic, that alive. Dina, the party monster she’s playing in “Girls Trip,” wields that charisma to demand that you be alive, too. In the movie’s most notorious scene, she makes a case for the erotics of grapefruit that should have sent citrus stock through the roof. In New Orleans’s French Quarter, Haddish air-humps one of those live tourist-trap statues, and the statue breaks character and chases after her. He can’t help himself. Nobody can.
This is an ensemble movie with a very good ensemble, so it feels rude to single out Haddish. But she makes the singling out inarguable. As Michael Jackson once asked,…