Assessing Nicole Kidman: You Know The Drill
Date of Assessment: February 11, 2011
Positive Buzzwords: Versatile, experimental
Negative Buzzwords: Botox, Botox, Botox
The Case: We meet with this week's subject, Nicole Kidman, as she stands at the forefront of a cavernous discrepancy between her former proven abilities as an actress and the effects of an addiction to face-freezing cosmetic procedures. It's a very sad situation, really, to think that Kidman has lost touch with both her reflection in the mirror and the fact that an actor must be able to communicate emotion as a key element of the profession. Even more telling is that Kidman won an Oscar and, subsequently, went on to parody the plastic nature of the industry with such expressionless fervor.
Now, Kidman began her career quite humbly in her native Australia with movies like 1983's BMX Bandits (seriously, check out that hair) as well as several television and film appearances before coming into the public (and Tom Cruise's) awareness with Dead Calm (1989); and despite participating in a Cruise trilogy of films (Days of Thunder; Far and Away; Eyes Wide Shut), Kidman's proven herself to be a capable actress much more than his subsequent, uh, wife will ever manage to do. Ultimately, the Cruise-Kidman marriage saw Kidman stand on her own by diversifying the resumé with varying degrees of critical but mostly commercial successes in the thriller (Malice; The Peacemaker), black comedy (To Die For), blockbuster (Batman Forever), and romcom (Practical Magic) genres. She also didn't do half bad in the corset-wearing department within an adaptation of Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady. From there, Kidman set her sights upon becoming an Oscar darling or, at the very least, not only an actress but also an artist in the following movies: Moulin Rouge!; The Others; The Hours; Dogville; Cold Mountain; and Birth. Then and for whatever reason, Kidman chose to handicap her own abilities to communicate emotion (as an actress and an artist must do) by entering the first phase of her Botox era as reflected by The Stepford Wives; The Interpreter; Bewitched; and Margot at the Wedding.
The fallout was disastrous, for audiences were aghast to discover that most of Kidman's face remained frozen throughout these movies. Commence the next phase of the Botox era with many consecutive, big-budget flops: The Invasion (an $80 million budget that reaped a mere $15 million gross, even though Kidman received a $17 million salary); The Golden Compass ($180 million budget with a $70 gross); Australia ($130 million budget with a $50 million gross); and Nine (the $80 million budget musical with a mere $20 million gross). And with good reason, these films mercilessly flopped for, unlike her previous roles, Nicole stopped delivering outward performances to the point where her Australia character was solely portrayed through ornate costuming and sweeping landscapes, which was sporadically interrupted only by the immutable appearance of something that I once described as the Forehead of Doom.
Look, it's not like I'm purposely setting out (as in previous moments at other venues) to trash Kidman for her unmoving Botox face, but it's become such a facet of her non-personality on camera that everyone knows about it. Quite simply at this point, that forehead is notorious and has even been the subject of an animated retrospective. Never mind the time that Kidman toured Haiti, met with earthquake survivors, and still couldn't convincingly evoke concern due to the concrete face. Hell, even her Rabbit Hole director, John Cameron Mitchell, was sent out on a pre-release publicity interview to specifically discuss the Forehead Situation: "People would ask me, 'How's her face?' It's just so weird. That was just an augur of the types of films she had made, which weren't of great quality."
Yeah, let's just point the blame elsewhere other than the fact that the actress destroyed her own ability to communicate with an audience. Now, the subject matter of Rabbit Hole seemed tailor-made to provide Kidman with ample opportunity to finally drop the cosmetic injections and fillers before reminding the world that she's "still got it." Yet Kidman remains an unmarketable, porcelain doll of a mess who, far too late, has admitted within interviews that she "tried" Botox (and tried it and tried it again). After several years of denials, I'm afraid that most people no longer care about the so-called truth of the matter.
Prognosis: Obviously, Kidman's camp used Rabbit Hole as a sort of last-ditch attempt to revive a flagging acting career, and it actually received some good reviews (even one from our own Daniel Carlson), but I haven't watched the movie yet because it didn't screen in my city nor did it show in many others. So the questions remain for most of Kidman's former audience-at-large as to whether her face can realistically portray emotions and whether or not people want to take a chance by paying to watch her huge, waxy face on the big screen ever again.
Of course, Kidman appears this weekend within the latest Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston film (Just Go with It), which will probably do just fine because most people don't even realize that she's in the damn film. Her other upcoming projects include Trespass and the made-for-television Hemingway & Gellhorn as well as several in-development titles, most of which won't happen (one of which, The Danish Girl, would feature Kidman as the premier sex-reassignment patient, but the insufferable Gwyneth Paltrow has already bailed on the project). On that last note, Kidman had better be able to function in her former capacity, or the drag queens of society will have their revenge.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.