What The Hell Has Happened To Abigail Breslin?
Abigail Breslin stole our hearts as Olive Hoover, the plucky scene-stealer of Little Miss Sunshine. At 11 years old, she was one of the youngest Oscar nominees ever, facing off against such esteemed performers as Cate Blanchett (Notes on a Scandal) and Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls). Her future was bright. So what the hell happened?
Breslin spent the next several years picking up pretty standard child star roles, like a supporting part in The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, and the cute kid in No Reservations and Definitely, Maybe. In 2009, she had a big year, headlining the tearjerker My Sister’s Keeper and shining in the hit horror comedy Zombieland.
Coming of age just as the YA genre was blowing up, Breslin auditioned for the role of Katniss Everdeen along with Emily Browning, Saoirse Ronan, Shailene Woodley, Chloe Grace Moretz and Jennifer Lawrence.
Breslin didn’t get The Hunger Games. Instead, she got a supporting role in Ender’s Game, a could-have-been YA franchise that failed to launch. But the baby-faced ingenue hadn’t put all her eggs in Ender’s basket. 2013 also had her co-starring in the celeb-stuffed (but overwrought) drama August: Osage County, and a pair of lesser known horror-thrillers. Unfortunately for Breslin, it was the latter that’s proved more influential on her career, beginning a slate of movies that went from frightening fun to increasingly dull and dumb.
For some reason, I’ve seen them all of her recent horror/thriller offerings. Here’s the rundown:
The perfect thing for a rainy afternoon, Vincenzo Natali’s Haunter is sick, slick romp that gave Breslin the opportunity to wallow in some teen angst. It broke her from her sugary sweet niche a bit, and proved she could carry a creepy narrative.
Produced in part by the WWE, this Halle Berry vehicle is actually so fucked up it’s pretty damn entertaining. For Breslin’s part, she delivers a solid performance, playing petrified believably while her sweet face makes the audience all the more horrified by her wretched circumstances. But things get squicky in the final act where the 17-year-old is forced to run about in skin-tight jeans and a push-up bra.
Admittedly, this isn’t the first time Breslin flashed her bra to show us she’s growing up. Just the first time we’re meant to be titillated by it.
Perfect Sisters (2014)
Based on the true story of a teen sisters who murdered their alcoholic mom, Perfect Sisters is more low-grade Lifetime than horror-thriller, being stuffed with awkward teen speak (“for realz!”) and ponderously paced. A heart-wrenching monologue makes it clear why Breslin might have signed on. But the film barely bothers to distinguish its sisters from each other beyond one being vaguely goth and the other being blonde and faux-promiscuous, baring her bra as gleefully as she does fictional stories of sexual exploits. Guess which one Breslin plays?
It’s not a good look, or a good movie. And Mira Sorvino is in it, which calls for it’s own “What The Hell Happened.”
Treating zombie plague las cancer, Maggie was a bleak and disappointing affair.
But it did offer Breslin has a chance to show her drama chops with the role of a young woman doomed to die slowly and horrifically. Too bad it’s actually Arnold Schwarzenegger who steals the film, delivering a steely yet resonant portrayal of grief. When Ahnold is showing you up in acting, that’s rough stuff.
Final Girl (2015)
This fucking movie. Its concept is intriguing: take a sociopathic orphan and train her to be the final girl so she can Dexter her way through serial killers the cops can’t catch. But in execution, it’s another excuse to ogle Breslin, and bonus it throws in a cringe-inducing romance between her and her handler/father figure Wes Bentley. Set in a forest where flood lights outnumber trees, this low-budget disaster is embarrassing in style and substance. So I can’t believe Breslin’s been focusing on horror because she’s gotten such great roles or crazy exciting scripts.
She’s been chopping her way through schlock and dropping her bust line to earn the title Scream Queen. Of course she’ll be in Ryan Murphy’s sorority-centered horror-comedy series. And for all her efforts she gets to play Chanel #5. (Get it? I’m already over this joke.)
Some might see casting on Scream Queens as a step up. But it’s more a lateral move. Murphy’s series have been earning more and more apathy and disdain from viewers. While a spot on one might mean she’ll be looped into his recurring ensemble, few of those stars have been able to spin this spooky stardom into bigger projects.
To be clear, I’m not judging Breslin for using her body as a tool in her craft or for investing in horror. Maybe she’s really proud of her tits and really loves horror. If so, you do you, Abigail. Or maybe these are roles that she can get and pay the bills with. Acting is her job, so fair enough. What bums me out is how these choices seem so inevitable.
The former It Girl is in a tough spot. She’s cute more than hot, so maybe she’s trying to bust that perception to make that tricky transition from child star to thriving ingenue through sex appeal. This kind of sexualization of young women is a move Hollywood actively encourages, and horror movies arguably more so. But both also demonize girls for this same strategy.
Sex sells, but it also gets you slut-shamed (or killed). Showing your breasts onscreen gets you mocked at the Oscars and invites the creepy attentions of fans for years. It’s a shitty trade off where leaning in implies “leaning in so you can press your boobs together.”
And let’s be honest: it especially sucks to see the girl who famously satirized the sexualization of young girls fall prey to it:
Kristy Puchko is less an angry feminist, and more an exhausted one.