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Kristen Stewart Getty Images 3.jpg

Hot Take: Kristen Stewart Is An Amazing Comedic Actress

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Celebrity | April 2, 2024 |

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Celebrity | April 2, 2024 |


Kristen Stewart Getty Images 3.jpg

In Love Lies Bleeding, Ross Glass’s neon-tinged lesbian bodybuilder noir, Lou, as played by Kristen Stewart, has a lot on her plate. She’s the boss of a rundown gym in the middle of nowhere. Her sister is the favoured punching bag of her dirtbag husband. The unnerving shadow of her crime lord father forever looms overhead. And she’s trying to quit smoking. When Jackie, an ambitious bodybuilder played by Katy O’Brien, arrives on the scene, Lou’s life spirals into a nightmare of sex, violence, steroid abuse, and betrayal. In one moment, when Lou is yet again confronted by an explosion of blood and viscera, she gasps and panics and considers reaching for a cigarette. Then she says, ‘nope’ and gets on with clean-up duty. It’s hilarious.

It’d be easy to say that Kristen Stewart is having a moment with the release of Love Lies Bleeding, but I’d argue she’s been in the midst of that moment for a few years now. In the past five years, she’s accrued no fewer than eight film credits as an actor, landed her first Oscar nomination, created a queer ghost-hunting TV series, and gone day drinking with Seth Meyers. Her clout as an indie star is undeniable, with auteurs from around the globe queuing up to get her on board with their various projects. Social media loves her, conservatives hate her, and she looks great in a jockstrap. Her time has come, and it’s also proven something that many have known but few have truly accepted: Kristen Stewart is an amazing comedic actress.

The general public seems to have moved past its tedious and overblown distaste for Stewart, a phenomenon largely fuelled by Twilight backlash and the admittedly po-faced tone of the sparkly vampire series. In playing the protagonist Bella Swan, a character deliberately designed to be a vessel for audience (read: teen girls) identification, Stewart was saddled with the unenviable job of portraying someone with little dimension to her beyond her obsessive love for her boyfriend. Twilight and its four sequels aren’t devoid of jokes, but they’re not part of the novels and were usually given to Robert Pattinson, thus cementing his image as the chaos goblin of the series. It was up to Stewart to be deadly earnest, and you can’t say she failed on those terms. The end result, however, was a total redefining of Stewart’s artistic and personal image, one she took a while to shake off even as she starred in comedic roles and revealed herself in interviews to be self-effacing and often extremely funny.

The opinion reversal of Stewart has coincided with the actress doing some of her finest, weirdest, and funniest work. In Love Lies Bleeding, Stewart is an absolute blast, a neurotic bubble of familial trauma and outright lust that clashes with a world she’s long tried to escape and finds to be patently ridiculous. Her dad is a gangster with the evilest haircut ever committed to a man’s head, meaning she’s been exposed to horrendous cruelty from birth. She reacts to it with the panicked exhaustion of someone who has done this way too many times. In one crucial scene, she lets out a gasp of ‘Huh?!’ that is so perfectly timed that I truly spluttered in the cinema in reaction.

Before Love Lies Bleeding, there was Crimes of the Future. David Cronenberg’s long-awaited return to cinema with a tale of bodily mutilation as performance art was everything we sick perverts were hoping for. In the future, humans no longer experience physical pain, which has, of course, led to a trend for radical alterations and surgical performance art. Surgery is the new sex, so says Timlin, an investigator with the National Organ Registry played by Stewart. Timlin is rather enamoured with the artists who slice themselves to pieces in the name of radical creativity. It also clearly makes her kind of hot, and Stewart has a ball playing Timlin as what can only be described as a horned-up church mouse. She’s quiet, tense, she walks as though her spine is full of knots. When she approaches Viggo Mortensen’s Saul Tenser, an artist whose ability to grow new organs is his artistic shtick, she whispers in his ear with a tone that is so ruthlessly lustful that it exemplifies the very concept of the Cronenbergian. She hisses and clicks her way through sentences (‘It has meaning. Very potent meaning.’) At times, it feels like she’s doing a mean impersonation of herself, something she’s joked about in interviews.


Stewart can do normal funny too, however we describe such things. The reboot of Charlie’s Angels didn’t set the world on fire but it did give Stewart a great platform to play a playgirl spy who is campy, sexy, and enjoying herself way too much. In Happiest Season, she’s a rom-com star, channelling ’90s Julia Roberts if she’d ditched all the boring dudes in favour of her BFF. That film does suffer from Stewart having more sexual chemistry with Aubrey Plaza than Mackenzie Davis, who plays her girlfriend, but she remains a good fit for the family shenanigans formula. The same goes for early pre-Twilight performances, like her older sister turn in Zathura. Honestly, we could be here for a while as I just list my favourite comedic moments in her career, but we’re working with a word count here.

The common insult directed towards Stewart is that ‘she’s not really acting.’ Her subtle approach in her most moving films is dismissed as lacking in craft or a conscious approach to the material. It’s especially galling given that she is clearly an actress making capital-C Choices in her most fascinating projects, including her comedies. She is trying to make you laugh, and she’s great at it. If you’re still wedded to the image of Stewart as a humourless artiste then that’s not her problem. She’s got too many punchlines to land to worry about you.