May 30, 2014
Mia Wasikowska is your new Independent Film Goddess
In the beginning, there was Jennifer Jason Leigh, our first Independent Film Goddess. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) made her a star, and she could have easily cashed in with some action movie and rom-com crap, but she had integrity, dammit. So she worked with the Coen Brothers and Robert Altman and took risks on independent movies that no one would go see. She did theater and co-directed The Anniversary Party (2001) with Alan Cumming. She’s still out there somewhere, playing a recurring character on “Weeds,” for instance, but we have moved on.
We hearted Parker Posey too, with all her Hal Harley and Christopher Guest movies, but her career cooled off eventually. Later we worshipped at the altar of Chloe Sevigny, who kicked ass for years in everything from a Sonic Youth video to Boys Don’t Cry (1999) to Big Love. But our fascination for Chloe has waned as she has sunk to the depths of “The Mindy Project” and some serial killer show on A&E that we refuse to watch. We need a new heroine for a new century and we think we have found her.
Mia Wasikowska had been kicking around for a couple of years when she was cast as the lead in Alice in Wonderland (2010). Playing straight for scenery-chewers Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter was no easy task, but Wasikowska made it work and stole our hearts in the process. She was adorable and spunky and British without ever becoming annoying or twee. And just as soon as she had made a name for herself, she did the appropriate Indie Goddess thing – she bailed on Hollywood to work on oddball movies for the hippest directors.
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
Jim Jarmusch’s version of a vampire movie came out about a month ago, but you can still catch it haunting your local art-house.
Tom Hiddleston (Adam) and Tilda Swinton (Eve) play the vamps as immortal aesthetes – Adam has a fetish for vintage guitars, Eve for books. They both have a penchant for name-dropping that veers dangerously close to a certain Star Trek episode. The central conceit is that they are basically junkies looking for a fix.
Mia Wasikowska shows up way too late in the film as a bratty teen vampire who wreaks havoc on everybody’s lives. Of course she’s awesome, and of course she breathes life into a very slow studied affair. But without a Buffy or someone chasing the vampires around, the whole movie is just too turgid to be really enjoyable.
The Double (2013)
Richard Ayoade is the guy that played Moss on “The IT Crowd.” He killed it as the goofball computer geek, but apparently What He Really Wants to Do is Direct. His first feature film Submarine (2010) was a Wes Anderson-esque deadpan confection about teen love/angst. It had a lot of charm, but no real laffs, and tended to drag a bit. Now he’s back with his sophomore effort.
The Double stars Jesse Eisenberg as a nervous stressball doofus (surprise!). Mia Wasikowska is his object of desire. The plot involves doofus Jesse Eisenberg encountering his double, cool bro Jesse Eisenberg. Needless to say, trouble ensues.
Various comic goofballs wander around – Wallace Shawn! Cathy Moriarty! Chris O’Dowd! and the entire cast of Submarine! But this time around Ayoade has changed direction from Wes Anderson whimsy into more Terry Gilliam/David Lynch/Coen Brothers nightmare territory. The whole thing takes place in a sort of Eraserhead meets Brazil world lit like a fashion spread from some too-cool-for-school design magazine. If you really loved Barton Fink and the Hudsucker Proxy, you will want to run to the nearest theater to catch this movie. And if you didn’t love Barton Fink, please get off my lawn right now. (also available streamingon Amazon.)
The next movie in the Mia Wasikowska hit parade was supposed to open this Friday, but dastardly Mr. Weinstein just bumped it all the way to September. Is the Wasikowska market becoming oversaturated, or does the movie just suck? Who knows? A movie about a woman walking across a desert doesn’t really sound all that exciting, but it’s got Adam Driver from “Girls” and the trailer looks good:
Now if all that isn’t enough to convince you that Mia Wasikowska is This Year’s Girl, consider this: her latest film, Maps to the Stars (2014), just opened at Cannes, and it was directed by David Cronenberg. All she needs is an appearance in a Coen Brothers movie and before you know it, Mia Wasikowska will be directing her own indie movie starring James Franco and Steve Buscemi. Hail the new Independent Film Goddess.