Just as we witnessed last year’s raunchy hit Bridesmaids launch Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson into the mainstream, one of the greatest effects of this year’s comparable dark comedy Bachelorette is that it’s brought Kirsten Dunst back into the collective consciousness. It seems that these all-female, sex-and-party-heavy movies have the dual power to give us new stars and revive the flagging careers of old ones.
Ironically, just this morning I was wondering about how useful Bachelorette had been for Kirsten, if she had gotten everything she wanted and expected out of it. It was certainly a risky move for her to play Regan, the stone-faced, petty, bulimic antiheroine of this tale of female jealousy. But part of her appeal came from the fact that when we last saw her, she was on the path to becoming America’s Sweetheart. She’d charmed in Wimbledon, originated the Manic Pixie Dream Girl role in Elizabethtown, and was a competent Mary Jane Watson in the Spider-Man movies. Then she sort of dropped out of sight.
I’d say that that time out of the spotlight led her to make much smarter moves when she returned—like owning the really dark roles. And now, she’s bagged herself a more somber, adult thriller/period piece combo: The Two Faces of January, a dramatic tale of lust and deceit set in the 1960s. Better for me to give you the synopsis:
A glamorous American couple, the charismatic Chester MacFarland (Viggo Mortensen) and his alluring younger wife Collette (Dunst), arrive in Athens by boat via the Corinthian Canal. While sightseeing at the Acropolis they encounter Rydal (Oscar Isaac), a young, Greek-speaking American who is working as a tour guide, scamming tourists on the side. Drawn to Colette’s beauty and impressed by Chester’s wealth and sophistication, Rydal gladly accepts their invitation to dinner.
However, all is not as it seems with the MacFarlands and Chester’s affable exterior hides darker secrets. When Rydal visits the couple at their exclusive hotel, Chester presses him to help move the body of a seemingly unconscious man who he claims attacked him. In the moment, Rydal agrees but as events take a more sinister turn he finds himself compromised and unable to pull himself free. His increasing infatuation with the vulnerable and responsive Colette gives rise to Chester’s jealousy and paranoia, leading to a tense and dangerous battle of wits between the two men. Their journey takes them from Greece to Turkey, and to a dramatic finale played out in the back alleys of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.
It’s from the writer of Drive and the studios behind Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, so hopes are high. Just look how dramatic everyone looks!
And that’s not Kirsten’s only project! She and Viggo both have parts in On the Road; her sci-fi love story Upside Down finally comes out in December; she’ll also appear in the thriller Cities with Orlando Bloom; and she’ll be a part of another play-turned-movie, Red Light Winter, about friends whose lives are changed after a run-in with a prostitute in Amsterdam.
These are all darker, mature roles, perfectly timed since Kirsten turned 30 this year. I think we were all in danger of mentally typecasting her as the sweet young twentysomething, but she needed some time off so that she could return as a woman. A woman with insecurities about not being married, with a shady husband, or with a star-crossed love story with a man who resides in a world that’s the mirror image of her own. I’m really excited to see this new phase of Kirsten Dunst’s career.
Photos: Brian To/WENN.com, StudioCanal/Working Title Films