There is exactly one person whose involvement in a movie will motivate me to buy a ticket or DVD. A few other directors or actors might draw my attention to a film, but to put my butt in the seat no questions asked, Brit Marling is the only one.
The first time I encountered her was in Sound of My Voice. In it, she played a cult leader who might or might not be from the future. This was a deceptive introduction as her character used her charisma to reel in followers. She was excellent in that role, but it masked the fact that she is going to be charismatic and spellbinding in anything she does.
That performance led me to Another Earth. Without the camouflage of the charismatic character, it really shone through how she naturally dominates the screen. Although it is a slow, methodical film it never once lags when she is on-screen, which is just about every second. Much of the time she is in a thick wool cap or hoodie or janitor’s jumpsuit, but it doesn’t matter.
I wasn’t alone in this appreciation, and she wasn’t toiling away in obscurity. Both of those films were shown at the 2011 Sundance Festival where she burst onto everyone’s radar. And not only as an actor, because she had co-written and co-produced both of the films. There is a certain sameness, a purposeful intelligence to both that reveal that she has a distinct voice, and didn’t just sign on for the ride.
Although she was only 28 when those films came out, she could also play much older parts. She can easily play smart, and so far always has, but again that obscures the fact that she is smart. She graduated from Georgetown with a degree in economics — valedictorian at that. She declined a job offer from Goldman Sachs, opting to become an actor rather than an asshole. Frequently a thin line, I’ll grant you.
Her first movies were collaborations with friends Zal Batmanglij (Sound of my Voice) and Mike Cahill (Another Earth). In The East, she again co-wrote with Batmanglij. When I heard about it, it made no difference to me what it was about — it was a must-see. Despite working with some bigger names, she again dominated the film. This turned out to be the third movie where she was not only acting on screen, but her character was also acting — pretending to be someone she was not.
This year, in I Origins, she has collaborated again with Mike Cahill, although only as an actress. It was a little dicey as the film at first seem to veer away from her character, but thank God that course was corrected. It is tough to pin down, but probably fits most neatly into the Science-Fiction genre. And in glasses!I can understand if the pictures are not persuasive. Her nose is slightly too convex for Hollywood perfection, her hair is always a mess, she seems to spend a lot of time in robes and flannel, and she doesn’t tend to play smiley rom-com roles; and when she does smile, the canine teeth might be a micron too long. But it all comes together perfectly.
She has been on an absolute roll doing a great film or 2 each year, mostly with the same creative team. I can understand her not being satisfied with such a limited career, but I hope having 4 films (and no writing credits) in the first half of 2014 on IMDb is not a sign of her becoming just another jerk actor for hire. She is going to elevate anything she’s in, but she can’t do it alone.
Brit Marling = See it.
- She was an actor-for-hire with a small part in the Richard Gere film Arbitrage, which was pretty good. Also in The Company You Keep which I avoided because 1) Shia LeBeouf, 2) Robert Redford and his absurd orange hair, 3) it sounded like another root-for-the-bad-guy lefty screed. Her being in those movies reminds me of long ago when Woody Allen or Mel Brooks would rarely be in someone else’s movie — it just didn’t feel right. But I have no beef with people going after the occasional paycheck either. Just don’t turn into Chevy Chase.
- Not sure why I set up a new People category; I can’t imagine anyone else going into it. WTH, I’ll put the obits there too.
- in re: I Origins. Enough with the after-credit scenes! Why not just put a scene before the Previews to guarantee we sit through that 17 minute spoilerama?