Sunday, November 21, 2010

Take Three: Melissa George

Craig here with Take Three. Today: Melissa George

Take One: This is the Girl

She was indeed the girl. But which girl? Camilla Rhodes? Just another nameless blond wannabe actress lip-syncing for her life? A slinky id to further lead Betty down Hollywood’s hellish rabbit hole - or take Diane for a five-dollar fool? She embodied what Betty/Diane always wanted; she represented what killed Betty/Diane. Of course she was Melissa George making the fake fifties pretty by miming her way through Linda Scott’s ‘I’ve Told Every Little Star’. The camera catches her pouts, puckers and pretend act up close and personal. She's the girl in a glossy 10x8; a haunting headshot in your face. One thing’s for sure: we’ll never know what, why or indeed who Camilla was. That’s the big unanswered anomaly of David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. (2001). 

But it was that kiss that did it. A while back I briefly mentioned the screen bitchery of it all, but the nails dug in further than that. However amazing Laura Haring (the recipient of the kiss) and Naomi Watts (the recipient of the tease) were as co-leads, George defined Mulholland Dr.’s raunchy raison d'être. You can lead a girl to Hollywood, but you can’t make her a star, the film painfully posited. Someone like Camilla always gets there first. She embodied the poisonous allure of envy in one lipstick smear; that scorching make-up mark was the hurtful hot spot out of which revenge was born. George’s Camilla was the key player in Betty’s downfall. We should hate her for this, but something about her face, her pouty glance a split second after that kiss, inspires fascination. She’s pure wickedness. She was definitely the girl.

It ended with a kiss: Melissa George kills with a kiss in Mulholland Dr.

Take Two: George of the genre jungle

There’s much to be said for a stint of hard work. I’d never bemoan an actor their adulation just for being an overnight sensation, but the hard grafters, those willing to take ongoing employment to remain on the radar, often deserve extra kudos in my book. George has never been one to sniff at a hearty genre role. After the mini Mulholland break she took on a spate of roles, mostly horrors and thrillers, which many an actress in her shoes may have dispatched to their out tray with much haste. But the following quintet of genre titles from the '00s mid-section contained some of George's best work: The Amityville Horror (2005), Derailed (2005), Turistas/Paradise Lost (2006), wΔz and 30 Days of Night (both 2007).

George does genre: ambushing Amityville (left); 30 days of fright (right)

One could say the above flicks are as derivative as they come, and maybe they'd be right, but isn’t that partly the name of the genre game? Many of today’s established acting favourites started with a trek down generic lane. George is paying her dues and adding much characterful determination to these work-a-day projects (and has often been the best thing about them). She was good as the worrisome wife with a demonically-possessed husband in Amityville; and as Clive Owen’s cuckolded Mrs. in Derailed. Admittedly the dreadlocked hair she sported in Turistas was a mistake, but her spirited turn wasn’t. In wΔz she was the only cast member who looked like she knew what she was doing, and walked off with her own, and indeed everyone else’s, acting honours. And her forthright, no-nonsense approach to all things vampiric in 30 Days of Night impressed me greatly. These "guilty" pleasures, added to her sterling turn in Take Three’s film below, make her the number one genre gal of choice.

Take Three: Three-point turn

Arguably George gave her best performance to date as the mysterious, bedraggled and refreshingly unlikely main protagonist trapped aboard an abandoned phantom ship with six other bewildered souls in 2009’s time-warping mystery-thriller Triangle. (Imagine Donnie Darko committing a few Timecrimes whilst adrift on Hitchcock’s Lifeboat.) George's character, young single mum Jess, is desperate to get back on dry land - and within a stable time zone - to take care of her son – or to maybe clear up a few secret matters that she, and writer-director Christopher Smith, have been carefully withholding from us. George was better in this solid scary offering than many of her direct contemporaries have been in their last few higher-profile "legit" films. But there's little awards buzz around George as yet, though there should be. She's that good - and in wonderfully unexpected ways.

Jess' fear and exhaustion, which gradually and convincingly turns to forceful resourcefulness, is vividly conveyed by George through some highly tricky, elaborate scenes. Like the narrative, she never falters for a moment; her performance keeps the film afloat, and makes its often daft yet exciting twisty turns work well. In the film's final stretch she’s better than ever, and displays immense skill and depth during several rug-pull moments. It's these scenes that should convince anyone just how good she truly is. It’s a committed, bolshy turn from an exciting actress. I'd gladly watch George navigate her way through Triangle on a loop. Over and over and over...

Mel G shoots first, asks questions later (literally) in Triangle

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