Close-Up : Kirsten Dunst

I try not to do scenes a certain way, because then I become conscious of it, and it dosen’t come off as realistic. I try to make it so that I’m not really aware of what I’m doing.

Kirsten Dunst has for long been a contradictory actress for me; simultaniously talented and inconsistent, relatable and cocky, ugly and pretty Dunst has become a household name for both blockbuster fans and those into offbeat, artsy films. With the long-awaited On The Road hitting cinemas in the next year and a recent Cannes win, Dunst seems to be on top of her game. I’ve just reviewed Melancholia and All Good Things I though it befitting to take a closer look into the career and stardom of Miss Dunst.

From child stardom to romantic comedy queen, blockbuster princess and beyond, Dunst has recently had a change of pace and critical perspective. After the unsuccesful Marie Antoinette and a sequel that destroyed a franchise, Dunst has taken up more serious roles of late.

With her great performance alongside Ryan Gosling in All Good Things and her great depiction of depression in Melancholia, Dunst has regained some of the buzz she once had. With the soon-to-be-released On The Road and sci-fi drama Upside Down (with up-n-comer Jim Sturgess) the talk is not likely to go away soon.

Whether she actually has the chops to pull off a longlasting career in dramatic acting is a completely different question. Before Melancholia Dunst had rarely picked roles that challenged her, sticking to the romantic, bohemian air she holds naturally. She seems to fit into the niche of romantic comedy more organically. That’s not to say she hasn’t showcased another side to her, when she goes for it she can do multilayered, dramatic acting with the rest of them. The problem here seems to be her lack of risk taking and a seemingly calculated career. In many a interview she’s made clear that certain career choices (like Spiderman) were purely motivated by exposure.

I really wanted the role because I knew it would give my career a boost, especially in foreign markets where I don’t feel I’m that well known. (On taking on Mary Jane.)

The fact is that Dunst has finally grown on me, for years I found her mannerisms and air of assertivness quite offputting. Now, I feel like I might go and see a film with her in it solely on the basis of seeing what she does next. Yet, for now at least, she remains a moviestar rather than an actress. Boy those two girls that came to see Melancholia because it was “a Kirsten Dunst joint” didn’t know what hit them.

Top Picks

Virgin Suicides (1999)

In the end we had pieces of the puzzle, but no matter how we put them together, gaps remained. Oddly shaped emptiness mapped by what surrounded them, like countries we couldn’t name. What lingered after them was not life, but the most trivial list of mundane facts. A clock ticking on the wall, a room dim at noon, the *outrageousness* of a human being thinking only of herself.

Dunst’s performance as Lux Lisbon put her on the one-to-watch list in the late 90’s. Playing a troubled 13-year old with extreme insight to the nature of man. In an interesting portrayal of women and youth Coppola directs her best film, with Dunst shining bright.

Wimbledon (2004)

The one thing you can’t have is fear, and for the first time in my life, I’m afraid. Not of losing. I’m not even afraid of the kid. I’m afraid of what happens if that ball keeps going by me. What happens than?

In a long set list of romantic comedies starring K.Dunst Wimbledon stands out as surprisingly cute and heartfelt. Silly, yes, but c’mon you really can’t go wrong with Paul Bettany (even though he can definitely pick the worst roles. “Umm, The King’s Speech? Sounds boring, I’ll do Priest in stead!“) Dunst shows her quality as a romantic lead, upkeeping great chemistry with Bettany on screen.

Melancholia (2011)

An imminent Oscar nod is awaiting Dunst for her Prix d’interprétation féminine- winning performance in Von Trier’s latest dwell. As the world surrounding Justine (Dunst) crumbles down she fights depression and hopelesness with her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). The farthest Dunst has come acting wise.

P.S. Check out other Close-ups from Split Reel’s archives.


21 responses to “Close-Up : Kirsten Dunst

  1. Ah, I adore Kirsten. Yes, she can be pretty annoying sometimes (and I don’t even know why), but that’s just the trick.. It makes her even more interesting. <3

  2. Call me insane but I will contend until the day I die that she deserved a Best Actress Oscar for “Dick.” But you’re right, she needs to take more risks, and hopefully that’s her new career plan.

  3. A great thing about the release of Melancholia is the re-emergence of Kirsten Dunst and her fans. She’s proven stuff ten years ago that more famous actresses her age and a bit older can’t do, and I wish to see more of her.

    • Yeah, it’s just that she does have an annoyin edge to her that some actresses don’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some directors that can’t stand her.

  4. I saw MELANCHOLIA at MIFF and was underwhelmed both by the film and by Dunst’s performance. At the time I reviewed it (going up on my blog in the next week or so) I called it her best work ever but that I didn’t think that was saying much. On reading this, I realise she’s actually been better in other things that I haven’t given her credit for…although I guess that makes me like her in MELANCHOLIA less…

    • A lot of her films are still quite unknown. I’m not really sure what her appeal is, but she does indeed have one. I’m not liking the Von Trier hate going round .. I should write an “in his defence” piece.

      • It’s weird though, as I quite like von Trier (especially DOGVILLE). Yet the one film that most people are liking – MELANCHOLIA – I couldn’t stand. Personally I much preferred ANTICHRIST

        Still, I would definitely read an in defence of von Trier piece.

      • Coming from the Nordic countries Melancholia isn’t getting any more attention than his other work, but I can see why it is. I mean, it is more accesible than his other work.

  5. Nice spotlight on Kirsten Dunst! She has given her fair share of annoying and/or mediocre performance but for some reason, I still like her most of the time. Looking forward to Melancholia!

  6. I don’t find Kirsten Dunst annoying. Not all, so I guess that’s a personal thing that varies from person to person.

    I actually always saw a glimmer of actress-gravitas, in lots of past performances; even silly vehicles. I think she is continuing to evolve as an artistic actor, and her chops will only get better.

    • Yeah probably! But I’d still say that a majority does find her a bit … self assured. Maybe it’s her air of .. I can’t even put my finger on it.

  7. She’s certainly done her fair share of good and bad movies. But I seem to remember her best work – at least my favourites – back when she was much younger – eg. Dick and Drop Dead Gorgeous. I suppose Spider-Man was her BIG franchise but I thought her talents were wasted on a weak, under-developed character.

    Excellent spotlight on a talented actress, Anna.

  8. I do have a soft spot for her.

    A few years back, around the time of WIMBLEDON, I had a very saucy dream about the Dunster and from then on I can’t watch a film with her in without blushing!!

    HAHAH It is bringing it all back…..

  9. Pingback: Duke and the Movies :: featured :: With A Little Help From My Friends·

  10. I haven’t seen a Kirsten Dunst movie in a while but generally I think she’s a good actor. She was phenomenal in Interview with the Vampire even at such a young age, so I’m not surprised she’ll grow to be a formidable talent.

  11. I adore Kirsten as well. It’s good that she’s finally back now. It seems she’s sinking after Jake Gylenhaal phase (is it coincidence?). I did not know there’s a sequel of Marie Antoinette!
    Great post, thanks for reminding her work.

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