Now, I dislike the Twilight franchise as much as the next feminist Buffy fan. I am, however, a Kristen Stewart fan. Every time her name comes up, I find myself constantly defending her acting abilities to people who have only seen her in Twilight. The following three movies convinced me that, despite her wooden performance as the wimpy Bella, Kristen Stewart is actually a magnetic and talented actress when she wants to be.
The Cake Eaters (2007)
Mary Stuart Masterson’s The Cake Eaters is a rather scattered film about a boy who returns to his rural hometown and begins a romance with a handicapped girl, causing tension between their families. Georgia Kaminiski (Stewart) has Friedreich’s Ataxia, a degenerative neuromuscular disorder that effects motor function and speech. Despite her illness and limitations, Georgia is an artist and a passionate young woman who goes after her destiny. Many actresses would have made this role showy and pitiful, but Stewart gives a quietly fierce performance that makes Georgia’s disorder almost beside the point. In a film littered with characters and backstory, it is Georgia and her future at the center of the film, thanks to Kristen Stewart’s natural and magnetic performance.
Into the Wild (2007)
One of the most under-recognized movies of the past five years, Sean Penn’s adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild is a gorgeous film. With its sumptuous cinematography and a strong performance by Emile Hirsch, the film’s chronicle of Chris McCandless’s cross-country journey is mesmerizing and powerful. Stewart’s role in this film is a small one, but I was very impressed by her performance. She plays a teenage girl named Tracy who is taken with Chris and attempts to sleep with him. Stewart is vulnerable and utterly believable in this role, making Tracy one of the more memorable characters in the film. Did I mention she also sings and plays the guitar?
The Runaways (2010)
Now, this is my favorite of Stewart’s performances, and it’s also one of my favorite movies. Between Floria Sigismondi’s innovative and striking direction, fantastic performances by Dakota Fanning and Michael Shannon, and of course some kick-ass music, there are plenty of reasons I love The Runaways. It’s Kristen Stewart’s turn as the great Joan Jett, however, that completely blew me away. With her hunched shoulders, swaggering body language, and raspy voice, Stewart embodies Jett far beyond simple mimicry. Her hungry eyes convey her desire for power in the male world of rock and roll, and her subtle facial expressions make her love for the troubled Cherie Curry (Fanning) very clear. On top of all this, she does an amazing job singing classic songs and dominating the stage like the rock star she plays. When she writes the song “Love is Pain” in the bathtub, she is both a rock star and utterly human, imbuing the song with emotional power and bringing the whole film together. I cannot say enough good things about this movie and Stewart’s performance in it. If you haven’t seen The Runaways, go watch it now.
There you have it. I defy you to watch any of these three films and not believe that, despite the mess that is Twilight, Kristen Stewart is actually a very talented actress with a great career ahead of her….as long as she sticks to independent movies, anyway.