Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Child stars have an uncertain fate. At best they fall into irrelevance and their careers die a remote and reluctant death. Some accept this blithely, like seagulls flying out to sea and look back on their superstardom as a dream. At worst, they degenerate into a drink and drugs freefall like a skydive into hell (Lindsay Lohan anyone?). But some child stars weather the storm and somehow emerge the other side of adolescence relatively trauma free and with a glittering career trailing out behind them like a peacocks tail. Kirsten Dunst is one such star, and though for a while it may have seemed that she had flourished in childhood and was merely floundering in light and unchallenging roles thereafter, she has since made a much welcome return in a film that shows some of her earlier, ‘side tracked’ promise finally being pushed to the fore. Its time to delve into ten memorable roles from one of my favourite child stars, the divine Ms Dunst:

1. Interview with the Vampire – Claudia


This was Kirsten's 'break through' role at the tender age of ten, the role with which, without, there might have been no Kirsten. This was an explosive start for the young actress in her role of Claudia, the child vampire, transformed by ‘parents’ Lestat and Louis, part of Lestat’s diabolical scheme to bind Louis to him eternally. To make a child vampire is to break the rules because to trap an ageing spirit, soul and mind in the body of a child is rather than being some Peter Pan like miracle, a type of torture. Sure enough, after coming across a beautiful creole woman, Claudia grows to resent the limitations of her childlike physicality and begins to despite her surrogate parents, whilst plotting revenge on Lestat. She finds herself committing one of the worst sins imaginable for a vampire: killing her maker, and is locked away with fledgling Madeleine as punishment, who having lost her own child, wishes to care for Claudia, who is harbouring fears that her beloved Louis will leave her for the more worldly Armand who tempts him away with secrets of their origin. Kirsten is truly beyond her years in this role, capturing the hopeful and blind acceptance of youth that enable her to be a manipulative and cunning killer, the fury and frustration of adolescence and the cynical, hopeless boredom of adulthood that stretches on forever.  Not only did she receive a golden globe nomination for the part, she also got to kiss Brad Pitt, although she was far too young to be suitably impressed...

2. Little Women - Amy


After assuring everyone she really can play a 'little woman' in her portrayal of Claudia, Kirsten won the role of ‘younger Amy’ in the movie adaptation of the novel ‘Little Women’ alongside a troupe of other cast members who grew up to have glittering careers. The film follows the trials and tribulations of the March sisters in the aftermath of the American civil war. Kirsten manages to capture Amy’s romantic and idealistic spirit in childhood and looks cuddly and adorable throughout.

3. Jumanji


Jumanji was one of my favourite childhood films. It had everything: suspense, fear, monkeys and mischief, all contained and controlled by the throw of the dice as siblings Peter and Judy find themselves inadvertently freeing Alan Parrish (who was sucked into the game as a child) and having to continue to the bitter end in order to be rid of the game forever. If you want monkeys riding motorbikes, stampedes, monsoons and mosquitoes, then this film will certainly keep you entertained.  Kirsten manages to hold her own with some pretty big names and establishes herself as a certified movie cutie. I think this film was Kirsten’s very own ‘Home Alone’, securing her in the minds of many as a nostalgic part of many adults childhoods.

4. Kiki's Delivery Service


Kirsten might not lend her appearance to this role, but she does lend her melodious voice to the part of witch Kiki (ironically one of Kirsten’s nicknames). This film has Miyazaki’s distinctive style slathered all over it from the bright and chirpy landscapes to the intriguing cast of characters. Witches traditionally must live alone for a year at the age of thirteen and so Kiki travels far from home to Koriko with her black cat Jiji. In order to support herself financially she starts up her own delivery service (hence the films title). Miyazaki’s films always have a strong moral centre and this one most certainly encourages innovation and independence, particularly amongst young women. Kiki’s year off is littered with peaks and troughs but everything works out in the end and she decides to make Koriko her permanent residence.  Miyazaki once famously claimed that children should watch just one movie a year and that movie should refuel their curiosity and encourage them to go out into the world and make memories. This might not be the only film you watch all year, but it should be one of them.

  • 5. Small Soldiers - Christy Fimple



Kirsten establishes herself as ‘underage eye candy’ as cutie-patootie girl next door Christy, the object of Alan Abernathy’s affections. The two ‘would be lovers’ find themselves caught between Gorgonites and the Commando Elite, two sets of warring millitary themed action figures. If you want to watch Kirsten being attached by dolls and riding a motorbike, you’ll find all that and more here. This is the role in my opinion that for a while ‘doomed’ Kirsten to the sweet and fluffy girl next door parts, and though she shimmers in the role thanks to her all American girl looks, we all know she has far more substance than that!


6.The Virgin Suicides


Lux is the perfect girl next door with a twist. In this mystery that is concluded in the title, the Lisbon sisters take their own lifes in unison following the successful suicicde attempt of youngest Cecilia and the film simply tells the tale from the perspectives of the neighbourhood boys who loved them, without really examining why. The daughters are beautiful and priviledged but suffocated by their small town life and over zealous, fanatically religious parents. Lux is the most blinding of the daughters, androgynous, indefinable, indecipherable, she turns to chain smoking and promiscuity on the roof after her high school romance with dream boat high school hunk Trip Fontaine falls to pieces and he leaves her cold and alone on the football field after doing the deed. This is a surreal, dreamy tale, deeply unsetlling and melancholic that captures all of the paraphanalia and cotton candy inconsistency of young girls on the cusp of becoming women. Blurring the boundaries between the girls innocence and their growing worldliness, the tone of this film is uneasy and disconcertingy, but certainly memorable and impenetrable, as we never really understand the sisters motivations for departing this world.

7.. Drop Dead Gorgeous – Amber Atkins


You might be noticing a theme here; blonde, blue eyed, dimpled Kirsten is the maddeningly unattainable girl next door that every boy wants and every girl likes. In Drop Dead Gorgeous, a comedy that falls somewhat flat, she is entered into a beauty pageant with a smattering of other memorable faces i.e. Denise Richards, but the contestants are taking things somewhat seriously, in their attempts to be crowned most beautiful. Styled as a mockumentary, the girls battle it out in the rather elaborately titled: Sarah Rose Cosmetics Mount Rose American Teen Princess Pageant.


9.Get over it



* she might not be the obvious choice for Mary-Jane, but she is the cute girl next door

12.Mona Lisa Smile



15.Marie Antoinette


16.How to Lose Friends and Allienate People

17. Melancholia


* Lars Von Triers latest film. It doesn't exactly make melancholy mainstream

* this was a personal movie because despite the fact that she was portraying Lars' own perception of depression, she surely must have connected with her own previous experiences.

* Justine has everything (much like Dunst) but she doesn't feel fulfilled or content inside and so she self-sabotagues her way through her wedding, career and life.

* her bleak, flat portrayal was streaked through with real notes of hysteria and a profound if nihilistic view of life

* its unusual to see Kirsten, despite a couple of darker earlier roles, in anything less than bright and beautiful because she suits those roles to a T thanks to her sunny, positive disposition and All American girl ways. This is why she is so suitable to play such a contrasting role.

* anyone who thought this was the end of Kirsten's career, after Spider man is set to be rebooted, is in for a shock. She has the potential to go further