I’m watching the movie Wilson – and I’m digging it. Because I loved the book so much and I’m always curious to see how graphic novels translate to the screen. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they really do not. This is going okay. And this gets bonus points because it features Laura Dern. I didn’t know that going in.
It’s only been in recent years that I realise I love Laura Dern – she is a most brilliant actor.
To clarify, I’ve been watching movies that feature Laura Dern for nearly 30 years now. And there were some early roles that I absolutely loved. (Some of her best work perhaps). But sometime after Jurassic Park I stopped thinking about her as being a reason to watch a film or TV show.
And then there was the supporting work in movies like Everything Must Go and 99 Homes. And The Founder and Marriage Story. She’s so perfectly cast – and her character is brilliantly (intentionally) excruciating in the biopic-slice JT LeRoy that even though the movie itself isn’t up to much it’s nearly worth it because of the performances by Dern and Kristen Stewart. Nearly.
Perhaps, in some strange way, that’s the real mark of a great supporting turn – you are tempted into a greater appreciation of the movie as a whole because of a great effort by an individual actor doing heavy lifting; the way a really great song (or two) can make you want to like the whole album (and even if the rest of the record isn’t really that great at all).
But, probably, it was Dern’s role as Renata Klein in the ensemble drama, Big Little Lies, that gave me a whole new appreciation of her talent. A timely reminder of the greatness.
And I’ll confess – the Jurassic Park films (pointless blockbusters) and (even more petty) her marriage to Ben Harper are what put me off.
I joked that maybe I’d start liking her work again when I found out that her and Harper were no longer married. A silly joke. But it arrived just as I saw those movies I mentioned at the top (Everything Must Go, 99 Homes and The Founder) and the work was incredible. I’m stupid for dragging her personal life in as a (mental) block to the work. Absolutely. And I’m probably jesting (ish).
But Dern is such a class act. And she pops up all over the place. There she is in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and she really doesn’t need to be. (I guess that’s a bit like the Jurassic Park thing). I’m realising just now that in the period where I claimed to not be interested in her work she turned in valuable performances in A Perfect World and I Am Sam. Among others. I haven’t seen every film she’s in – but I certainly loved A Perfect World. One of those strange, wonderful films that exists quietly in its own place.
She reteamed with David Lynch too – and that’s only ever going to be a good thing, right? (I finally got to seeing Inland Empire and I loved it because I’m deep in the Lynch zone. But even if you couldn’t hack it the film could only ever mean anything because of Dern. Talk about carrying/inspiring a project).
Oh, and The Master too. Glorious. Great film.
All of this brilliant work. So many great films she’s been an important part of that I’m yet to see as well. No doubt so many more for her to make. She’s an industry veteran already, appearing in films across four decades. And born into the industry of course. Both of her parents brilliant actors, still alive, still turning in electric performances. Her mother is Diane Ladd, they’ve worked together a few times. Her dad is Bruce Dern. I’ve long ago lost count of the number of films he features in that I adore.
And look, this is all I wanted to say today. Laura Dern is a class act.