European movies have famously enriched the cinematic world with their unusually rich infusion of mature female stars who have done full justice to the challenging roles assigned to them, characters that most of their younger American counterparts would find impossible to comprehend and personify.
Anouk Aimée, Greta Garbo, Melina Mercouri, Vivien Leigh, and Julie Christie have taken film acting to a level that’s both higher and deeper than what most other actresses could possibly reach—and breach.
Now comes another shimmering example and emblem of European supremacy in the thespic arts—Julie Delpy, the star of the recent film, “Before Midnight.” Like Garbo and company, she possesses a mature yet timeless beauty that makes it easy for the thoroughly smitten viewer to fall “cinematically” in love with her.
But, ageless beauty is only the starting point, or springboard, to her other, even more impressive thespic credentials: Her heart, mind and sensibility raise the standard that her portrayal sets, from mere performance to complete identification with and vivification of Celine, the complex-compound character she personifies in Richard Linklater’s acutely insightful film.
Delpy’s costar, Ethan Hawke, is a competent actor in his own right, but her portrayal is clearly superior to his on point of utter naturalness and believability.
This is vigorously affirmed from the film’s start, when they share an exceptionally long sequence that shows the couple driving home after seeing off his son by his ex-wife at the airport.
The exceedingly extended scene takes her through all sorts of emotional twists and turns, decisions to be hastily made and then less impulsively reconsidered, little joys suddenly modulating into major grievances—etc.!
The roller-coaster thespic ride is so quicksilver-jagged that most other actresses would have given up trying to comply with its “impossible” demands, but Delpy does full justice to it.
Actors of all ages would do well to study that scene and how the exceptional actress takes it beyond its scripted parameters— and valuable lessons would definitely be learned.
Another unique edge that Delpy has over her competition is her ability to bare, not just her assigned character’s “acceptable” side as the story’s female protagonist and heroine, but also her negative, unlikable and even hateful aspects. This requires artistic objectivity and honesty of the highest order, and Delpy provides them with great confessional candor and generosity.
Even more strikingly, she is so honest and committed to a total rendering of her assigned character’s true essence that she doesn’t shirk at scenes that require nudity. Most impressively of all, she does her nude scenes so naturally that it is impossible for them to be seen as lewd.
For these and other amazing reasons, we have fallen head over heels in love with Julie Delpy’s compleat portrayal, and hope that the film industry gifts her with other golden opportunities to share the uncommon range and depth of her thespic insights into character and conflicted human nature.
Young actresses would do well to follow her career and unfolding gallery of film roles as well— to understand how much more they need to do before they can unabashedly dare to call themselves genuine screen thespians—like Julie Delpy.