Why Kirsten Dunst? Better question: why not Kirsten Dunst? Mind blown now? Good. Let’s get into this.
Kirsten Dunst Canon (In Chronological Order) (Roughly)
Interview with the Vampire- She made movies before this one, but mostly tiny parts. This is her breakthrough and it is a big splash. Her turn as the child vampire was mesmerizing. She was the monstrous person on the screen (even moreso than Cruise’s great good-time guy Lestat) in part because she did not settle for merely being a vampire. She laced her performance with the recognizable tantrums and fears of a child, as well.
Wag the Dog- As satire, it has lost a bit of its snap because society has, more or less, caught up with it now. Nonetheless, it was prescient and remains funny and Dunst is solid as one of the actors recruited to depict the false war.
The Virgin Suicides- Lost in Translation is better as a film, for certain, but Coppola has never had so much control over her images as her. Beautiful and dreamlike in every frame, the movie nicely capitalizes on Dunst’s classic American girl next door stats (blonde hair, blue eyes, etc) and her ability to convey there is so much more underneath that you cannot and will not see.
Dick- It’s just funny. Silly, silly fun with Dunst (and Michelle Williams) as the wildly unaware teens who exposed Watergate.
Bring It On- It’s a cheerleader movie, yes. Perhaps even “just” a cheerleader movie. But I quite like it and I won’t apologize for that. It’s a power pop in film form and Dunst nails every beat.
Crazy/Beautiful- A gem in the rough, I maintain. Dunst captures young mental illness fairly well here—she seems to be living with a mood disorder, perhaps bipolar—and the film never glamorizes or pathologizes her. Add in solid work by Jay Hernandez, her boyfriend from the proverbial wrong side of town who finds himself in the unexpected position of being the one warned to walk away for the sake of his future and Bruce Davison as Dunst’s character’s well-meaning but completely disconnected dad and you have strong performances top to bottom. The style might be a bit much for some, with its heavy use of gels and filters, but it certainly creates atmosphere. The ending could be divisive, perhaps too pat for some. For me, I like that it lets the characters reach for their fairy tale even as the previous 90 minutes imply it will slip through their fingers.
Spider-Man/Spider-Man 2- The first two Raimi Spider-Man movies are just great, first of all. Second, I think Dunst is underrated in them. Witness her challenging flirtatiousness in the first one, almost daring Peter to admit what’s in his heart but refusing to do the work for him. Or her mask of happiness as she watches him swing away, as Spidey, at the end of 2.
I think 3 gets a bit of a bad wrap—it isn’t as good as the first two, for certain, but I can’t say I would recommend it for the trash heap of history. Nonetheless, I can’t include it her for Dunst because she is pretty underserved by the script.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind- Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet are so damn good, it is easy to forget Dunst as perhaps the most tragic figure in the film. As the lovelorn assistant of Tom Wilkinson’s genius doctor, the farther the movie goes, the more you see just how badly broken she has been by her job and how unaware of it she is.
Melancholia- I am no Lars fan—I think his worldview is simplistic and cynical, to be frank—but Dunst willingness to make her protagonist brutally unlikeable cannot be ignored. Nor can one not notice how she still wins you over by the end of the film.
Lesser Films Still Worthy of Consideration
Jumanji- I like movies where the game becomes real. I don’t know. This isn’t the height of the genre or anything, but I have nostalgia for it.
Small Soldiers- See above re: nostalgia.
Drop Dead Gorgeous- Given the opinions out there, if I had seen this more recently, it might be in the section above. As it stands though, I can just place this mockumentary here. Dunst is good as the poor earnest beauty queen competitor but it is the film’s unendingly cynical humor that steals the show.
Get Over It- I also like updated versions of Shakespeare. This suffers by comparison with similar era 10 Things I Hate About You, but it is still a decent teen modern spin on a Shakespeare comedy—A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Although a quick look around the internet tells me I might be overrating it.
Wimbledon- A fluffy light romantic comedy set against the backdrop of professional tennis. Paul Bettany, as an aging player on an unlikely run, does the heavy lifting here, but Dunst is appropriately playful as an equally adept tennis-er who he is falling in love with.
Bachelorette- Not as transgressive as it thinks it is, but still worth a look. If Bridesmaids was the Judd Apatow version of this kind of movie, this is the, I don’t know, Todd Philips version. But meaner. Dunst once again nicely mines her dark side to play one of a trio of toxic women, specifically the hyper competent and perhaps utterly soulless “leader” of the bunch.
A Few to Avoid
The Crow: Salvation-I’ll always defend The Crow. This is not that. Cheap and dull. Dunst looks like she’d rather be anywhere else than making this one.
Lover’s Prayer- Bad accents in a poorly directed period piece.
How to Lose Friends & Alienate People- Rough, rough, rough. Dunst is fine, but the rest of the movie is a garbage fire.
Upside Down- I loved the premise, some of the visuals are quite nice, and the film is utterly inert. Such a punting on promise here.