Mar 23, 2011

Bring Back Bridget Fonda: Introduction

Welcome to Bring Back Bridget Fonda. Over the next couple of weeks, across both of our sites (and a few special features at MultiMediaMouth, where we both also write) Michael Ewins and I will be starting a campaign for the return of the charming, beautiful and talented Bridget Fonda to the world's cinema screens. We've got reviews, features and collaborative pieces coming your way over the next two weeks as we take a look at a career that seems to have come to a very premature end. We're unashamedly taking the perspective of fans, but don't worry, we're not abandoning our critical faculties, and we're well aware that even people we love sometimes make crappy movies.

If you're also a Bridget Fonda fan (good chance really, since you've read this far), then join the campaign. Tweet us on @24FPSUK or @E_Film_Blog. Or, if you're also a writer, join in; write up a blog entry and send us a link, we'll showcase whatever we can and we're looking forward to hearing from you. Let's get this done so Mike and I can retire to the home for fully contented humans.

We weren't quite sure how to kick this feature off, so we decided just to have a chat about why we decided to mount this campaign. Here's what was said...

Sam Inglis: Well, I guess the whole thing came about while you and I were talking about movies and blogging and plans for our sites, and I happened to mention to you that I'd been planning, but not quite got round to, writing a series called "Bring Back Bridget Fonda".

Michael Ewins: Which I was instantly on board with because I was (and still am) a huge Bridget Fonda fan. It was just one of those great moments where you're talking with somebody who's as passionate about films as you are and you find a point you totally agree on. For us it was Bridget Fonda.

SamIt's something that's really bugged me, because she vanished both just as she was becoming a really great actress, and as I was becoming, having grown up seeing (often illicitly) her films, a really big fan.

Michael: It's the same for me. I was 11 when she retired and was a huge fan of 'It Could Happen To You', which was a film I became very attached to in my youth as it's very idealistic and romantic. As I got a little older I discovered some of her more adult work and was very sad to discover that she'd retired, pretty much the moment that I'd discovered her.

Sam: For me she was an actress, rather like her contemporary and one time co-star Jennifer Jason Leigh, who I only slowly realised how much I liked her. For a while I hadn't noticed that this attractive girl in Singles, and Single White Female, and The Assassin, and It Could Happen to You, and Doc Hollywood, and Scandal and a few others was the same girl and it was then that I started tracking her work down deliberately.

Michael: Singles was the one that really unlocked it for me. I was at that point where the mindset of those characters really clicked with me, I was starting to see reflections in my own life. They were ten years older than me but the collective voice was really powerful, and Fonda just stood out. She's so lovable in that film. After that I saw her in The Assassin and the transformation just blew my mind. Looking back, that was around the same time I was considering being an actor. There were more conscious influences I can list you as to why I wanted to do that, but I'm sure Fonda was just as important as any of them, for her versatility and screen presence. It was her films I watched most over the course of my dramatic education, certainly.

Sam: I don't love The Assassin, as I recall it it's a very close and rather weaker remake of Nikita, but you're right about her performance, she's doing a lot of her own stunt work and the ferocity that you see from her in that film, especially as compared to the sweet, insecure, girl in Singles, is really an impressive transformation. But as much as her acting, and she was always good and only got better, there's something else to why I liked her so much on screen, and why I really miss her, and that's just her presence. Movie stars have something innate, something that draws you to them, however interesting their character may or may not be, however good the film is or isn't, you can't take your eyes off a movie star, and she's got that in spades.

Michael: Absolutely, and it probably originates with her parents. People forget that her first screen appearance was as a child in 'Easy Rider', perhaps the most revolutionary film of the 1960s. That presence probably comes from being born into a time in American cinema where nobody really cared about the rules or commerce but made art, and they made it with passion and soul. In 1987 she was in Aria, which is a portmanteau film with directors as diverse as Ken Russell and Jean-Luc Godard, and that's probably where some of the ferocity comes from too. Working with very uncompromising and ambitious people, and living with them, pretty much from being a toddler. She was directed by Francis Ford Coppola when she was 26, for Godfather Part III. The presence comes from a natural root in the history of cinema, and how many other actresses can boast that?

Sam: It's easy to charge third generation actors like her with nepotism, but honestly I think her early work; the fearless, literally naked, turn in Aria in particular, gave the lie to that charge from the start. It's interesting you mention Godfather III as well, that's not a great movie, but again, I just found her to be one of the most interesting things in it, negotiating that relationship with Andy Garcia just as he's on the rise in the mob.

But you're probably right that she gets a lot from her dad in particular, she's talked about both him and her grandfather Henry Fonda as big inspirations in the past. But I just want to go back and pick up something you mentioned about Singles... noting how lovable she is (and she really is) in that movie. That's something else I often find with her performances, and too in the interviews I've seen with her, there seems to be a genuine warmth about her, something else that just leaps off the screen. It's especially felt in Singles, and It Could Happen to You, but for me it's a very important part of Single White Female, in the way she relates to Jennifer Jason Leigh's character.

Michael: I agree, and Single White Female is a great example of how that warmth is kind of manipulated and used to quite unconventional effect, because that's a dark film. I think she always challenged that warmth as well, with a wide variety of roles. The Assassin comes to mind again, as a film which has you rooting for her but is defiantly antagonstic in terms of star persona. Everything about her in that film is dangerous and spiky, but you're engaged just as much by her as you were when she played the perky character in 'It Could Happen To You', where I've never loved her more. Her career seems somewhat built on always doing what you least expect her to do, right up to the 2001 double bill of Monkeybone and Kiss Of The Dragon. It's amazing really, to consider how natural a screen presence she is, and how she flits between genres and characters but retains that indescribable allure.

Sam: Well, and it's amazing we have managed not to touch on this for as long as this, it has to be said that part of that allure is down to the fact that she is - even in Hollywood terms - unreasonably good looking, and has a smile that could light up a city.

Michael: Absolutely, she's stunningly beautiful, but in a very natural way. You never get the sense that she wanted to be seen as a glamour queen or something, she looks quite plain (or as plain as she can be) in many of her roles. She's not like, for example, Angelina Jolie, who plays super spies who look like they've had hair and makeup done between every take. Fonda's is just a radiant beauty. An honest one, if you will. She normally played the average person you'd see on the street, and she's the sort of person you'd stop dead in your tracks if they walked past you. It's that kind of beauty.

Sam: And that's used to tremendous advantage in Singles, because it's so nonsensical that her boyfriend wants her to change her body to become some sort of ideal.  Anyway, I think we should talk briefly about her retirement, and for me the tragedy of it is that she did so much great work in the years just before it, and was only getting better; Jackie Brown, Touch, A Simple Plan and then... gone.

Michael: Definitely. A Simple Plan especially is worth noting as it's probably her best performance. She's part of a really solid trio there and once again you just totally believe her character and are warmed by her. Perhaps it's because she's kind of the moral voice in that film, and she really nails that central dilemma the film proposes - she kind of channels the audiences feelings, if I remember rightly. I can't imagine any other actress in that role, and the same can be said for her brief but hugely memorable appearance in Jackie Brown. I mean, she's kind of like the punchline for an effective joke, but it wouldn't be half as funny without the deadpan, cynical, eye-rolling bikini-girl performance she put in before Tarantino gets there.

Sam: I love her in Jackie Brown, and for me it's a perfect example of how great she is, because it's such a thin role; she basically lounges half dressed on a sofa the entire time, smoking a bong, but what she gets out of Melanie is incredible, you actually get a real sense of her, she's more rounded and more human than most movie characters in mainstream American cinema in the last 5 years, with that little to work with.

Michael: Absolutely. Ironic actually, that she's probably one of Tarantino's most human characters and she has the least to say. But that's what Fonda can do with a role. She physically and mentally embodies them so even if they're on screen smoking a bong for two minutes, you're engaged by them.

Sam: So we know what she's doing in retirement, and you have to be happy for her; she's married to Danny Elfman and a full time parent to their son, and that's lovely, but other Hollywood parents still make movies, and it seems a terrible waste to not have her on screen anymore. And yet, she's 47 now (and still, at least as recently as the Inglourious Basterds première, as beautiful as ever) and there's not much for a 47 year old actress to do in today's Hollywood, and I don't want to have her back after a decade just so she can play Jonah Hill's mom and glare disapprovingly at him in three scenes. That's beneath her. What someone needs to do is write her an amazing lead in an indie script, give her something she can't resist (and can win a long deserved Oscar for).

Michael: Definitely. It would be tragic to see her come back in supporting roles which actresses of her age so often get. It's a tough market at the best of times, but she's been out of the business for nearly ten years now, and I don't see what would be available to her considerable talents. An entire generation growing up now won't know who she is, because she's been away for a decade.

Well, without further ado, let's get going, we'll have the first review in the series ready for you tomorrow, and do please be sure to check back in with the sites for new content every day over the next fortnight.

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