Difficult women; Oscar gold


I just came from a screening of  David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method," in which Keira Knightley as Sabina Spielrein kicks and screams and laughs hysterically as she's dragged from a carriage into the Bürgholzi Mental Hospital  to be treated by Michael Fassbender's Carl Jung.

Yesterday I went  to a screening of "Young Adult," directed by Jason Reitman from a script by Diablo Cody, in which Charlize Theron (an old hand at disturbed characters after her serial killer in "Monster") plays a woman who is acutely depressed, alcoholic, and self-destructively obsessed with a man she went out with over fifteen years ago.

I'm starting to think that every nomination for Best Actress this year will be for  someone portraying a basket case. Maybe it's a carryover from Natalie Portman's triumph last year in "Black Swan." But then mental disability has traditionally been the road to Oscar gold for men also, as with winner Dustin Hoffman in "Rain Man" and nominee Russell Crowe in "A Beautiful Mind."

Some more out-of-their-mind Oscar contenders? How about another depressive case, the woman played by Kirsten Dunst in Lars Von Trier's "Melancholia," who is so bummed out that she summons up the title planet to slam into earth to end her life, and every one else's.

Or the hapless and suicidal nymphomaniac and probable sufferer from Borderline Personality Disorder played by Carey Mulligan in "Shame?"

Or the escapee from a mind controlling cult who is losing her grip on reality played by Elizabeth Olsen in Sean Durkin's "Martha Marcy May Marlene?"

True, not all the on-screen crazies this year are women. There's Michael Fassbender's sex addict, also in "Shame,"  who probably could use some of the dangerous method practiced by the actor's character in the Cronenberg movie. And Michael Shannon  as the is-he-nuts-or-is-he-a-prophet character in Jeff Nichol's "Take Shelter."

Nor are all the leading Academy candidates playing  a character who is unhinged.

Like Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in Phyllida Lord's "The Iron Lady" (with a screenplay by Abi Morgan, co-writer of "Shame"). Unless you think someone who would wage a war over the Falkland Islands might not be totally sane.

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