A surgeon’s wife. A 1977 punk. A Civl War-era headmistress. A feminist lesbian mother. It’s been quite a Cannes for Nicole Kidman. Returning to a film festival where she’s experienced extreme highs and the odd low in the past, the Australian star has graced the Croisette this past week with three films and a television project. Two in competition, two out of it, Kidman’s Queen of Cannes status was assured the moment the official selection was announced.
Off the back of her Oscar/Golden Globe/BAFTA-nominated role as a real-life mother in Lion and her much-praised turn as one of the “mothers of Monterey” in TV drama Big Little Lies, it’s turning into quite a year for Kidman. Next month she turns 50, but the real celebrations have been in Cannes for the diversity of her performances. Brave choices with daring directors – it’s a long way from the days of Kidman starring in duds like The Peacemaker and Practical Magic.
True, John Cameron Mitchell’s out-of-competition title How To Talk To Girls At Parties left most cold. Based on the Neil Gaiman short story, this tale of an alien cult in Croydon during the year of punk and the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations was Kidman’s second movie with Cameron Mitchell, after the brutal Rabbit Hole. Here, complete with platinum-streaked hair, Kidman unleashes her inner rebel as Boadicea, the smoking, snarling queen bee of the local punk scene (critics carped that she was channelling both Toyah Willcox and, for the accent, Dick Van Dyke).
Yet Kidman has faired much better in the main event. In Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer, she plays Anna, the loving wife to Colin Farrell’s surgeon, who has formed a bizarre attachment to a young boy. An increasingly bleak suburban nightmare, it’s Greek tragedy played out in the blackest of humour. Early on, she and Farrell engage in one of the more…