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Will Kristen Stewart Finally Get Her Due With "Clouds of Sils Maria"?

by Sam Adams
May 23, 2014 11:53 AM
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Kristen Stewart in Olivier Assayas' "Clouds of Sils Maria"
Kristen Stewart in Olivier Assayas' "Clouds of Sils Maria"

Olivier Assayas' "Clouds of Sils Maria" is only the latest movie to be positioned as the one to redefine Kristen Stewart as a "serious actress." (See Sundance's "Camp X-Ray," most recently.) But based on the the first reactions out of Cannes, it sounds like it might actually stick this time. Some of us think she's been great all along, bringing a note of emotional realism and teenage discomfort to the otherwise weightless "Twilight" saga, but it seems to help that in "Clouds," she's excavating that persona from the inside out, playing the harried personal assistant to an established actress (Juliette Binoche) who feels threatened by a cocky young starlet (Chloe Grace Moretz) fresh off a successful supernatural franchise. Sharing scenes with an actress as great as Binoche might seem unwise, but Stewart apparently holds her own, and according to some reviewers, even prevails. 

Reviews of "Clouds of Sils Maria"

Jordan Hoffman, Vanity Fair

Olivier Assayas' thoughtful and intelligent meditation on acting, fame, and age doesn't just offer Ms. Stewart the best role of her life; it grants her a moment at center stage to lay out, in eloquent yet non-didactic terms, a defense of actors in the kinds of movies that sound a heck of a lot like "Twilight." It's impossible not to imagine this as a K-Stew cri de coeur, a suggestion that those who have been slamming the "Twilight" films maybe should water down their haterade.

Peter Debruge, Variety

Stewart is the one who actually embodies what Binoche's character most fears, countering the older actress' more studied technique with the same spontaneous, agitated energy that makes her the most compellingly watchable American actress of her generation. Heightening the effect still further, Assayas uses the inescapable "baggage" of Stewart's offscreen persona -- from broken-marriage tabloid drama to a tossed-off eye-roll over the ridiculous rise in werewolf projects post-"Twilight" -- to slyly alter the movie's pH.

Guy Lodge, HitFix

Delivering the film's most touching, textured performance, Stewart plays her gradual self-assertion beautifully, her signature underplaying building in light and shade, her sullen body language opening up as her co-star's turns appropriately tight and uncertain. There's a rueful twinkle, too, to her delivery as Valentine muses on the relentless pettiness of contemporary celebrity journalism. La Binoche isn't the only actress whose own career is under the magnifying glass here.

Mike D'Angelo, the Dissolve

Binoche does solid if sometimes slightly mannered work in the showcase part, but the movie ultimately belongs to Stewart, who wisely refrains from trying to sell Valentine’s Sigrid-like role in Maria’s life; it’s a relaxed and unshowy yet deeply felt performance, conveying volumes with fleeting gestures. Only someone with tremendous self-confidence could underplay so beautifully.

Peter Labuza, the Film Stage

Less an "All About Eve"-esque tale concerning the loss of youth than it is about a greater movement in the craft and criticism itself. This is what makes Assayas' very stately and reserved approach (more "Summer Hours" than "demonlover") still a surprisingly confrontational work in its gentleness. Stewart has been a strange property during her time in Hollywood, her talents as an actress mostly untested (or, better put, ignored) in the Twilight franchise, despite showing signs of promise in films like "Adventureland" and "The Runaways." Val is a complex role in which the actress never loses her real-life persona, instead embracing it to develop a dynamic with Binoche’s more classically moved performance. 

Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

Binoche and Stewart seem so natural and life-like that it would be tempting to suggest that they are playing characters very close to themselves. But this would also be denigrating and condescending, as if to suggest that they're not really acting at all. Their give-and-take and the timing of their exchanges, particularly in the rehearsal sequences, is wonderfully fluid and non-theatrical; Binoche works in a more animated register, which makes Stewart's habitual low-keyed style, which can border on the monotone, function as effectively underplayed contrast. Moretz is all high-keyed confidence.   

Robbie Collin, Telegraph

Assayas' crisp and thoughtful script brilliantly blurs the lines between life and play. Binoche plays the role with elegance and melancholic wit -- her character slips between fiction and fact in a way that recalls her role in Abbas Kiarostami's "Certified Copy," although Assayas' film feels more rigidly constructed; not that that’s necessarily a criticism. But it's Stewart who really shines here. Valentine is probably her best role to date: she’s sharp and subtle, knowable and then suddenly distant, and a late, surprising twist is handled with a brilliant lightness of touch.

John Bleasdale, Cine Vue

There are no hysterics, or screaming rows. A subtle frisson of eroticism charges Binoche and Stewart's rapport, but again Assayas is discreet, fading to black and leaving it up to us to decide if anything actually happens in the interstices. Both actresses are excellent, with Binoche given more to do and she flips between attempting to get into the skin of her character and back to her normal self. Stewart, on the other hand, has an easy naturalism as she moves from devotion to rebellion without ever being able to fully express herself.

David Jenkins, Little White Lies

At the centre of the film is Juliette Binoche's moody, mildly shambling grande dame actress Maria Enders who leapt to fame at the age of 18 when she snagged the lead in a famous play. To help her through this metaphysically trying time is assistant, Valentine, here played by Kristen Stewart, who delivers a performance of immense poise and texture, retaining good humor in the face of a full-time position which involves being locked in the professional mindset of another woman.

Xan Brooks, Guardian

If Assayas's film finally falls just shy of being great art itself, it is at least handsomely staged and played with conviction; like a lush A-list revival of skimpy B-list material. The relationship here is quite beautifully drawn, with Stewart again demonstrating what a terrific performer she can be away from the shadow of Twilight. She's sharp and limber; she's a match for Binoche. 

Zach Lewis, Sound on Sight

Its themes are promising and its execution is maintained in typical Assayas flourish, but the waves of direct exposition weaken at least the first act significantly. This problem solves itself with the introduction of Jo-Ann’s scandal and Maria’s mysterious acceptance of the brat's disturbing of her personal role. Once themes and ambitions have been well-established, the actresses are free to delve into them and dive at each others' throats.

Jessica Kiang, Playlist

A curious type of failure: a film that mistakes needless complexity for depth, and in so doing tells us time and again what it’s about -- art vs life, aging, identity, female jealousy, manipulation and insecurity -- without ever actually being about those things. Couple that with the fact that the omnipresent, overexplanatory dialogue feels written by someone accomplished in English, but not a native speaker, and you get whole speeches that are stuffed with stilted sentences that roll around the actors' mouths like marbles; you become a little worried one of them might accidentally swallow one of those ungainly phrases and choke to death. 


  • daaah | June 29, 2014 4:57 AMReply

    jesus, stop already! you guys (rob or kristen fans) are not doing anyone any good. stop the hate. move on both sides. is this "west side story" where someone has to die? there is much more pressing issues in life. trust me.

  • Lolita | June 15, 2014 11:25 AMReply

    I'm not a Rob Pattinson fan but I still don't like Kristen Stewart's acting. I actually like Stewart as a person and don't mind the cheating scandal. It's her life! But yeah, I still don't like her acting. Sorry.

  • Raymond Leggs | May 30, 2014 4:41 PMReply

    To stay pressed justin and Reality check..


  • Mila | June 15, 2014 11:27 AM

    You need the reality check. Just accept the fact that Stewart has no range. She plays the same hipster moody character in most of her movies.

  • Justin | May 29, 2014 4:14 PMReply

    A few good reviews of a film no one will see is not going to make any difference. So go ahead and cling to those reviews, they won't change how the public sees her, and they're the ones who have to buy the tickets.

    She may be wildly ambitious, but other more popular actresses her age have walked off with her career. Jennifer Lawrence, Mia W., Anna Kendrick, Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Amanda Seyfried, and Carey Mulligan all have better careers than she does.

    All her indies have always flopped and this one will, too. IFC is the distributor, and they don't know how to roll out a hit film. Her reviews never translate into big box office. So twirl all you want now, by the time the film comes out in December, it will have lost what little momentum it had.

  • denise | May 27, 2014 9:41 AMReply

    So tired of Rob fans hunting down every Kristen article like bloodhounds and trollingit. It's over people! Move on. It's not a competition.

    On to Kristen, it seems her last few indies, OTR, Camp X-Ray and Sils Maria, are really getting her back on track as the promising young actress she was deemed to be after Into the Wild. So happy for her!

  • daaah | June 29, 2014 6:22 AM

    bravo denise! i saw "camp x-ray", simply fantastic. can't wait for the world to see a remarkable performance.

  • Reality Check | May 29, 2014 3:57 PM

    On The Road was a critical and box office failure. CXR flopped at Sundance and failed to get international distribution at the film market in France. It's going nowhere.

    And Sils Maria may have good reviews, but those don't translate into box office and the distributor will show it for 2 weeks in LA and NY and then it will go to VOD, so it won't show a profit, either. So what exactly is that to brag about?

    All her indies have flopped, she can't attract an audience because she's not likable, and then she trashed her reputation with her Rupert Sanders cheating scandal, reducing her fanbase even more. Compare her to Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone, or really any actress her age, and she comes up a loser. They have Oscar nominations and she has two Razzies for Worst Actress. She isn't being offered the same scripts they are, and I doubt she will be any time soon.

  • Rose | May 27, 2014 8:15 AMReply

    RPattz Fans are jealous because their Jesus has not received any praise as Kristen has received. They're jealous she has been critically acclaimed and the biggest surprise of the Cannes Film Festival. Pattinson he has had 2 films in Cannes, he is not on any list of best actor at Cannes or acclaimed as Stewart.

  • talia | June 3, 2014 2:37 PM

    @Stay Pressed - yes rob also got good reviews for the Rover but being declared King of Cannes based on tweets doesn't count for anything.

    "She didn't even do the photo call or LeGrande Journal, did she?" - she was on a plane from the film set for American Ultra which she has been filming since april so next time check your facts before making yourself look like an idiot with a comment like that.

    Kristen topped the critics poll for best supporting actress while rob came in at 16 for the Rover and 38 for maps to stars. As a fan of both Kristen and rob, I can honestly say that both are doing well and having interesting projects lined up.

  • stay pressed | May 29, 2014 4:08 PM

    You've got to be kidding? What is there to be jealous of? Pattinson was declared the King of Cannes, by every measure. He had two films that premiered at Cannes to stellar reviews, he was named on several Best Dressed lists, and he was applauded at the press conferences, photo calls, interviews and of course, his appearance on LeGrande Journal where he made it clear he's single and happy.

    She didn't even do the photo call or LeGrande Journal, did she? Maybe they were afraid she's display the same spoiled brat behavior she did last time she was at Cannes, booing the professional photographers who were there to help her publicize her films, or afraid she'd have another bird flipping meltdown like she did on arrival in 2012.

    From Allociné, the French publication, they determined that Rob was in fact, the King of Cannes: The agency, Reputation Squad, had fun establishing a digital prize based on web benefits of films. And the winners are fairly indisputable. For film, Maps to the Stars by David Cronenberg and for actor, Robert Pattinson.

    Prizes were allocated based on the number of tweets, taking into account the number of mentions on the web on all the films in Competition. The agency, Reputation Squad, had fun tracking the quotes on Twitter, blogs, forums and online press for each of the selected films.

    According to the people who did the counting, Rob got mentioned 56,000 times and KStew only 14,000.

    So he's about 4 times more popular than her. I always knew her fanbase was small and now we have numbers. We always had the numbers from the PopSugar and E! polls. Rob won 3 years in a row and she never came in at #1. The highest she ever got was #4, and that because people thought she was dating him.

  • Tell the truth | May 29, 2014 3:50 PM

    @Rose, since you brought it up, BOTH of Rob's two films got rave reviews and his performances were especially singled out for praise. His fans are perfectly happy, he was universally lauded at Cannes. You go ahead and cling to your little "list," it won't make any difference in her box office. All her indies flop, check BOM.

    "A career re-defining erformance for Pattinson that reveals untold depths of sensitivity and feeling."’s Pattinson who turns out to be the film’s greatest surprise, sporting a convincing Southern accent and bringing an understated dignity to a role that might easily have been milked for cheap sentimental effects. With his slurry drawl and wide-eyed, lap-dog stare, Rey initially suggests a latter-day Lennie Small, but he isn’t so much developmentally disabled as socially regressed... and Pattinson never forces or overdoes anything, building up an empathy for the character that’s entirely earned. He becomes an oasis of humanity in this stark, forsaken land." ~ Variety

  • Amy | May 27, 2014 7:35 AMReply

    I hope she does finally get her due. It's nice to see these reviews all in one place. It sounds like everybody involved took a chance on each other and it turned out well.

  • Sam | May 27, 2014 7:26 AMReply

    Stay Pressed RPuttz Fans! Stay Pressed!

  • Marcus | May 27, 2014 7:22 AMReply

    These nasty comments about Stewart are from Robert Pattinson Fans obsessed to hate his EX. They write the same comments on all the blogs and sites films. Really embarrassing.

  • guest | May 27, 2014 7:15 AMReply

    Are still RPattz Fans pressed HERE? Poor Robert Pattinson, his fans ignore him so much.

  • Sue | May 23, 2014 8:50 PMReply

    From the director Assayas:
    How did Kristen join the project?
    Kristen was it was a fairly long story because originally she couldn’t do it because of scheduling conflicts. She loved the screenplay but the timing wasn’t right so we moved on and had Mia Wasikowska, but then she had a contract with Disney for the Alice sequel and the minute the movie got moving she was not allowed to be in any other projects during that time period. By then Kristen’s schedule had cleared and so instantly we sent it back and she was able to do it. That’s the technical side of it but the more exciting and human part of it is that she’s amazing. I hope everybody will share my enthusiasm of what she did with the part, the freedom she found in her acting and a humor that we hadn’t seen much of just came out, I don’t know how or why. It’s really very exciting when you are filming a young actress and see her respond to your material and grow right before your eyes.

  • Hmmmm | May 23, 2014 7:21 PMReply

    It's unbelievable, but it sounds like all the critics drank the same Koolaid. Stewart owes a big debt to Chanel for this, although I still don't think good reviews will ever make her popular with the general public. Who knew fashion would be so influential on art?

    Chanel put up the money for this film, and now it makes sense that Stewart was cast. Looks like it was a package deal: you put her in your movie, and we pay for it. I wondered how she got this part.

    The fashion house has made its debut financing films with "Clouds of Sils Maria," starring Kristen Stewart, who can be seen in advertisements for Chanel''s M'tiers d'Art Paris-Dallas collection.

    Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion at Chanel, says the house not only supplied the actresses with clothes, jewelry, accessories and makeup, but also provided the budget allowing Assayas to fulfill his dream of shooting the movie on 35-mm film instead of digitally.

    Assayas and Stewart attended the brand's fall 2013 couture show. The movie also features a cameo by Chanel brand ambassador Caroline de Maigret, who plays a PR for the fashion house.

  • nina | May 27, 2014 8:16 AM

    i don't get your point !!!! what does this have to do with the reviews !!!!!
    it looks like a great movie can't wait to watch it

  • Kathryn | May 25, 2014 8:06 AM

    Did Chanel pay all the critics to give good reviews too? What's your point with the financing of the film? I'm in the business with specific insight on these matters....financing is provided by many different sources, including major corporations who want product placement (ever see a Coke in a film, Staples supplies in The Office, or a BMW in a James Bond movie?) Stewart's performance has nothing to do with how her films are financed. Good is good. Seems you are stretching to find a way to discredit someone you can't let go of (hmmm.... I've heard of these crazed RP "fans" in my circles, but interesting to see it in action.)

  • lim | May 24, 2014 4:40 PM

    I'm with you HMMMM! Some people just can't handle the truth, especially fans.

  • @HMMMM | May 23, 2014 9:46 PM

    I just saw this exact comment on another post. You are hysterical and beyond desperate. She is receiving heaps of praise for this. You pathetic attempts to discredit are beyond transparent.

  • May | May 23, 2014 9:19 PM

    Please make sure you vomit the gatorade your obviously downed.
    The point to your comment is?
    Chanel sponsored the movie because of the director. Double blessing for Chanel as Kristen Stewart joined their books as the face of a collection. Don't believe there are any laws or limitations on what projects to sponsor.
    This affects the movie and reviews how?
    Amazing movie, strong performances all rounds. General opinion is Kristen Stewart offered the best performance overall.
    Celebrate not try to pull down with useless comments

  • What? | May 23, 2014 9:14 PM

    You're so weird. Your comment and "theory" makes you sound like a crazy lunatic.

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