Hilary Brougher’s ‘Stephanie Daley’: A Preview

28Feb07

I cannot remember the last time that I anticipated a film as much as I am anticipating the April release of Hilary Brougher’s Stephanie Daley. When I read the plot outline, I worried that the material could easily become a very special presentation on Lifetime. But judging from the small amounts of available footage, Brougher has created an appropriately somber and understated tone. The trailer promises a soul-crushing, Lars von Trier-ish affair. I anticipate comparing the labor scene to Bess’s taunting and stoning in Breaking the Waves or Bill demanding that Selma kill him in Dancer in the Dark, trying to determine which is more heartbreaking.

Brougher has three very strong actors in Tilda Swinton, Timothy Hutton, and Amber Tamblyn. Even though Swinton and Hutton are amazing actors and over 20 years her senior, I think the stand-out performance of the film will belong to Tamblyn. Though she did not win, Tamblyn was recognized with an Independent Spirit Award nomination. (She lost to Frances McDormand who is fabulous, but I think that Tamblyn’s performance in this film might overshadow McDormand’s in Friends With Money.)

I think that Amber Tamblyn will prove to be the Jodie Foster of my generation.

I actually don’t know what that means, but I thought it sounded good. I don’t mean to imply that anyone will shoot a president for her. Though hmmm…that is a thought.

Though her adult acting resume is as yet quite short, Tamblyn has displayed enormous talent as both Joan on Joan of Arcadia and Tibby in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. (I’m giving her a pass on The Grudge 2. She did what she could with a script that gave her nothing interesting to do.) Her characters do not run together — Joan is not Tibby, who is not Aubrey, who is not Stephanie — and she shows a remarkable amount of restraint for an actor her age.

I struggle how to phrase this next thought because I do not want to sound insulting. I love Amber Tamblyn’s averageness. Don’t get me wrong — she is very pretty and can break out the sexy sexy, but she has the ability to appear entirely familiar. And then five minutes later she looks striking. She has a normal body, and she hasn’t slimmed down drastically after gaining some notoriety like many actresses do. But again, Tamblyn is still bringing the sexy sexy. AND — I know, you thought it couldn’t get any better than the reading glasses — and she really seems to be a good example for young people. I like that in two of her projects, Joan of Arcadia and Stephanie Daley, she portrays young women negotiating sex and not in a superficial way. (Though JoA does take the typical route of suggesting that the only pathway to sex jumps from fully-clothed, vertical kissing to naked, horizontal intercourse.)

Conclusion: Having only seen the trailer for Stephanie Daley, that image of Stephanie pressing her arm to her mouth and leaving a smear of blood hasn’t left my mind for over a week. Its April release date cannot come soon enough.

You know, I cannot decide if I really like Amber Tamblyn or if I find her kind of obnoxious. Either way I don’t really think that she cares, which I have to respect.

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