Kristen Stewart has secured herself an unfortunate place in the popular imagination. As a young, nubile vampire-loving teenager, Stewart penciled herself into the role of the C-level actor, A-level celebrity, the same career-stifling niche Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner and Zac Efron had a place in.
Two of those stars, Efron and, more notably, Pattinson, have tried to pry themselves loose from their typecast. Pattinson has since worked underground with directors like Josh and Ben Safdie in Good Time and David Cronenberg (Cosmopolis), and has experienced a bit of a critical renaissance. Kristen Stewart, who did not receive quite as devastating a blow as her male counterparts, has spent the past few years doing smaller-budget indie flicks in an attempt to prove she possesses real talent on screen, and it has actually worked.
While Stewart will never live astride her coevals like Jennifer Lawrence or Angelina Jolie — her particularisms in manner and voice prevent her from occupying such a gregarious and ostentatious space, not necessarily a bad thing — the still-young actor has begun to show that she has a unique presence on screen, establishing herself in the arbitrarily named “mumblecore” scene. Stewart has yet to act in famous films by mumblecore directors like Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig, but her acting style fits. She speaks with a low-volume lilt that is understated, yet mesmerizingly sultry. Her looks are as naturalistically beautiful and entrancingly ordinary as her physical style, which makes her perfect not only for the American mumblecore movement, but also for the passionate, existence-magnifying nature of foreign film.
Stewart has paired with French director Olivier Assayas, whose own vitality comes from the naturalistic film-making French film seems to almost exude, and is in part what makes Stewart’s relatable acting is so suitable, to make two features, Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper. Both films were sent to the Festival de Cannes in France, and Stewart won the Cesar Award for Best Supporting Actor for her role in Cloud of Sils Maria. She was also nominated for the Cannes Best Actor Award for Personal Shopper. Through her underground acting, Stewart has become an a serious actor, and continues to use her singular style to inject her work with a lilt-of-life radiance that a more “popular” star struggles to bring simply because of their off-screen iconography. Stewart has also gained traction creatively with the release of her short film Come Swim, which premiered this year at Cannes. It has come to bear that Stewart can both act in an extremely affective and disparate way, but also that she can bring creative authenticity to the table.
While some actors decide languish in their unfortunate yet lucrative typecast, Kristen Stewart has decided she wants to be more than a teenage counterpart to everyone’s two teenage heartthrobs. This decision alone is an admirable thing, but the fact that is has worked is something to report. The world of serious acting now has to reckon with the serious craft of Kristen Stewart. She isn’t just eyes and longing.