Blake Lively in “The Town” (2010)
The following article has been submitted into Stinkylulu’s “Class of 2010” supporting actress blogathon. If you, yourself, have a personal favorite supporting actress performance you would like to get more recognition, feel free to write-up an analysis of the work, post it on your blog, and take part of the event on January 9th. Follow this link and also, check out Stinkylulu’s write-ups on Oscar-nominated performances. Some of the best, most entertaining you’ll come across on the web.
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As some around here know, I’m a sucker for a supporting performance of little screentime. I’m not sure exactly why… maybe it’s the ambiguity-part of the performance that brings more definition for me? For example, in 2009, four of my five personal nominees for supporting actress had under 10 minutes of screentime (Jennifer Coolidge in Bad Lieutenant; Amber Heard in The Informers; Catherine Keener in Where the Wild Things Are; Julianne Moore in A Single Man) and there are other cases in which I’ve given even shorter performances nominations (Linda Cardellini’s 4 minutes in Brokeback Mountain; Mia Kirshner’s 5 minutes in The Black Dahlia; Grace Zabriskie’s 2 minutes in Drugstore Cowboy; and yes, even Betty Buckley’s 1 minute in Another Woman). Well, in 2010, another little performance has joined this little personal canon of mine, and this one’s quite a shocker. It’s the brief, but powerful work, of:
approx. 6 minutes and 3 seconds
roughly 4.8% of film’s total running time
On my first viewing of Ben Affleck’s The Town (a solid, albeit overall forgettable, crime flick), I felt like Blake Lively must have had around 9-10 minutes of screentime. She really does leave an impression with the way she somehow scopes her character out of little moments that somewhat feel like vignettes. On my second viewing, I paid more clear attention to her and realized that she had about 5 (major) scenes and, when finally timing her performance after its DVD release, realized that she barely scraped over 6 minutes of actual screentime.
It’s very easy to be convinced that Lively’s character of Krista is somewhat under-developed and almost verging on unnecessary to the film overall. When you really think about the film’s themes and its overall point (as unoriginal as it is), you can easily come to the realization that she is just as important to the film’s story as Rebecca Hall or Jeremy Renner or any other supporting character with much more meat on their part.
The Town is pretty much a character study on Ben Affleck’s character in the world of a heist thriller. Every other character circles around his (even Hall, whom many oddly consider lead) as a supporting player and each one adds shades and layers to him. I think this is the reason why the film is called The Town. Charlestown has shaped who Doug (Affleck) is, and these are an assortment of people who shape him up to being who he ultimately becomes. Where Lively comes into play, unlike most of the others, is through her ambiguity and how her history comes into play. She’s built up via dialogue throughout the film by people who have personally known her. Her character almost becomes mythical.
We never see what shapes Krista as a person, but we see Lively construct her as a damaged woman who is very important to Doug. Take note of what Chris Cooper’s character says about Doug’s mother while he’s visiting the prison. Now think back on why Doug finds him mysteriously incapable of living with, or even without, Krista. And finally, tie that into his affection for Claire (Hall) and you got the contrasting of Doug’s love life out in the open for the viewers to see. (And let’s not forget his denial of a child that is more than likely his…)
This is what clicked in my mind that Krista definitely belongs in the film and at just the right amount of screentime as well, because she is probably the largest piece of mystery in an otherwise open character’s development. Her minimal screen appearances remind of how she works in Doug’s life; as a constant reminder of very personal things that he is otherwise trying to forget.
Now, as I move away from describing the importance and heartbreak of the character Krista, I’m going to try describing Lively’s performance itself. Sounds easy, but it’s really not. Reason being, I always have to backspace and erase the fact that I keep referring to Krista as a real person instead of “TV hottie” Blake Lively acting. If that’s not full-blown character immersion, I don’t know what is.
In Kris… er… Lively’s first scene, there is such an instability to her personality. She’s spunky, lost in a concoction of drugs and alcohol, and putting on some sort of show for everyone who looks her way. She’s obviously hiding her truths. Lively nails this opening scene so well I get goosebumps even thinking about it. It’s a fantastic blend of awkward and raw, showing us Krista’s deterioration immediately. It’s not until her scene later in the film that we begin to develop an idea (yes, an idea!) as to how she possibly became such a person.
In her third scene, she gets a visit from Hamm in the bar. Watch how Lively transitions seamlessly from the faux personality of the first scene and to that of a terrified and violated child. Krista is no longer putting on this show, she’s now alert and scared, unsure of how to take the current situation. The complete hurt and lack of privy to her character makes what her character does next not a bit out-of-place in her responses.
Doug standing in a motel room, getting ready for the big heist, not expecting the way she storms out of nowhere, sitting her child down as she confronts him with urgent pieces of their shared crumbled history and his previously deemed immature past actions. We can tell it’s something Doug has seen over and over again from her, but with Krista herself – Lively shows this isolation from this girl’s soul and does so without leaving the character’s skin behind… This girl is lost…. from Doug? Her social life? Her own dramatic sense of self? What is it? And while we never know for sure why she feels the way she does, we can feel she is hurting through Lively’s delivery of her words and physical tics. Her voice cracking, holding back everything she wants to talk to Doug about and revealing everything she doesn’t; probably knowing that this is another argument that will change absolutely nothing in the end.
In her fifth and final major scene, we see Krista’s complete deterioration brought fully to the screen. Not thinking logically, feeling even more lost than before, breaking down in uncontrollable sobs. This naïve and socially-fucked-up girl fails to completely recognize her child’s existence (while seeming to slightly hunger for even more drugs), begins to pour out every secret she knows about the heists committed by Doug and crew, and thus risks the lives of many she loves.
Piling all these mental emotions with such physical weakness without making it feel an inch near false, Lively hits a home run with this moment, making this character of Krista who, on page, reads as annoying and unsympathetic junkie slut a fully dimensional young woman we come to sympathize with. Seeing as she ratted out the film’s anti-hero, that seems like quite a freaking accomplishment if you ask me.
Blake Lively is definitely a heartbreaker in The Town, and brings the film’s conventional classic storytelling some very brief, but moving, glimpses at realism. It’s an actress on the edges, who stays on those edges, and yet makes such a ripple effect on the entire film and its principal characters. It may not be the year’s best supporting actress performance (hello, Ms. Kunis!) but it certainly fits the bill as a nomination-worthy transformation.