1.07.2007

Lindsay Beamish in Shortbus - Supporting Actress Blogathon

Well. You'd think, after a couple months knowing that StinkyLulu'd be hosting a "Supporting Actress" party, that the hostess would've been all good and set with a contribution for the actressexual fandango. But no. It's curious burden. Sorta like hosting a costume party. It's easy to feel that you gotta look real good. So. It took StinkyLulu way long to settle on "the" performance to feature. Wanted it to be compelling, magnetic, memorable, revelatory actressing at the edges. An important, truly supporting performance (a) that StinkyLulu hadn't already talked about and (b) that might be just far enough off the awards-map to be at least a little surprising. And then. All of a sudden. Out of nowhere. It was clear. StinkyLulu's contribution to The Class of 2006 Supporting Actress Blogathon simply had to be...


...Lindsay Beamish in Shortbus (2006).

In John Cameron Mitchell's ode to intimacy, Shortbus, Beamish plays Severin, the melancholy dominatrix/polaroidist who seems absolutely ready for a change. Every aspect of the character's early impressions shapes Severin as perhaps the film's most conspicuously guarded character. The mildly intimidating post-goth affect. The bored-to-death dominatrix verbal style. The sharp hair. The big shoes. The bigger bag. The eye makeup (!)... Beamish's Severin seems so clearly a person hiding behind her persona that it's at first easy to think that you've got the character figured out. Yeah, sure -- the tender-hearted dominatrix -- got it, got it all figured out from the first frame.

But Beamish's quiet, astute performance toys with this very assumption, for -- indeed -- Severin too thinks she's got everything figured out. She's gotten so good at her job (performing her role, controlling the situation) that she doesn't even think about it anymore. She's always two steps ahead. Beamish adeptly shows Severin's myriad techniques for judging herself separate from & superior to pretty much everyone around her. Severin just keeps people at a distance as a matter of course. But it takes a surprising encounter with another character's righteous vulnerability to see that -- somehow -- Severin also judges herself separate from and superior to her own persona. Right behind the Severin that everyone sees -- scary goth dominatrix -- is the Severin that no one notices -- a snarky, judgmental, fundamentally sad snob. Severin's gotten stuck. In herself. And, as the film unfolds, Beamish's accomplishment derives from her ability to convey this character arc -- Severin's escalating, terrifying discovery that she wants to be neither of the Severins she knows -- with humor, poignancy, and precision. Somehow Beamish is able to animate Severin's frustrated stagnancy and crafts a character, who happens to be the film's least nude as well as its most emotionally naked. Images and scenarios dominate StinkyLulu's visual and narrative memory of Shortbus, to be sure. But emotionally? Beamish's portrayal of Severin's stunted empathy (creeping, often literally, in at the edges) anchors the film for StinkyLulu. It's a remarkable and evocative debut. And one worth remembering...

3 comments:

Middento said...

You know, I had thought of her performance as well. I loved the movie myself and was trying to figure out why the movie felt anchored even when most of the performances didn't seem so. Thanks for helping me figure it out.

NATHANIEL R said...

thanks for this. t'was definitely a good performance and this helped me to understand why some people go bonkers for it.

she became more of a focus for me on the second viewing and does offer a lot of great moments. I particularly love her "naming" scene. the shyness/shame is so funny in the context and so well (under) played.

Hurlywood said...

finally saw this film last night, and it was severin who captured me. in scanning your achives, i was happy to find that you, of all blogathon posters, chose beamish!