Total Recall: Kristen Stewart's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 star.
For the last couple of years, Kristen Stewart has been The Twilight Saga's Bella Swan -- and the middle of one of the most hotly contested love triangles in recent pop culture history. The debate between Team Jacob and Team Edward reaches its senses-shattering conclusion this week, with the release of Breaking Dawn Part 2, but no matter which side you're on, there's no denying that Stewart's film career has always been about more than vampires and werewolves. Over the last decade, she's assembled a crowded, surprisingly eclectic filmography, and Breaking Dawn Part 2 is only one part of a busy year that also includes her turn in On the Road, debuting December 21; we decided to join in the fun by celebrating her work with this week's Total Recall. Without further ado, here are Kristen Stewart's best-reviewed movies!
A few weeks before Twilight descended upon theaters, Stewart appeared in a very different sort of film: Barry Levinson's What Just Happened, a tragicomic adaptation of producer Art Linson's memoirs, which provide a bitter window into the absurd behind-the-scenes drama that filmmakers often face. Playing the teenage Zoe, daughter of the beleaguered film producer played by Robert De Niro, Stewart understandably received less screen time than some of her more famous co-stars (including Bruce Willis and Sean Penn), but Happened gave her the opportunity to rub shoulders with some big names -- not to mention the chance to play a character whose penchant for eye-rolling, back-talking, and bedding older men was far removed from Bella Swan's chaste longing. Though most critics felt it didn't have enough bite, others thought it went just far enough; the Houston Chronicle's Amy Biancolli, for one, called it "the sharpest Hollywood satire since The Player."
In the midst of Twilight mania, Stewart stepped away from the supernatural for 2010's Welcome to the Rileys, an indie drama about a grieving father (James Gandolfini) who copes with the death of his daughter by starting an offbeat adoptive relationship with a troubled stripper (Stewart) while his wife (Melissa Leo) walls herself away in their home. Ultimately, in true Sundance fashion, all three of them end up learning something about themselves -- but even if the movie walks to a by-now familiar beat, a number of critics felt the cast was strong enough to anchor its less believable moments. Lauding the end result as "Quietly assured and superbly written," ViewLondon's Matthew Turner called Rileys "an emotionally engaging drama with a trio of terrific performances from James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart and Melissa Leo."
For a perfect example of how diverse Stewart's acting choices have been, just look at 2004, when she followed her starring turn in Catch That Kid with a supporting role in David Gordon Green's Undertow, a moody Southern Gothic thriller about the bloody chaos that erupts when an ex-con (Josh Lucas) moves in with his brother (Dermot Mulroney) and his nephews (Jamie Bell and Devon Alan) on their remote Georgia farm. As Lila, the girlfriend of Bell's character, Stewart embodies the idyllic, albeit hardscrabble, existence that the boys are forced to flee when the violence Lucas carries with him inevitably erupts -- and she also gets to reel off one of the strangest lines ever uttered in a teenage love scene: "Can I carve my name in your face?" While it didn't earn as much money or critical approval as Green's previous film, All the Real Girls, Undertow managed to cast a spell on a number of critics, including Film Threat's Stina Chyn, who applauded: "Structured like a fairytale and driven like a fast boat down a leafy river, Undertow expertly blends myth and suspense to create a fable with a wicked sense of humor and an appetite for destruction."
It took two years to make its way to theaters, it's an independent feature populated with quirky characters who have names like Beagle and Easy, and it marks the cinematic directorial debut of Mary Stuart Masterson -- but don't dismiss The Cake Eaters out of hand as just another purposely offbeat indie. Here, Stewart plays a teenage girl afflicted with a rare, incurable disease; it's a role that could easily have been dragged into scenery-chewing melodrama, but she played it subtly, adding her restrained performance to those of a fine cast that included Bruce Dern and Melissa Leo. Though few people saw The Cake Eaters when it finally reached theaters in 2009, it made a profound impact on a number of critics, including the New York Post's V.A. Musetto, who clucked, "With so much junk cluttering movie houses, it is a shame that it took two years for this sweet, intelligent drama to get a release before heading for DVD. But such is the sad state of the movie business."
During the long buildup to The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Kristen Stewart snuck in a supporting role in The Yellow Handkerchief, a quiet, character-driven indie about an ex-con (played by William Hurt) whose return to his Louisiana home -- and the ex-wife (Maria Bello) he left behind -- becomes a journey of self-discovery, not only for himself, but for his two teen traveling companions. As the 15-year-old runaway Martine, Stewart might have been stuck with another petulant adolescent role, but Erin Dignam's script (adapted from a Pete Hamill story) offered more subtly shaded characterizations than most, and Udayan Prasad's unobtrusive direction gave the cast room to shine. And shine they did: Although The Yellow Handkerchief's stately pace and rather minimal storyline arc turned off some critics (ReelViews' James Berardinelli summed it up as "Sluggish. Torpid. Boring"), most felt that all-around superlative performances from the movie's stars were more than enough to make up for any flaws. "You don't need an original story for a movie," wrote Roger Ebert in his review. "You need original characters and living dialogue."