“Clouds of Sils Maria” (2014)
Twenty years ago, actress Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) got the role of a lifetime performing in a play called “Maloja Snake.” The world fell in love with Maria, who played a young executive assistant who suicide and then breaks up with her 40-year-old female boss. Now a hot, well-respected director wants to put the play back on, this time with Maria playing the boss instead of the assistant.
Maria’s personal assistant is Valentine (Kristen Stewart), a very capable but slightly controlling young woman. She is quick giving her opinion and most of the time Maria welcomes it. They are together constantly, and because of that, Valentine has become not just Maria’s assistant but also her confidant and friend.
Maria doesn’t want to do the revival, as she sees it as a way to stay away a very troubled past. At her assistant’s insistence, she is talked into meeting with the director, just as she has to appear at the memorial for the writer of the play, who has just committed suicide. Against her better judgement, Maria decides to take the role, swayed by Valentine’s instance. Valentine convinces Maria that Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloë Grace Moretz), who has already attached to the project, will be the perfect actress to play the part of the young seductress. By taking the job, Maria and Valentine are about to go upon a journey of discovery and pain. Their relationship will never be the same.
The performances in this film are the reason the watch. Oscar winner Juliette Binoche is perfection in this role, and she just might be seeing another nomination for her portrayal of Maria. It is a master class on how to command the screen without dominating the other performers. Binoche shines as the slightly neurotic actress who needs constant reassurance from her assistant and is prone to fits of self-doubt at a moment’s notice. I have a feeling that Binoche is more self-confident than the actress whom she plays, though I have a feeling that she is as bad in real life as Maria is in keeping up with what / who is the Internet fodder of the day. Binoche plays off of Kristen Stewart, and their constant banter is natural and unforced.
While Binoche is phenomenal in the role, it’s Kristen Stewart (yes that Kristen Stewart) that makes this film work. Playing the opinionated young American, Stewart gives a multilayer, nuanced performance that plays so well-off of Binoche’s portrayal of the demanding Maria. Stewart has a relaxed, easy presence on the screen, and it’s her best performance in her young career. Chloë Grace Moretz is a joy to watch playing the actress who has talent, but seems to make one bad decision after another, all being played out on TMZ. Moritz is perfect for the part, playing an actress who can be sweet in one moment and an absolute horror in another.
Writer / Director Olivier Assayas brings out the most out of his cast, letting their performances tell the story. He places the camera just in the right position to optimize the audiences being able to view both actresses’ reactions at the same time. The film spends a great deal of time with Maria and Valentine running lines, as the play starts mirroring the relationship that the two of them have in real life. The only fault that I find in this film is that the film gets bogged down at times when the running of the lines goes on too long.
Go and see this celebration of acting, and revel in the performances of the three strong actresses in the lead parts. It’s a rare film these days that give us such complex, dominate roles to women. And, after seeing “Clouds of Sils Maria,” like me, you too will be looking forward to Kristen Stewart’s next film. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
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