Actress (2014, Robert Greene)

Apparently a doc about Brandy Burre (Carcetti’s campaign manager in The Wire), and her attempt to get her acting career back on track after taking time off for her family, while that family is falling apart (brewer boyfriend Tim is leaving over Christmas since she has been cheating on him). Highly recommended by film-critic-types for playing around with the documentary format. I noticed retakes, musical segments and slow motion, but was constantly wondering if there was something deeper, like for instance it’s all a put-on and the boyfriend is an actor too, or some big twist ending was coming. Then I was mystified when it just continued to be about Brandy’s daily life, not getting acting jobs. The experiments in documentary form weren’t noticeably experimental enough for me.

M. D’Angelo:

I feel like the film has a serious Tim Problem, which grows more and more significant as the dissolution of that relationship becomes the dominant narrative arc, swamping Brandy’s tentative efforts to revive her acting career. It’s one thing when Greene’s camera improbably follows Brandy into the shower, as she’s clearly “complicit” in Actress’ interrogation of form. It’s quite another thing, however, when, for example, we observe Tim arriving home late at night, with the rest of the house apparently asleep, and he pretends that the camera isn’t there.

V. Rizov:

Director and subject collude, not so much valorizing her attempts to jumpstart her career and finances (“I have to make a living to get my freedom”) as sympathetically heightening her existence — providing her, indeed, with a worthy comeback role within a confining matrix of daily responsibilities. It’s a film of big gestures, formally mirroring Burre’s transitions from one actorly mode to another, always courting the possibility of total failure or over-the-top silliness.

Greene in Cinema Scope, on the best shot in the movie, a startling moment when Brandy’s face is injured, looking into camera as it pulls back and her kids come in for hugs: “I’ve had one good idea in my life, and that was to shoot that scene that way.”


In the scene where Brandy is confessing about her affair, the camera is moving; it’s subtle, but we know that there’s another person in the room. So I’m there. There’s a whole bunch of ways to make movies, and the way I want to do it is to put all the things that we’re supposed to be hiding out there. I hate when people say editing is supposed to be invisible. Like, take all these things – the camera being present, the act of making a documentary, the fact that you’re only using exteriors when the light is nice – and make them part of the movie. Don’t hide them. The act of making a documentary is an insane thing sometimes, so let’s use that fact.