NICOLE KIDMAN’S DAMAGED FACE

Oh, it's a genuinely powerful miniseries--The Undoing has fine acting from Kidman and from Hugh Grant and from Edward Ramirez and Donald Sutherland and the others. Very good adaptation, by David E. Kelley, of the novel. This tale of a family's undoing in the face of murder accusations and simmering intrigue--it's riveting. But I feel bad for the star,  Nicole Kidman, and for other women in acting; for women who feel they're forced to live the lie.

Nicole Kidman's face has been damaged, you see. Kidman's own face. I'm sure she would not agree. You may not agree either. But I think that lovely face--the iconic visage of a very talented actress--has been damaged, at least on camera.

The true iconography of her face does not depend on the beauty of youth. It is a consequence of her talent, her ability to project, to live a role. But her talent has been interfered with, in a way that is both subtle and unsubtle, by the use of Botox injection. Her upper lip, the cutaneous lip all the way to her nose, has been frozen by Botox, for the sake of the camera. It's really obvious, as one watches her. Probably other parts of her face as well. Women actors understandably feel that if they show signs of aging, they will be consciously or unconsciously eliminated from the competition for acting parts. She's playing a fairly mature woman--Hugh Grant, who plays her husband, certainly shows his age. He did not make the mistake that Mickey Rourke did, in getting grotesquely over-the-top cosmetic surgery. Perhaps Grant's had his neck "done"; the rooster neck removed. But he's not pretending to be younger than he is, really. He doesn't have to. He's male. Aging male actors get parts more easily than aging women do.

It isn't fair. It's the consequence of rank sexism. It's also ageism. And of both moral and social stupidity. I'm sure that Kidman's vanity is also involved. She's had cosmetic surgery, it's not just Botox. But I'll tell you what it is about Botox. This toxin that people jab into their face paralyzes part of it. They seem weirdly unaware they've become a  department store mannequin. That is what's happened to Kidman. This very fine actor has been turned into a store mannequin. She does the best she can, working around that frozen parts of her face. She's still a very good actress. She has fine timing; excellent understanding of the material charges her delivery. She brings the thing off. But I can't be the only one who've noticed the rigidity of that part of her face--around the eyes too--and I feel really bad for her. I feel she's gotten her arm twisted, psychologically, to force her into this.

Suppose her normally-aged face--helped with some good lighting and a little makeup--had been left alone? Would she have gotten the part? I think so. I doubt David E. Kelley would be a dick about it. I'm sure it was never discussed. Probably, Kidman just assumed. Why shouldn't she, considering the way aging women are treated? They're caviarly dismissed by the males who are still in charge of so very much. And, perhaps, even some powerfully ambitious women producers would tend to make "male decisions" about hiring older women actors. They don't want to be less bullying than the powerful men they must compete with, after all.

Kidman's facial expression, in all its subtleties, is the medium of her visual performance--along with her body language, of course. It's vital to her performance. It has been noticeably limited, here. This fine actress's talent is partly crippled by this injected toxin so you'll think she's "still pretty". Freeze her face--and you freeze time. Botox has damaged her face--her acting face. Her beauty, in still shots, is undamaged. But--paralysis is damage. And it shows, here.

It's not really her fault. She wanted this great part and she was driven, as most actresses her age are, by fear of being passed over...just for aging.

Her portrayal of the woman caught in a terrifying situation would have been stronger if she'd been allowed the use of not only every muscle and nerve in her face, but also her natural face itself, which is more convincing, because it's more fitting for the woman portrayed. We would believe Kidman in the role more, if she weren't the picture-perfect talking mannequin we've forced her to become. If we believe her more, if she seems less Movie Star--we'd get even  more involved in the story. Sometimes fear makes us stupid. And Botox--is stupid.

I hope she'll give up the Botox, and let her face heal. Such a radiant talent should not be dimmed by fear.