Nicole Kidman is winning raves for her daring performance in “The Paperboy,” in which she stars as a woman who becomes romantically involved with a prisoner on death row (John Cusack).
Though the film, directed by Lee Daniels, has earned mixed reviews, Kidman’s gritty role is getting nearly unanimous praise.
David Morgan of CBS News calls her performance “one of the most uninhibited seen on screen in recent years.”
Betsey Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times praises Kidman for being “a force of nature, more vulnerable, more sensual than she has ever been. The control you usually see in her performances has been thrown to the wind, and the freedom she exudes is intoxicating …”
As awards season approaches, Indie Wire lists Kidman as a possible Oscar contender for Best Supporting Actress.
Over the years, Kidman has given remarkable performances in a number of highly acclaimed films. Yet within the last decade, she has chosen several projects that have fared poorly with critics and audiences alike.
Here’s a look back at some of Kidman’s most memorable -- and most forgettable -- projects.
Kidman’s Career Highlights
“Rabbit Hole” (2010): Kidman’s touching portrayal of a suburban woman grappling with the death of her 4-year-old son earned her a Best Actress Oscar nomination. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, the film successfully avoids drifting into melodramatic territory due to Kidman’s understated yet heartbreaking performance.
“The Hours” (2002) Kidman won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Virginia Woolf in the star-studded drama. In the film, based on Michael Cunningham‘s novel, the actress undergoes a remarkable transformation (with the help of facial prosthetics) to play the brilliant but mentally ill author who drowned herself in 1941.
Claudia Puig of USA Today praised Kidman’s performance, noting that she “strikes just the right chords as a troubled artist seeking inspiration and grappling with madness.”
“The Others” (2001) Kidman earned raves for her performance in the artful haunted-house film set in post-World War II England. As a grieving widow with two young children who need constant monitoring, Kidman is stern but sympathetic. When ghostly figures begin to haunt her, she effectively conveys feelings of terror and isolation.
“Ms. Kidman embodies (her character’s) unstable amalgam with a conviction that is in itself terrifying,” said A.O. Scott in the New York Times. “The icy reserve that sometimes stands in the way of her expressive gifts here becomes the foundation of her most emotionally layered performance to date.”
“Moulin Rouge!” (2001) Kidman received her first Oscar nomination for her dynamic performance as an ill-fated courtesan in 1900 Paris who falls in love with a penniless writer (Ewan McGregor). Kidman sings, dances and coughs her way to one of the most dramatic deaths in film history. The Baz Lurmann-directed musical marked her first film following her high-profile divorce from Tom Cruise -- the role established Kidman as an A-list star who holds her own on screen.
“To Die For” (1995) Loosely based on the 1990 Pamela Smart murder case, “To Die For” may be considered Kidman’s breakout role. The actress stars as Suzanne, a vicious manipulator who is determined to become the next big TV reporter. Kidman constructs a character that is vile and ill-intentioned but who lacks basic common sense -- making her performance exciting to watch.
… And the Low Points
“Trespass” (2011) The film, which stars Kidman and Nicolas Cage as a married couple who endure a home invasion, played in a limited number of theaters before going straight-to-DVD. According to Indie Wire, ‘Trespass’ marks one of the worst box office debuts in Kidman’s career.
Like many critics, the New York Post’s Elizabeth Weitzman panned Joel Schumacher’s dud.
“In fairness, no actor knows what a finished film will look like,” Weitzman said. “But if they were initially offered a script with any resemblance to the one Joel Schumacher has frantically directed here, both Cage and his costar, Nicole Kidman, should have been smart enough to move swiftly on.”
"The Stepford Wives” (2004) As a former TV executive who is recuperating from a nervous breakdown, Kidman does her best in this God-awful remake of the 1975 classic. The critically panned film became an instant box office flop and kicked off a string of lackluster films starring the actress.
“Bewitched” (2005) It’s still unclear why Kidman chose to star in this humorless film based on the hit TV show of the same name.
Several critics, including BBC’s Stella Papamichael, were unimpressed with Kidman’s turn as a perky witch.
“Kidman plays it especially dumb -- as opposed to the wily witch originally portrayed by Elizabeth Montgomery -- and her doe-eyed antics quickly grow tiresome,” Papamichael said.
The extraordinary and unique life of photographer Diane Arbus serves as the basis for this dull and uninventive drama. Kidman’s portrayal of Arbus was largely criticized and the film failed to find an audience.
Manohla Dargis of the New York Times wrote that Kidman’s “talent cannot obscure that she has been grievously miscast and left to indulge her mannered coyness.”
“The Invasion” (2007)
This ghastly adaptation of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” isn’t just one of Kidman’s worst films -- it’s one of the worst films ever. Kidman stars a doctor forced to confront a mind-altering epidemic that threatens mankind. Uninspired and tedious with little suspense or intriguing moments, the film and Kidman received scathing reviews.
“The only thing that's frightening this time around is the sheer, across-the-board incompetence of the filmmakers and the hugely narcissistic performance of its leading lady,” said Lou Lumenick of the New York Post.
Kidman’s next project, “Stoker,” appears to have some promise. Kidman stars as a horrifying mother who terrorizes her daughter (Mia Wasikowska) and becomes romantically involved with her late husband’s brother. Though the eerie film has a remarkably engrossing trailer, it remains to be seen whether the film ends up being one of the actress’s best or worst projects.
“The Paperboy” is currently in theaters. “Stoker” is scheduled to be released on March 1, 2013.