This weekend turns out to have been something of a Nicole Kidman film fest. Last night my wife suggested we see Bewitched -- a lightweight romantic-comedy with Kidman and Will Ferrell. This came only a day after I hit our local second-run multiplex to see The Interpreter (with Kidman and Sean Penn,) which I had missed on its initial release.
Seeing these two films back to back it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Ms. Kidman, as well as being unusually easy on the eyes, is a competent actress. Canny type-casting could put a weaker actor into either of these roles with some success, but not both. The roles are too different.
Bewitched is a light, fluffy comedic fantasy about a struggling, not particularly talented film star (Ferrell) who lands a role as "Darren" on a revival of the TV show "Bewitched". At the insistance of his agent, who is worried about the billing, the role of "Samantha" is slated for an unknown actress, who, as it turns out, is a real witch (Kidman) intent on experiencing normal, mortal life. Bewitched is charming, I thought, and is a very pleasant way to spend 90 minutes in a cool theater on a warm summer evening. Ferrell was well cast and funny, as usual, and Kidman did a fine job as the all-powerful and yet innocent and vulnerable young witch. Michael Caine was fine as her father. Shirley MacLaine was uneven as Endora. Steve Carell's Uncle Arthur was suitably over-the-top. I was pleasantly surprized by the film. One does grieve a bit for the eight bucks one spent for the ticket but that is not the movie's fault. It's a bit sad, I think, that today's entertainment industry makes pleasant, inconsequential little movies so hard to sell.
The other Kidman film I saw, The Interpreter, is a different film and a different role for Kidman. It is also a fantasy -- an alternate history story set in a parallel universe where the United Nations lives up to its hype. Kidman plays an interpreter at the UN who is an expert on African languages. She returns to the sound booth after hours to collect some personal items she had left at her station and happens to overhear a few words from a conversation going on in the darkened hall below in an obscure African language. What she hears suggests a plotted assasination at the UN. A secret service agent (Penn) is called in to investigate and he quickly figures out that the interpreter is not telling everything she knows. Kidman is very good in the film -- as is Penn. The film is well made and very well written. It is set in a Liberal fantasy landscape, to be sure, but, within that setting, it is tight, interesting and compelling.