Anna Kendrick makes almost every movie she chooses to appear in better, even if the movies that she chooses don’t challenge her too deeply (cough cough Noelle) or ask her to show that much range. Sometimes, as in say the Pitch Perfect movies, she’s playing a variation of the personality we often see from Kendrick on late-night talk shows or red carpet interviews. Snarky. Charming. Self-deprecating. It’s possible to forget that she’s an Oscar-nominated actress capable of going to toe-to-toe with George Clooney (in Jason Reitman’s Up In The Air), or being the focal point of a deeply emotional and sympathetic drama -- as she does this year in Alice, Darling, playing as part of the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.
According to interviews that dropped before the film Alice, Darling premiered at TIFF 2022, Anna Kendrick connected with the material on a personal level… sad when you learn that the story is about a woman who is in an emotionally abusive relationship and might be too embedded to recognize that she’s being mistreated. Speaking with People, Kendrick neglected to name names of a person who wronged her, but did admit:
By personifying someone who is coming to grips with being in an abusive relationship, Anna Kendrick delivers her career-best work, internalizing pain, doubt, and fear in a movie (directed by fellow actress Mary Nighy) that conjures dread in palpable ways as its story unfolds.
Alice (Kendrick) dates Simon (Charlie Carrick), a handsome yet tortured artist who takes out his insecurities on her. He’s not physically abusive – not that we are shown. He’s more possessive. Manipulative. He has convinced Alice that she’s “bad,” or constantly making “mistakes.” Looking from the outside in, we can tell that these accusations are fallacies. But Kendrick sells Alice’s belief in Simon’s lies, and they are literally tearing her to pieces.
Alice, Darling isn’t showy. Screenwriter Alanna Francis doesn’t hand Anna Kendrick flowing monologues about her abuse, inviting the actor to chew scenery (possibly for awards recognition). The movie instead is effective because of how subtle Kendrick plays the material, relying on a series of small acting choices that say so much. The face she shows Simon differs completely from the one that we see when her back is turned to him. She has a habit of twisting her hair so tight around the tips of her fingers, it cuts off circulation. Anything to just feel, again. Simon’s influence over Alice is so toxic, we begin to dread the message that waits for her when the cell phone ring indicates the arrival of a new text.
No one should have to endure the pain and the paranoia that Alice faces. And its depressing to learn that Kendrick was attracted to this material because she endured such suffering, herself. But if we suffer for our art, then the upside is that it has produced this wonderfully sympathetic and heartfelt story of rebirth, when the strength of those around you shine bright enough to show you the way.
In addition to Anna Kendrick’s standout drama Alice, Darling, CinemaBlend has been on the ground covering TIFF 2022. We saw the first two episodes of the fifth season of The Handmaid’s Tale, as well as Daniel Radcliffe’s turn as “Weird” Al Yankovic. Sarah Polley took us on a devastating path through the somber novel Women Talking. And we have plenty more to come, including reviews of Bros, The Woman King, Glass Onion, and Steven Speilberg’s The Fabelmans, so stay tuned.
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Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Sean created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.