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Forever Starlet
Celebrating young actresses of yesterday and today
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Film: The Benefactor (2015). Young Actress: Dakota Fanning, age 19.

I discussed how Hollywood loves movies about white men getting their lives together when I reviewed Lamb, so I won't repeat myself too much here. Suffice to say that The Benefactor is one more movie in that tired genre, expecting you to applaud a guy just for putting a bare minimum of effort into his life.

Richard Gere stars as Francis Watts, called Franny, an eccentric, millionaire old philanthropist living in Philadelphia. Two of his only close friends were a married couple who died in a car crash five years ago (he was in the car with them when it happened), and since then, he's been living in a depressed funk. But then he gets a call from his late friends' only child Olivia (Dakota), who had just moved out when her parents died, saying that she's now married, pregnant, and moving back to the city.



Surprise! Franny tells Olivia and Luke that he bought them a house.

As soon as Olivia and her husband Luke (Theo James, Divergent, nine years Dakota's senior) arrive in Philadelphia, Franny starts trying to creepily turn them into Olivia's late parents. He gets Luke, a recent med-school graduate, a job at a children's hospital where he sits on the board, and often reminds him of how he got the job. He buys Olivia's parents' old house in the suburbs for them to live in, pays off Luke's student loans, and even calls Luke by Olivia's father's name. Franny developed a morphine addiction while being treated for injuries from the car crash that killed his friends, and he hits rock-bottom when his supply runs out. Luke finally stands up to him, telling Franny that he'll never see Luke's family again if he doesn't clean up; around the same time, Olivia has her baby, inspiring Franny to change his ways.

Richard Gere gets a lot of screentime, obviously, and there's also some good acting opportunity for Theo James, who performs his role well. But as Olivia, Dakota barely does anything besides stand around rubbing her pregnant belly. For example, when Franny drives them out to her parents' old house and announces that he bought it for them, he and Luke argue about it while Olivia just stands there in silence, rubbing her stomach and staring blankly at the house. It's disappointing to see Dakota go to waste here... and frustrating, since her character in Every Secret Thing (filmed around the same time) was similarly underdeveloped. I would not recommend this movie to Dakota fans or anyone else.

LINKS
An interview with Dakota about the film is here.
Other reviews of Dakota's films: Every Secret Thing (2014).
Several starlets attended TrevorLIVE LA, held on December 4 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Founded in 1998, The Trevor Project is a nonprofit organization that works to prevent suicide among LGBTQ youth.


Kyla Kenedy, 13, from The Walking Dead, posted on her Instagram: So good seeing @chloegmoretz tonight at the Trevor Award show!💕#givingback


Ava Allan, 16, from Pretty Little Liars, posted on her Instagram: so honored to have attended the #TrevorLIVE @trevorproject event last night! Such a beautiful event and an incredible organization. Like Kyla, she posted a selfie with Chloe.


Ariel Winter, 18, attended together with her boyfriend Levi Meaden, 29, and presented the award for Trevor Hero Honoree to Kelly Osborne (above), 32. Her Instagram post: Thank you @trevorproject for inviting me to your incredible #TrevorLIVE event❤️Beyond honored and grateful. She also said in an interview at the event, "I think the Trevor Project is really important and does incredible work for LGBT youth with suicide prevention. That's something that's been really important to me as a young person. And I think that they have done incredible work and that's something that's really important, especially with the current [election results]."


Chloe Moretz, 19, is trying out a new hairstyle with bangs and has been retweeting several articles about it.

Some of the most interesting bits from Stranger Things 12-year-old star Millie Bobby Brown's recent an interview and photoshoot with Dazed & Confused magazine about her newfound fame:

I consider for a second what it's like being 12 and surrounded constantly by adults, and wonder if she is simply having a shy spell. Sure enough, once set free of the chair, she explodes wide-open with personality; within minutes, we're discussing how mental it is that she just met Barack Obama. "Netflix, very clever people, gave Obama the [Stranger Things] tapes, and he watched them on the way to – how do you say it? Is it Air Force One? So, he was watching it and then he came back and watched it with his kids – crazy!"



From Millie's photoshoot for Dazed & Confused

Crazy encounters like this are all part of the reality of life post-Stranger Things for the young actor. "They didn't tell me anything," Millie says of the role that would dramatically change the trajectory of her teenage years. "They just said, 'Your name is Eleven – relate yourself to ET. That was it. I got the job the next day." And what a job: Eleven is one of the most fascinating female characters ever to hit the small screen, embodying a twist on the coming-of-age stories that inspired Stranger Things. In this universe, the classic boy-gang ends up rallying around a superhuman girl in an ultimate testament to their five-way friendship. Millie's captivating performance is almost exclusively non-verbal – she utters a mere 246 words in total – and, as such, El's personal tics have a complex appeal that is very much in Millie's hands. "Eleven is going a lot by instinct," she explains. "The look, obviously, her body language, definitely. You know, the head tilt. We all just collaborated on our ideas and then we made magic."

After six months of shooting, the show wrapped, and the kids – including Finn Wolfhard, 13, who plays Eleven’s onscreen semi-crush Mike Wheeler – went about their normal lives, unaware that those were the last few normal months of their childhoods. Millie remembers premiere day. "I was actually in a car on my way to San Francisco. I didn't even watch it when it came out. I just saw my Instagram followers going up every second. I went from 25 to 1·4 million – pretty cool."



Millie as Eleven on Stranger Things

Millie is nothing if not gracious, crediting the show's female-positive feel to her other co-stars, too. "Winona is also a heroine in the show, and Natalia [Dyer]. We're all just in a different age range, but it's cool to have female heroines." Ah, yes: Winona Ryder, 45, elusive though she is in person, exerts a huge influence over the program and its young cast. In fact, it's her presence that brings the show's '80s-world-building blissfully full-circle. At her name, Millie lights up. "She's incredible, ultra-professional and a really good friend," she says. "I met her in the production office and we were all having lunch and she just came in and was like, 'I was told that I look like you!' We'd sneak away to her trailer to eat cheese and crackers and gossip."

Unsurprisingly, she cannot comment on Eleven's fate, or if she'll return to the show. "I don't know, I have no clue," she says in a singsong voice when I ask if she has any travel plans coming up. (Editor's note: since the time of going to print, Millie's return to the show has happily been confirmed.) What she says for now is that she's open and excited to try almost anything, including pursuing music when she's older. She's already delivered televised performances of Nicki Minaj's Monster and Bruno Mars's Uptown Funk (sang onstage at the Emmy Awards), so the evolution is easy to imagine. Without doubt, whatever she explores next, we'll be watching her, ready for her to surprise us again. But she's not letting the hype go to her head. "At the end of the day, I just do my job, I love my art. But I genuinely want to change the world. I'm very generous and I really want people to see that I am – that's really it."




A post from Millie's Twitter. She has a strong social media presence, and her recently-tweeted video of herself singing a Starbuck's order to the tune of Adele's Hello went viral instantly.
Lots of young actresses are making their big-screen debuts this awards season (like Abigail Pniowksy in Arrival or Sunnie Pelant in Jackie) and one more is eleven-year-old British schoolgirl Faith Wood-Blagrove, who plays young orphan Modesty in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, in theaters everywhere now. Faith was cast last year at age 10, after attending an open audition, where she was selected over hundreds of other girls. She said about the audition process: "And then, I don't know, I guess they choose, like, two or three people out of them, and then you'd go into the second round. There was a really nice atmosphere there, and, like, some really nice people, and it was really nice just, like, talking to other people who were kind of like in the same position I was."


Faith at the US premiere of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, at Lincoln Center in New York City, November 10

In Fantastic Beasts, set within the Harry Potter universe, one of the villains in the sinister anti-witch crusader Mary Lou Barbone (Samantha Morton, In America), who runs an orphanage where children are indoctrinated with anti-witch propaganda. Mary Lou has three adopted children, Credence (Ezra Miller, Perks of Being a Wallflower), Modesty (Faith), and Chastity (Jenn Murray, Brooklyn), whom she abuses to varying degrees. Things get much worse after Mary Lou finds and destroys a wand hidden under Modesty's bed. This has led to fan speculation that Modesty might be a witch herself and could play a bigger role in the two planned Beasts sequels.


At the US Beasts premiere, Faith is in front of adult star Eddie Redmayne
25th-Nov-2016 09:46 am - Remembering Florence Henderson
Actress Florence Henderson died of heart failure on November 24, 2016, in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She was 82. Best known for her role as mom Carol Brady on the long-running '70s sitcom The Brady Bunch, Henderson also starred on The Match Game, hosted The Florence Henderson Show, and recently had cameos on 30 Rock and Zendaya's KC Undercover.

Henderson's three former Brady Bunch daughters, Maureen McCormick (Marcia), now 60, Eve Plumb (Jan), 58, and Susan Olsen (Cindy), 55, posted these tributes to her on Twitter:













And other former young actresses who remembered Henderson:






Film: Lamb (2015). Young Actress: Oona Laurence, age 11.

It's depressing to me that while it's getting so hard to find good roles for women (see Rachel McAdams or Winona Ryder) and people of color (see the Every Word Spoken series or recent Academy Awards), Hollywood still loves churning out movies about white men getting their lives together. Wish I Was Here and Infinitely Polar Bear expect us to admire Zach Braff and Mark Ruffalo for learning basic childcare while their wives work hard and make huge sacrifices (women are rarely allowed to be crappy parents like men are). In We Bought a Zoo and Southpaw, Matt Damon and Jake Gyllenhall have to restart their lives after the wives who've been been taking care of them suddenly die. I could go on in this vein (Begin Again, The Benefactor, Black or White) but let's talk about Lamb.



Tommie meets David

In Lamb, the worst of white men finding themselves meets the worst of the indie/art movie genre. The thin, implausible plot involves David, a lonely, middle-aged man (Ross Partridge) who befriends a lonely, neglected young girl, Tommie (Oona), living in his gritty urban neighborhood. They first meet when some older kids dare Tommie to approach him and ask him for a cigarette. David tells her that his name is Gary, and she believes him for the rest of the movie. The interaction between them is slightly interesting at first.

What kills the film is when David impulsively decides to take Tommie on a camping trip to his late father's remote cabin. They set off without packing, telling anyone, or even leaving a note. On their first night in a hotel room, David tells her, "This will look a lot like a kidnapping to other people." For every day of their journey, the writing gets worse and the lack of anything happening gets more and more frustrating. So much of the movie is one pointless scene after another; for example, in one scene, David sticks a penny on Tommie's forehead and says, "The year I was born is now on your beautiful head," followed by a long shot of her staring at him. There are also some failed attempts at depth via shallow shock value: Tommie watches David having sex with a coworker, and she freaks out when he tries to undress her after she spills hot coffee on herself. (The coffee scene is eyeroll-worthy for its unrealistic execution, by the way. Tommie barely spills a few drops on herself before David screams, "You've got it all over you!")



David and Tommie outside his cabin in the mountains

In films as pointless and pedantic as this one, it falls heavily on the cast to make it worth watching, and Lamb's cast fails hard at this. Elle Fanning's Somewhere (2011) was similarly plotless, but Elle gave such a talented performance that it never felt as boring as Lamb. Oona isn't a bad actress, but she isn't anywhere near Elle's caliber, and she just isn't the right choice for a film like this one. Her role in Southpaw felt better suited to her.

Other reviews of Oona's films: Southpaw (2015).
Awards season is really picking up the pace now! Just look at how many young actresses have new projects out...


Sunnie Pelant, who just turned 7, at the gala screening of Jackie at AFI Fest at the TCL Chinese Theatre on November 15. Sunnie plays little Caroline Kennedy in the film, centered on Jacqueline Kennedy during the aftermath of her husband's assassination. She's flanked in the photo above by twins Aiden and Brody Weinberg, who play her little brother John Jr. Sunnie has been a regular on TV since 2014, when she was cast as Bones and Booth's daughter Christine on Bones, but Jackie is her first significant film role.


The title role in Jackie is played by former child actress Natalie Portman, now 35, pregnant, and campaigning for another Best Actress nomination.lho


Auli'i Cravalho, who turns 16 on November 22, at the premiere of Disney's Moana on November 14. The Hawaiian native, who voices the heroine title character, was discovered by chance when a Disney talent scout saw a YouTube video of her singing. "I really like it because when I'm in the studio, I kind of just close my eyes. I don’t have to worry about what I look like too much. I'm kind of an animated person. I was given this really big blessing that my voice just kind of carries the emotion."


Sophie Nelisse, 16, has two new movies out. In the drama The History of Love, she plays Alma, a cynical New York City teenager who falls in love for the first time while also searching for a boyfriend for her single mom. Sophie's other new project is the TV movie Little Girl's Secret (based on the classic children's book Wait Till Helen Comes), which premieres on Lifetime this month. Sophie's real-life sister Isabelle, 12, plays her new stepsister in the movie, and Abigail Pniowsky plays the ghost girl Helen.


Abigail Pniowsky, Sophie's costar in Little Girl's Secret, can also be seen in another big Oscar-buzz movie Arrival, which will likely earn a Best Actress nomination for Amy Adams. Abigail has a supporting role as her daughter Hannah; she said in an interview at the Toronto Film Festival: "She's a girl, and she-she's very subtle, and she's calm, and she's definitely not like me." Above, Abigail attends the premiere with her big sister, Adams, and Jeremy Renner, at Regency Village Theatre on November 6.


Meanwhile, Hailee Steinfeld, who turns 20 on December 11, has been attending a ton of events to promote her new movie Edge of Seventeen. Above, she attends the LA premiere on November 9. Hailee has been earning rave reviews for the film, in which she plays a loner teenager who feels more alone than ever when her best friend (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating her all-star brother.


At and the same time, Hailee is still juggling her singing career! Here she performs onstage at the Nickelodeon HALO Awards in New York City on November 11.
Film: Regression (2015). Young Actress: Emma Watson, age 24.

I blog a lot about The Transition. Most child actresses can move into teenage roles as they get older, but moving from those adolescent characters into adult ones is much trickier. It's common for young actresses to hang onto high-schooler-type parts well into their twenties because they can't get any good adult material. Filming of this below-average psychological thriller began on Emma's 24th birthday; in it, she plays a 17-year-old. Mae Whitman (Emma's costar in Perks of Being a Wallflower) couldn't really pass for a teenager in The Duff, and Emma can't quite pull it off here, either. She does give a good performance, but seeing her play a teenage character in a movie that doesn't deserve her is a little saddening to me. I'm grateful that she's famous for her social activism, work with the UN, and other things besides acting.



Emma and Ethan Hawke

I'm talking about Regression in terms of Emma's career because there's not much to talk about otherwise. Her character claims to have been raped and abused by a cult of satanists, and in a way, the movie plays up Emma's wholesome, former-child-star image: Even when her story gets more and more far-fetched (she says that the Satanists also murdered a bunch of babies), the police don't doubt her claims until the very end. Most of this film is too mediocre and over-the-top, especially Ethan Hawke (Boyhood) as the very screamy lead policeman.

Other reviews of Emma's films: Ballet Shoes (2007), The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012).

Natalie Portman, now 35 and pregnant with her second child, was the only current/former young actress at the 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards, held on November 6 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, and hosted once again by James Corden. Natalie received the Hollywood Actress Award for Jackie. After bragging about how she doesn't even care that she has an Oscar (and calling them "false idols"), she's already campaigning for another one.


The award was presented by Susan Sarandon, who played Natalie's mother in Anywhere But Here (1999). Her acceptance speech: "Thank you, Susan. That was so kind of you. I'm so lucky to have gotten to meet you so early on, um, in my work life, and, um, I think you showed me so early how filmmaking is political inherently, and we have, obviously, heard so many crazy things that have been said about women this year politically and to women. And, um, I feel so lucky to have been part of this film that is about a woman who was maybe known first for being a wife, um, first to Kennedy and then to Onassis, but then became someone who could be recognized on-on their own merits, just... just as Jackie. Um, and I think it's really incredible - an incredible opportunity and unfortunately, a rare opportunity in our industry to get to portray a woman so complicated, to have so many assets - aspects of her, um, revealed and to look at her humanity not as a wife, as a mother, as a daughter. She's not to be respected because of her relationship to a man, but because of her humanity and her, um, her-herself as a subject of desire, not an object of desire. And I salute the many men behind this film who we obviously need many female voices to tell stories, but it's also essential that the men who are telling stories consider women as complete human beings and not just in relationships to other men. And to have our producers Mickey Liddell, Darren Aronofsky, and... and many others, actually, many producers on the film, and Darren, of course, who has been so generous with me throughout my career, um, and my life in giving me these complex women, ah, to portray. And Pablo Larraín, the director, who's just a phenomenal person, and again, was telling this story of a human being, not a woman, and I think that-that's a real rarity, unfortunately. And to Fox Searchlight, Nancy and Steve, who are wonderfully taking on this movie on-on a journey. And to the Hollywood Film Awards, so kind of you, I really appreciate being in a room with so many people I admire and respect so much. Thank you."

Previous posts on the Hollywood Film Awards: 2015 with Saoirse Ronan, and 2014 (the only year the show has ever been televised) with Shailene Woodley.
Production recently kicked off on Sofia Coppola's new movie The Beguiled. The period drama will star a number of current and former young actresses, including two who have collaborated with Cappola before, Kirsten Dunst, 34, who did The Virgin Suicides (1999) with the director, and Elle Fanning, 18, who did Somewhere. (Kirsten is also set to direct Dakota in a just-announced adaptation of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar.)

The Beguiled, a remake of the 1971 film of the same name, unfolds in 1864 Virginia. The Civil War is raging, but the students of the Miss Martha Farnsworth Seminary for Young Ladies have been sheltered from the war — and from the outside world in general. But that all changes when a wounded Union soldier (Colin Ferrell) is discovered nearby and taken in; he becomes the object of several girls' sexual fantasies. Coppola has cast a number of young actresses as students: Oona Laurence, 14, from Pete's Dragon; Angourie Rice, 15, from The Nice Guys; Emma Howard, from Transparent; and Addison Reicke, 12, of Nickelodeon's The Thundermans. It's the first film role for Addison, who was one of the last girls to join the cast, getting added just last month. The young actresses couldn't be more excited about this movie, and neither could I! A few recent photos from Addison's Twitter:

Angourie, Addison, Oona, and Emma visited Ogden Museum in New Orleans to learn more about the time period of The Beguiled:




And they dressed up for Halloween!

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