iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Nancy Doyle Palmer

Nancy Doyle Palmer

GET UPDATES FROM Nancy Doyle Palmer

Patricia Clarkson -- A Star but Not a Celebrity

Posted: 09/14/10 03:39 PM ET

Stretch out summer just a bit more and see Cairo Time if you haven't already. Besides the trip to Egypt's capital where the music, traffic and River Nile truly transport, this film is a chance to slowly marvel at a masterful performance by the Patricia Clarkson -- one of the best actors around and finally the star of the show.

And the perfect example of what fame is and isn't -- a by-product, not a goal.
You know her even if you think you don't -- whenever she turns up in a movie - big budget (Shutter Island, No Reservations,) or independent ( Pieces of April, The Station Agent, Lars and The Real Girl) you think "Oh good, she's in it."
(She even brings quality and class to a SNL digital short when she joins Susan Sarandon to play MILFS to Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake).

Cairo Time, however, is Patricia Clarkson's finest hour -- a performance of simplicity, perfection and artistry. She plays Juliette, a magazine editor and mother of two grown children who has traveled to Cairo to join her husband but finds him delayed in Gaza with his work there for the U.N. She finds herself in the company of her husband's colleague and friend, the Egyptian Tareq, played with equal force and delicacy by Alexander Siddig. It's their love story -- ever so slowly these two shy, sensitive middle-aged people discover themselves as a couple.
The sheer physicality of both performances is masterful -- their body language vies with the desert scenery for impact and emotional charge. They begin apart -- reserved, buttoned-up, almost awkward and by the film's conclusion are able to sit next to each other at the pyramids at dawn in evening clothes and share an intimacy without ever touching that is, well, just something to see. A love story all the more delicate and powerful because of what doesn't happen. A real adult film.

Clarkson doesn't just master a role, she conquers it -- projecting whatever character is called for so forcefully that it can't quite be acting. Kindness and wisdom in Lars and the Real Girl, sorrow and edge in The Station Agent, and sheer beauty in Cairo Time -- this is talent, skill, a lifelong commitment to an art and just a substantial person.
And she's not famous. We don't know her back story, her love life, her private side, we don't know her at all. Which seems to be her choice -- a great New York Times profile www.nytimes.com/2010/0/01/movies/01clarksonhtml?recently revealed she doesn't have an assistant or a computer. She's sort of a female Stanley Tucci -- hugely talented, so smart and scene-stealing it must cost both some roles and yet often unsung when it comes to tabloids, talk shows and the red carpet.

In fact this formidable pair collaborated on a strange, ill-fated film called Blind Date some years back that was only good because they were in it, and are together again as parents in the upcoming Easy A. Watch them own it.

If Patricia Clarkson has deliberately chosen roles that keep her profile low I'm afraid she's running out of time -- she's someone who makes the world feel right because she's in it.


 

Follow Nancy Doyle Palmer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NancyDPalmer