This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career.
For the past few weeks I haven’t been able to drive around Los Angeles without seeing Rose Byrne‘s face on every street corner. She’s always screaming, with her eyes and mouth widening by the second. It’s disorienting. And also great marketing from the people behind Insidious: Chapter 2, because that billboard of Byrne holding onto her children for dear life is eye-catching. A part of the credit, of course, must go to Byrne. With both Insidious films she’s been consistently terrorized, and somehow, she manages to keep each horrifying reaction less comical than it should be. Her character can never catch a break in these films.
Byrne herself caught a big break in 2007 with FX’s Damages, an undervalued show which rightfully earned her two Golden Globe nominations. Before her work on Damages, Byrne had been acting steadily in supporting roles, including appearances in quality films like Danny Boyle’s sci-fi masterpiece Sunshine, 28 Weeks Later, Adam, Marie Antoinette and the underrated sci-fi thriller Knowing. Not too shabby of a filmography to make a living off of. Then, in 2011 she had a highly successful year when a broad American audience discovered her on the big screen, with both Insidious and Bridesmaids.
This year she has been seen in The Place Beyond the Pines, the very funny I Give It a Year and the significantly less funny The Internship. But if you want to see Byrne at the start of her career than look no further than the 1999 short film The Date.
Having to buy a pack of condoms concealed by out-of-production black wrappers so you don’t get your “fucking balls cut off” is truly high stakes drama at its most suspenseful. The actual short itself lives up to that premise thanks to a few catchy lines and a terrific stinger at the end. Byrne is put to the sideline for most of the film, but it shows the actress hasn’t only recently been performing in comedies. With Get Him to the Greek, Bridesmaids and I Give it a Year Byrne has delivered a variety of comedic roles, whether she’s creating the laugh or simply reacting to one.
It’s a genre she appears comfortable in, as proven by Will Usic and Damon Herriman‘s The Date. Almost all the jokes land, thanks to a compelling set up and unexpected payoff. The only joke that falls flat is when we see the young man in the phone booth, as some awkward camerawork suffocates the gag. But that’s the one misfire in this darkly comic short film with a 20-year-old Byrne, who, I guess, is impervious to age.
Watch the film in full here:
Three years later Byrne could be seen in another short film, 2002’s Heaven. That was around the time of her unforgettable turn in Star Wars Episode: II – Attack of the Clones and a role in Matt Dillon’s little-seen gem City of Ghosts. Why she had to make some short film when she was rolling in the dough after playing Padmé Amidala’s handmaiden, Dormé, is beyond me, but here she makes an appearance, once again blonde.
If you’re more of a fan of Rose Byrne’s dramatic side, then director Sam Bennett‘s short is likely more in line with your taste than The Date. While the previous short was driven by laughs, Heaven is all atmosphere. It’s stylishly done, with eerie transitions and those foreboding shots of Byrne behind the wheel. Dramatically speaking it’s less captivating, especially where a suicide is concerned. For a while we’re wondering why the character has been driven to his breaking point, so until an interpretation can be made, it’s a whole lot of brooding. With the exception of a single shot, Byrne isn’t in that scene, and right from the start she’s the mysterious draw here instead of the suicide.
Byrne makes a big impression in this short especially, so it’s no wonder why directors such as Danny Boyle and Sofia Coppola took notice of her. Hopefully one day we see her go back to that blonde hair on film, because it’s a striking look that would suit the likes of a femme fatale.
Watch Heaven here:
If you want to see Byrne in one more short, alongside another actor who spent their early days in the Star Wars prequels, you can find the actress in The Pitch. We shared that in a Short Starts post about Joel Edgerton, which you can find here.