The Twilight star’s second life on the festival circuit.
Kristen Stewart became a household name, global superstar, and A-list actor by starring in the franchise that launched a thousand other franchises: The Twilight Saga. I know. I too shudder when I talk about it because, let’s face it, these movies are straight up bad. I will admit that I was one of the young, impressionable girls who fell in love with the series. I went to midnight releases for the books, opening day premieres for the movies, and even had a strong opinion on who Bella should end up with (#TeamEdward forever).
It was the franchise’s leading lady who kept me interested in the films. Regardless of the sucky screenplays, absurd plot, and bad acting from almost everyone involved, Stewart’s roots in independent film shined through. Even while starring in the vampire franchise, Stewart remained true to her eclectic nature and took roles in smaller arthouse films like The Runaways (2010) and Welcome to the Rileys. And, since Breaking Dawn: Part 2 premiered in 2012, she has worked extremely hard to prove that she is more than the Twilight Saga movies. The roles that she has taken on in the last few years show that Kristen Stewart has fully transitioned from an awkward tween star to a total film festival darling.
Her transition really started in 2014 with Camp X-Ray and Clouds of Sils Maria, though the first glimpses of it can be found in On the Road’s (2012) Cannes premiere. Camp X-Ray follows Amy Cole (Stewart), a solider at Guantanamo Bay who befriends a man who has been imprisoned there. The film came out of Sundance with almost unanimous praise for Stewart. Then, a few months later at the Cannes Film Festival, Stewart made a remarkable and meta supporting turn in French auteur Olivier Assayas’s Clouds of Sils Maria. In this film, she played a personal assistant to a famous European actress. She completely embodies the shy and independent woman who would rather have someone else be in the spotlight. It is the type of role that uses Stewart’s Twilight history as a tongue in cheek joke when she debates the talents of a rising Hollywood it-girl who’s best known for her part in a tween sci-fi franchise. Sound familiar? She completely owns the role that won her rave reviews and a Cesar Award (basically France’s Oscars) for the turn, the first American woman to do so. Her third film fest hit of 2014 came with the Julienne Moore vehicle Still Alice. While Moore deservedly garnered tons of praise, and even an Academy Award, Stewart also received praise. If you’re ever in doubt that Kristen Stewart has no emotions or empathy, watch Still Alice.
The following year, 2015, was a relatively quiet year for Stewart on the fest front. She was easily the bright spot in the largely bland films Equals, American Ultra, and Anesthesia. This year, though, is her year. She is the queen of film festivals in 2016. She teamed with ultra-indie auteur Kelly Reichardt for the Sundance hit Certain Women. Then, the director of the Cannes Film Festival Thierry Fremaux dubbed her the “Queen of Cannes.” Woody Allen’s Café Society, featuring Stewart, opened the fest and her reteam with Assayas for Personal Shopper was in competition. In an interview with Variety while there, she actually discussed her career reinvention. When the lineup for the New York Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival were revealed, critics were quick to point out that Stewart’s Personal Shopper and Certain Women were among the films announced. But hold up because NYFF wasn’t done with adding titles. They added Ang Lee’s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, which Stewart co-stars in, to the mix and the fest will honor Stewart, along with Adam Driver, at their “An Evening With” celebration. Looks like she’ll be the Queen of NYFF this year too.
It’s time to start fully appreciating Stewart for the natural and wonderful actor she is now, as opposed to the awkward and perpetually mumbling teenager she was. She has completely reinvented her career to become one of the most respected actors of her generation. Kristen Stewart’s choice of roles post-Twilight have shown her to be an intense and edgy actor who is unafraid of the haters. I think that IFC Films Senior VP of Acquisitions said it best that “with the filmmakers that she’s working with, her choices and her consistency, she’s really in a class of her own.” Long may Kristen Stewart reign as the queen of film festivals.