In 2009 my world was opened up to the amazing Carey Mulligan, and for that I will always be grateful. The young actress is one of the greatest finds in recent years and would probably rank as my favorite individual ‘breakthrough’ of the aughts, and that is saying a lot considering that it is the same decade that gave us Marion Cotillard, Michael Fassbender and Keira Knightley (Scarlett Johansson and Peter Sarsgaard don’t count since they had big breaks at the end of the 90’s). Yes, Carey Mulligan is one of the most versatile and completely compelling actresses working today. No matter what film she’s in, my eyes are always drawn to her.
She is magnificent.
Back in 2009, when she was blazing the awards trail with her impeccable Oscar nominated turn in ‘An Education’ there was a lot of comparisons being made to Mulligan being the next Audrey Hepburn. Hepburn’s Oscar winning performance in ‘Roman Holiday’ was being mentioned left and right as a good indicator of Mulligan’s own chances at the gold. Sadly, despite deserving it by a ridiculous margin over the other nominated performances, Mulligan lost out to Sandra Bullock on Oscar night. That being said, those Hepburn comparisons never faded.
Now, anyone who knows me knows that I am not a fan of ‘Roman Holiday’ or Hepburn’s performance in the film. I actually find it one note and uninteresting and feel that the only redeemable aspect of the film is Gregory Peck’s surprisingly fluid performance (he could be so stiff). So, needless to say, I didn’t get nor approve of the comparison. I don’t want this to come off wrong, and so I feel the need to clarify right now that I am a gigantic fan of Audrey Hepburn and always have been. My feelings on that particular film and performance are not reflective of my overall feelings on the actress herself. I have always found her endearing and compelling and I could see why someone may compare her screen presence to the luminous Mulligan (although, I will also add that Mulligan has shown a range that Hepburn never truly found) and so it wasn’t that part that I disagreed with, it was the particular film performance being noted that I found questionable.
The other night I happened to stumble across a Hepburn film I had yet to see. It was directed by Billy Wilder (a director I worship) and so I decided to give it a go. What happened next was a revelatory experience of sorts that completely took me by surprise. I fell even deeper in love with Audrey Hepburn and began to see what all this ‘Hepburn/Mulligan’ talk was all about.
Why couldn’t Hepburn have won her Oscar for ‘Love in the Afternoon’?
In fact, the film itself and her performance within it are so similar in depth and scope and construction to that of Mulligan and her big breakout film, ‘An Education’ that I’m surprised people were going to ‘Roman Holiday’ with their comparisons back in 2009. What Hepburn and Mulligan do with their work in these respective films is glorious. The way that both Hepburn and Mulligan captured the naivety and childlike curiosity of their young characters in love with the wrong type of man was stunning to watch. Hepburn’s infatuation with the dangerous (and much older) Gary Cooper was so believable and so engaging. The way she flirted in such an innocent and unknowing manner; you could completely understand why Gary Cooper’s womanizer was smitten to the point of instability. Mulligan also used this technique to rope in her audience, as well as the aggressive pursuit of Peter Sarsgaard’s creep of a suitor. Her eye contact with the audience was crucial because she said so much with her face. The way that smitten, love-sick captivity floats all over their being is beautifully tailored to the direction the film is taking and the way that they grasp their character’s own advancement in maturity as the film progresses is rich with subtle authenticity.
Anyways, a long story short; I love these two performances and the movies they enliven. These are two star turns that make a serious impact and show such depth in restraint as these two luminous creatures create real young women lost in the trance of love yet shaken by the realities of life.