Last night’s Santa Barbara Film Festival tribute was a double-header — Room‘s Brie Larson and Brooklyn‘s Saoirse Ronan splitting the Outstanding Performer of the Year award. It was a reasonably okay evening, and was at least invigorated by a dramatic last-minute announcement that Larson wouldn’t be able to attend. My initial reaction was “what?” but I gradually realized it wasn’t Larson’s fault.
Brooklyn‘s Saoirse Ronan during last night’s SBIFF tribute.
Room‘s Brie Larson during her Skype chat with moderator Pete Hammond.
Even though her SBIFF plans had been set weeks ago, the producers of Kong: Skull Island suddenly insisted that Larson had to return to Australia a day early, which meant Larson had to catch a 10 pm flight last night. (For what it’s worth I found a Quantas flight that left at 11:30 pm, but she still couldn’t have made it.) So while Larson was able to fit in Monday afternoon’s Oscar luncheon and a Jimmy Kimmel appearance she had to blow off poor Santa Barbara. But she sat for a Skype chat with host Pete Hammond, and that went pretty well.
Ronan showed up live and in-person, and her discussion with Hammond was pleasant enough.
I had to leave just before Ronan’s segment ended but I didn’t hear Hammond mention something interesting, which is that one of her recent films, Nikole Beckwith‘s Stockholm, Pennsylvania, is essentially about the same captive situation that Room is about — a young girl taken prisoner by a guy, kept prisoner for years in a basement, etc.
It also wasn’t mentioned that both Larson and Ronan have adapted a Michael Caine-like approach to their careers — i.e., work often, keep banging ’em out, pocket those paychecks, grab the good stuff when it’s offered but average over two films per year.
Ronan will be 22 in April. She began acting in films when she was 13 or thereabouts, and over the last eight or nine years she’s made 21 films, or roughly 2 1/2 per annum.
Ronan has starred in almost all of her 21 films, but the overall quality track record has been mostly poor. Two — Brooklyn, The Grand Budapest Hotel — have been superb, two have been very good (Atonement, Hanna) and two have been so-so to not bad (The Lovely Bones, The Way Back). The other 15 have been underwhelming, indifferently reviewed, marginally seen, too downish or outright crap. (Two — The Seagull and Loving Vincent — haven’t opened or been seen.)
Ronan is also about to costar in a Broadway production of Arthur Miller‘s The Crucible.
Larson recently turned 26. She began acting steadily in ’03, or when she turned 13 or 14, and over the last 13 years she’s appeared in 31 films, or, same as Ronan, roughly 2 and 1/2 per year. But she’s mostly been a character actress, and has only been playing leads (or leading costar roles) since 2013’s Short Term 12.
Only six out of Larson’s 31 films have been top-tier, but she’s managed a decent batting average since 2010. The goodies have been Noah Baumbach‘s Greenberg (in which she had a bit part in the third act), Oren Moverman‘s Rampart, Destin Daniel Cretton‘s Short Term 12 (her big breakout), The Spectacular Now (who did she play again?), Judd Apatow‘s Trainwreck (i.e., Amy Schumer‘s sensible sister) and Lenny Abrahamson‘s Room.
Yes, Larson also costarred in the detestable Scott Pilgrim vs. The World but I can’t remember her performance, and she played a silly part in 21 Jump Street, but what self-respecting actress would point to these two films with any pride?