Director Robert Greene has long been an advocate for documentaries going beyond journalism and towards something more formally expressive and daring, and his new film “Actress” epitomizes that philosophy. The film concerns Brandy Burre, once a recurring player on “The Wire” who has since retreated from acting in order to raise her two children with her partner. Burre decides that she wants to get back into performing, but the film suggests that she might be playing a role in her personal life as a mother and partner as much as she does when she’s on the stage or on television.
The film sounds on its surface like a slice-of-life depiction of a woman torn between personal and professional roles. Greene, however, is going for something more psychologically suggestive, arguing that she’s performing in her personal life by using deliberately stagey scenes of Burre stating her belief that her kids have become her creative outlet or slow-motion sequences of Burre washing dishes and glasses only to pause and move to break one. This suggests Sirkian melodrama by way of documentary, but Greene also turns the film’s timeline into something more impressionistic, making the days and Burre’s feelings seem to blend together into something hazy and uncertain. It’s a striking film, and a documentary that makes a case that putting feeling over fact can be just as conducive to finding truth.
More thoughts from the Criticwire Network:
Nikola Grozdanovic, The Playlist
Eric Kohn, Indiewire
Greene, who shot, cut and produced the movie with longtime collaborators Douglas Tirola and Susan Bedusa, tends to create dazzlingly textured experiences (and with his recent editing credit on the Sundance hit “Listen Up Philip,” he’s well positioned to gain further recognition for his directing efforts). “Actress” is an ideal illustration of his layered approach, as it presents Burre’s experiences in a masterfully assembled set of sounds and images. Read more.
Christy Lemire, RogerEbert.com
Greene’s film is deceptively profound in that it’s about a specific woman with a specific kind of life, yet it has universal resonance as a reflection of the struggle so many women endure—the desire to be all things to all people and inevitably failing someone, the yearning to balance career and parenthood and never finding enough time to do either completely right. Read more.
Noel Murray, The Dissolve
Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The A.V. Club