Are cosmetic procedures revolutionizing film acting?

Amanda Fortini (not pictured above, that’s Jessica Lange) has a thoughtful article in New York magazine asking whether the widespread use of botox and other facial-freezing procedures has affected acting styles in Hollywood.

In ancient Greece and through Medieval Europe actors wore masks and thus had to communicate their solely through their words, intonation and their body. Something is surely lost when an actress (as we all know the looks of aging man is accepted and occasionally fetishized in our culture) has to remain icily unaffected at all times. An obvious example is Nicole Kidman, who denies having work done but…

Kidman in Dead Calm, 1989

Kidman, recent

While I find her to be an excellent actress, there are certainly scenes and characters she could never do as well as others who are still all natural. Kidman has the magestic beauty such that she can often be cast as a sort of ice queen (or automaton) these days – chararcters whose aloofness and unflinching demeanor is key to their character. Could you ever see Kidman playing a lower-class character? For example, Frances McDormand’s frumpy frustration in any number of scenes in Burn After Reading was conveyed almost entirely through her pursed lips and furrowed brow.

This issue will be a sticky one for actresses who, as they enter their 40s and 50s, wish to both remain marketable and perform in a more nuanced way. It would be a shame if expressive acting becomes relegated to only the character actors while the leading ladies are, like their gazes, locked in place by the viewer’s own restrictive notions of female beauty.

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