Kid­man poses a dual threat in Os­car race

‘De­stroyer’ and ‘Boy Erased’ show her range

USA TODAY International Edition - - LIFE - An­drea Mandell

TORONTO – Who is this drunken, sunken-eyed al­co­holic on screen?

Au­di­ences will dis­cover a new side of Ni­cole Kid­man in “De­stroyer,” one of two films the ac­tress has at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val.

In “De­stroyer,” (out Dec. 25) the noir crime thriller that pre­miered Mon­day night at the fes­ti­val, Kid­man plays Erin Bell, a brit­tle, boozy de­tec­tive who can’t shake a case for which she went un­der­cover more than a decade ago.

Many have com­pared Kid­man’s make­un­der to Char­l­ize Theron’s “Mon­ster” trans­for­ma­tion. On Mon­day, di­rec­tor Karyn Ka­suma (“Girl­fight,” “Jennifer’s Body”) called Kid­man the “linch­pin of this whole af­fair.”

“Kid­man – a star who is al­ready right­fully cel­e­brated for her in­tense per­for­mances and chameleonic abil­ity to in­habit al­most any role – still man­ages to defy ex­pec­ta­tions here,” wrote Con­se­quence of Sound’s Sarah Kur­chak.

“There’s a scene in DE­STROYER where Ni­cole Kid­man stalks down a street car­ry­ing a ma­chine gun like Al Pa­cino in HEAT, and if that doesn’t do it for you, check your pulse,” Slash­film re­porter Chris Evan­ge­lista tweeted.

Yes, she wears a ragged brunette wig in the film, but it was hardly the point at the Q&A af­ter the pre­miere, when Kid­man re­jected an au­di­ence re­quest to rank her wigged looks through the years. “That’s an aw­ful ques­tion. I’m shut­ting that ques­tion down,” she said to au­di­ence cheers

Mean­while, Kid­man also is in Toronto with “Boy Erased” (in the­aters Nov. 2), an emo­tional film about the ef­fects of gay con­ver­sion ther­apy on an Arkansas teenager named Jared (Lu­cas Hedges). In the Joel Edger­ton-di­rected drama, Jared comes from a de­vout fam­ily; his fa­ther (Rus­sell Crowe) is a Bap­tist preacher, and his mother (Kid­man) ini­tially sup­ports the church’s de­ci­sion to send Jared to a con­ver­sion camp af­ter he comes out.

Which film could send Kid­man to the Os­cars?

“Kid­man likely has an eas­ier track to awards at­ten­tion here than in her star­ring ve­hi­cle ‘De­stroyer,’ a dark and gritty crime drama that’s a tougher sit (and finds her play­ing a less sym­pa­thetic char­ac­ter),” Va­ri­ety‘s Kristo­pher Tap­ley pre­dicts. “Her ‘Boy Erased’ turn is rem­i­nis­cent of her Os­car-nom­i­nated ‘Lion’ work, and for a film that bravely never gets big emo­tion­ally, she’s the source of what lit­tle of that it al­lows.”

Brian Tal­lerico of RogerEbert.com had a dif­fer­ent take:

“The bet­ter of the two is Karyn Kusama’s bru­tal ‘De­stroyer,’ which ba­si­cally turns Kid­man into a dead woman walk­ing,” he wrote. “With heavy makeup, Kid­man has never looked more di­sheveled . ... She’s a shell of a hu­man be­ing, just bid­ing time un­til she does some­thing stupid enough to ac­tu­ally die. Her eyes are blood­shot and shal­low, and Kid­man’s work is trans­for­ma­tive.”

Ni­cole Kid­man is a haunted de­tec­tive in “De­stroyer.” ANNAPURNA PIC­TURES

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