Yay, laura dern:



A whole lot of love for a Hollywood dynamo


Gravity-defying faux-hawks, black leather bodysuits and a punkrock soundtrack that’s the stuff of legend: ladies and gentlemen (and non-binary folks), this is the best movie about music you’ve likely never seen. The twisted comedy marks Laura Dern’s breakout role, starring alongside Diane Lane and Marin Kanter as orphaned teens who decide to start a punk band called The Stains. They are, of course, met with a lot of encouragem­ent from their male peers – just kidding! The men are the absolute worst, but on the plus side, a lot of them are played by real punk legends from The Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Tubes. It’s like a gritty Josie and the Pussycats with a much greater risk of overdosing on crack. It’s also a fitting start for Dern, who’s maintained that punk-rock energy throughout her career, even if she’s (sadly) shifted away from the aesthetic.


Infamously booed at Cannes on its release, this David Lynch nightmare fuel is, as its name suggests, wild. Sailor (Nicolas Cage) and Lula (Laura Dern) are in love, but Lula’s mother disapprove­s, so she puts out a hit on Sailor because, of course she does – this is a Lynch film, after all. What follows is a Bonnie and Clyde-style road trip to California, dotted with a few murders, a car crash, a bank robbery, some explosions, gratuitous sex scenes, and Cage serenading Dern like a drugged-out Elvis backed by a heavy metal band. Not enough is written about how Dern has influenced and inspired David Lynch, but their collaborat­ions, including Blue Velvet and Inland Empire, remain his most divisive, surreal and compelling works. Pairing Dern with Cage was a stroke of genius, as she’s arguably the only actress who can match Cage’s brand of weird and crank it to 11.

THE TALE (2018)

Although its trailer gives off gritty midday-moviemeets-the Saddle Club vibes, this mystery-thriller (based on real events) is more like the spiritual successor of Gone Girl and Girl on a Train – in fact, I think not calling it ‘Horse Girl’ was a serious missed opportunit­y. Laura Dern plays Jennifer Fox, a successful documentar­ian who stumbles on a story she wrote when she was 13 about being sexually abused by two adults at a horse-riding camp. The mystery comes in when Fox decides to figure out how true this story actually is. It’s rare to see an account of child abuse told directly from a child’s perspectiv­e, but Fox, who wrote and directed the film, has Dern read her childhood story verbatim, transformi­ng her 13-year-old self into the narrator. This isn’t an easy watch, but Dern is delicate and mesmerisin­g in what might be her most underrated performanc­e to date. ...................

BIG LITTLE LIES (2017–2019)

This HBO Drama series (with a capital D) starts with a murder, then backtracks to give us insight into the lives of the five suspects: local mums who are dealing with schoolyard drama at an intensity only upper-class white suburbia can contain. Cast as an antagonist to Reese Witherspoo­n’s power-top, Madeline Mackenzie, and Nicole Kidman’s power-bottom, Celeste Wright, Laura Dern absolutely dominates. It should be obvious by now that Dern doesn’t shy away from a difficult role. Her turn as Renata Klein, a boss-level ‘Karen’, is a tightrope walk above being written off as a shrill hell-beast stereotype, and she balances this bitch perfectly. She’s full of rage, and gives us some of TV’S most iconic moments of catharsis, like when she flips her deadbeat husband off and speeds down a highway screaming, “WILL SOMEBODY GIVE A WOMAN A MOMENT!”


The premise of this Spielberg classic (based on the 1990 Michael Crichton novel) is absurdly fantastica­l: David Attenborou­gh’s cashed-up brother creates a theme park with real dinosaurs, only to watch it succumb to chaos theory. Laura Dern’s Dr Sattler, however, is grounded in a reality Hollywood keeps trying to deny: that women don’t have to exhibit traditiona­lly ‘masculine’ traits to be action heroes. Much like her nemesis, the Velocirapt­or, she’s quietly clever and determined. She doesn’t punch or shoot her way out of situations. In fact, the movie goes to great lengths to show that those solutions lead to being eaten. This is the first film I remember seeing in the cinema. My mum wrote me a note to get me out of class so I could gaze up at a goddess in khaki shorts for two hours – that’s women supporting women.


Remember 2019, when we could all hang out at pubs, but we chose to stay home and post memes of Adam Driver punching a wall instead? Me neither. This semiautobi­ographical love story about a divorce between Charlie (Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) was apparently a big deal back then, but while the hype, the awards and the memes have dissipated, Laura Dern’s divorce attorney, Nora, remains one of the more compelling arguments to start working on your biceps. Dern is most fun to watch when a role lets her go big. Nora is probably best remembered for her ripping monologue about mums getting the shit end of the stick when it comes to expectatio­ns of parenting, but the role is less about what she says and more about how she says it: like a sexy evangelist on the convert trail. Dern deserved to finally win an Oscar for playing a woman geared to con her way to victory.


The very first word spoken in David Lynch’s classic, Twin Peaks, is “Diane”. She’s an enigmatic and entirely absent secretary, spoken to through a dictaphone by the show’s everyman FBI agent Dale Cooper. She’s described in the original series as a “cross between a cabaret singer and a saint”. It’s quite the reputation to live up to, but there’s little doubt within the rabid community of obsessive fans that Lynch had Laura Dern in mind for the role from the start. She appears in the show’s reboot for the first time as if she’s always been there – a crucial piece in this increasing­ly alarming puzzle, ready to say “fuck you” to anyone who crosses her path. Released 25 years after the season two finale, The Return had a lot riding on it, and it didn’t disappoint. Neither did Dern.


I want to preface what is going to be a very bleak synopsis by making it clear this is a ludicrousl­y funny satire. Laura Dern plays Ruth Stoops, an addict who’s had her four children removed by the state of Nebraska, and is encouraged by a judge to abort her fifth after she’s caught huffing paint. When her story goes public, Stoops finds herself in the middle of the abortion debate, with both sides vying for her endorsemen­t. Nothing about this screams comedy, and yet here I am, crying with laughter, probably going straight to hell. Director Alexander Payne is the villainous mind behind the Reese Witherspoo­n masterpiec­e Election, and this earlier film is half as popular, but arguably just as good. Dern acts with her whole body, and her physicalit­y is what sells the dark humour here. If you loved Drop Dead Gorgeous, or the recent Trump-era satire The Hunt, this is your new favourite film.

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