If anything, one could call 2002 the 'break out' year for actress Shannyn Sossamon. That was the year she co-starred in the Josh Hartnett comedy "40 Days and 40 Nights" and the wonderfully dark adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' "The Rules of Attraction". I was struck by both roles... I'd never seen this dark haired beauty before but in both films, she managed to be seductive without really doing much at all. She reminded me of a much sweeter, less sardonic Winona Ryder from the early 90's. Even though I developed an attraction to her as an actress, she floated out of view for several years and I'd basically forgotten her. Then, last month I rented an indie film called "Wristcutters: A Love Story", and there she was, not looking a day older then she did playing a high schooler and then a college virgin in her successive 2002 roles. Here, she played the love interest of actor Patrick Fugit, both young people trapped in a hellish purgatory for people who commit suicide. But there was something different about her in "Wristcutters"- she seemed more confident and less involved with her role as a 'female' in a (mostly) male cast. She fit right in as one of the guys, exuding a welcome brashness. Her character, incessantly looking for someone "in charge" of the purgatory because her admittance there was a "mistake" lends an air of independence to her performance, but it's something more than that. If anything, Sossamon had progressed from the feminine college girl image into a woman seeking more than co-star status with actors like Josh Hartnett and James Vanderbeek. Not only was she the best thing in "Wristcutters", but she lent the film its emotional core. That's not always an easy thing to do. But then, I rented "One Missed Call" this week (don't ask me why... I'm a sucker for all horror), the remake of Takashi Miike's original from '03, and Sossamon seems to have fallen back into the scared, helpless college student role. Though she is given more to do than her co-stars, its still a relatively lazy and thankless performance. While there are moments when she shows a little more, its hard to get excited over a role in the ubiquitous j-horror remake cycle. Was this the only thing available to her? Has she fallen that far off Hollywood's radar or did no one besides me really get her? Whatever the reason, here's hoping the Hawaiian born Sossamon has more coming her way. Beauty and acting chops is a nice combo.
Then, a second B grade rental fully re-invigorated my complete attraction to Jessica Alba. Sure... its easy to throw stones at a glass house, but I watched "Awake" because, honestly, I'll watch anything with the great Terrence Howard. Surprisingly, it's not as bad as you might think. Though it does star Hayden Christensen as a young, rich man who undergoes a heart transplant surgery, there are plenty of surprises and twists to keep it energetic and compulsively watchable. Alba, getting plenty of sexy screen time, does a great job (gasp) here as the worried wife of Christensen. The less you know about "Awake", the more fun it'll be. Now I'm not ready to throw down the gauntlet and confess Alba as a beauty with full-on acting chops, but for the first time, I believed her as a character. She holds her own with a strong cast- well except Christensen who denigrates into his TWO acting modes, brooding and not-so-brooding.
Having survived the 'bikini syndrome'- i.e. starring in a movie where the actress is bikini clad for 90% of its running time- can be a career killer. Alba seems to have outgrown that mantra (and graduated to the fanboy obsession range with her sultry turn in "Sin City"!) but then a minor misstep in 2008. Like Sossamon, she starred earlier this year in "The Eye", a remake of a J-horror film. Sound familiar? While my intention is certainly not to draw attention to the obviously bad efforts of those types of films, I do contend that I forgive certain roadblocks from Alba and Sossamon. While I'm not ready to acclaim them on the same playing field as, say, Charlize Theron or Salma Hayek, they are hovering very close to the top of my stalker list (kidding). I'm simply ready to forget and forgive two cinematic missteps and hope they get their act together and star in separate Oscar driven epics in the near future. Or at least one of those boring period pieces like Keira Knightley. Anything to raise their cache. I certainly feel both of them have much more to give the movie-going public, Sossamon especially.