Welcome to the fourth week of Buried Credits, a column that deep dives into the IMDB pages of favorite actors, directors, and writers to find their lost, forgotten or unknown film and TV credits. This week’s actor…
Long before seeing her grace the screen, Eva Green became a name I recognized, from the phrase “only reason to watch this film” attached to it. Reviews would deem a movie horrible but single out her contribution as a saving grace. It became such a pattern that I couldn’t wait to catch her acting for myself and with Penny Dreadful, a magical pairing of star and show, man, did I ever. As evidence I give you the séance scene from episode two. No knock on episode one, but this is the moment where, should you not already be lock, line, and sinker hooked on this show, you will be after seeing the pure physicality and vocal somersaults Green adds to the role of Miss. Vanessa Ives. She always makes you believe in the predicament of her characters and it’s that investment that makes her electric, whether the material is proportionately up to snuff.
Directed by Jordan Scott
Screenplay by Ben Court, Caroline Ip, and Jordan Scott
Based on the novel by Sheila Kohler
Full of sinister, gothic overtones, Cracks’ plot isn’t hard to follow. A boarding school full of abandoned girls, who crave individual attention. A teacher who makes them feel special, by handing out exclusive spots on her diving team and offering stories of past adventures, as an unaccompanied female traveller in the 30’s, for the girls to aspire to. Toting desire as the key to achieving your dreams, Miss. G. is an attractive role model but is she for real?
Sometimes limits aren’t bad and when the girls take advantage of these new ideas of freedom, as a free pass to give into their wildest inclinations, their beloved Miss. G. endorses their efforts, rather than curb them in the slightest. It’s how she lives her own life. For all her claims of being prepared to do anything for her girls, this isn’t quite true. She values her place as their fun teacher too much. Leading the team in late night skinny dips on the water and providing scandalous literature to peak their curiously, Miss. G. is more friend than coach, and that’s exactly how she likes it. Her actions aren’t intended as breaths of fresh air, but are motivated by a need to be liked that get provoked when a new girl at school pokes holes in her image.
A better diver than the other girls, it’s not surprising that team captain, Di (Juno Temple) should feel jealous of Fiamma (María Valverde), especially with Miss. G. stroking the flames, by giving Fiamma the attention usually bestowed on her. Miss. G’s reaction to the child’s arrival is a different matter. Worldly in a way none of the others have been, Fiamma is equipped to find flaws in Miss. G’s narrative that no one has ever tested. Despite keeping most of these discoveries to herself, the very fact that Fiamma wants to keep her distance from the woman is taken as an affront. Dislike of Miss. G. is unprecedented and her doting students would rather lash out than consider what Fiamma has to say about her, no matter how creepy and bad it gets.
Cracks has to end the way it does but sometimes the low expectations for young people rising above bad influences, without turning primitive, gets old. The ensemble cast of young actors is top notch but the primary power of this film comes from Green as the character who “cracks.” Slowly drawing back the curtain to show the insecure woman beneath all the colorful headbands, you can literally see Miss. G. losing control and it’s sad as much as paralyzing.
In one revealing moment, the same women who boasts of traveling alone faces buying some sweets and a loaf of bread at a shop. Introduced with no fanfare, and allowing viewers to pick up on its implications at their own pace, this scene made the movie for me, in showing just how vulnerable Miss. G. is outside of her assumed position of popular authority.
Verdict: Buried Treasure
Cracks doesn’t add anything new to the “loss of innocence”/peer pressure template, except some great young actors, but Green’s isolated character arc is a tour-de-force of crumbling delusion.
Check back tomorrow for a look at Eva Green’s performance as an artist whose latest project puts her life on the line.