I hope everyone had a happy new year! The last half of the year had been so deathly quiet that I almost considered not doing a review. What was I going to recap? And then I remembered that six months ago I was almost suffering from Natalie Portman overload. Twenty-eleven was really the Year of Natalie, with five new movie releases (six if you count Black Swan‘s wide/international release) and her massive winning streak during awards season. Here’s all you missed if you were living under a rock in 2011.
The Other Woman
The year kicked off with an On Demand release of the much-delayed Don Roos drama, The Other Woman. The original cut of the film had screened at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival under the name Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, but failed to find a distributor until IFC picked it up in late 2010. Natalie’s Oscar buzz more than likely played a role in finally getting the film into U.S. theaters. It was given a very limited release in early February. Still, most didn’t get an opportunity to see the film until it was given a home release later in the year. The film was met with negative reviews, citing the melodramatic script. Despite this, Natalie was praised for her mature performance as Emilia Greenleaf, a woman dealing with the complicated relationships in her life while she internalizes her grief and guilt over the death of her newborn.
No Strings Attached
No Strings Attached, Ivan Reitman’s raunchy romantic comedy about fuckbuddies, premiered to a much wider audience in American theaters in late January. Though the film received mixed reviews from critics, it was successful at the box office. Natalie received generally positive reviews for her comedic performance as Emma Kurtzman, an emotionally unavailable doctor being pursued by her best friend. No Strings Attached marked Natalie’s first leading role in a comedy.
Awards Season, or, WIN ALL THE AWARDS
Following Black Swan‘s enormous crossover success, Natalie was shortlisted and nominated for every major award for her critically-acclaimed performance as a high-strung ballerina driven to madness by her obsession with perfection. Though Black Swan went home empty handed, by the end of February, Natalie had collected statues for the Critics’ Choice Award, Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, Independent Spirit Award, BAFTA, and (most importantly) the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. It was a very exciting time to be a fan, as Natalie was everywhere. After her wins, she declared that she would be taking a long (and well-deserved) break from acting to focus on her new family.
Portman vs. Galliano
Only days before her Dior campaign was set to debut, Natalie allegedly had a near-falling out with the fashion house over former head designer John Galliano’s infamous anti-Semitic tirade. Natalie released a public statement declaring that she was “deeply shocked and disgusted” by his comments and that she would not be associated with Galliano in any way. Dior immediately suspended him and condemned his statements. According to French paper Le Parisien, Dior worked with Natalie and lawyers over the phone for a whole night in efforts to keep her onboard. There was a bit of controversy as to whether or not Natalie was being hypocritical by sticking with Dior in the end. However, with Galliano out the door and more than likely not associated with Dior’s makeup and fragrances in the first place, there wasn’t really much to be raising eyebrows about.
Miss Dior Chérie campaign
In March, Natalie officially became the new face of Christian Dior’s Miss Dior Chérie fragrance. She currently appears in an ad campaign shot by Tim Walker and a commercial directed by Sofia Coppola. At the end of 2011, it was announced that Natalie will continue lending her face for the new Miss Dior Eau Fraiche fragrance. She is also being featured in upcoming campaigns for Dior Parfum’s makeup line, such as Diorskin Forever foundation, Diorshow mascara, and Rouge Dior Laque lipstick.
Black Swan controversy
Who knew that what amounts to a big misunderstanding would be the biggest story of the year? On the heels of Natalie’s Oscar win, ballet soloist Sarah Lane gave a scathing interview to Dance Magazine claiming that she was never appropriately credited for her work as a dance double in Black Swan and that the producers made it seem as if Natalie did all of the dancing herself. While Fox Searchlight did go a little too hard during their Oscar campaigning, Lane stretched the truth quite a bit herself. Curiously, she gave an interview to the same magazine only a couple of months prior saying that she got everything she wanted out of her work on the film (until it became unexpectedly successful, of course). Despite her feelings otherwise, Lane received not one, not two, but three credits for her work on the film. Her accusations also flew in the face of the fact that Natalie never once claimed or insinuated she did all of the dancing by herself. On the contrary, she made no secret about using body doubles, mentioning Sarah Lane by name.
Though Lane’s real ire was mostly directed at the producers, the media had a field day creating a scandal for the new Best Actress winner. While Natalie chose to remain mum on the drama, Darren Aronofsky and Mila Kunis jumped to defend her in the press as the story grew increasingly slanderous and personal. Unfortunately, the damage was already done. After Lane finally got her televised interview and revealed herself to be a bit of a whiny attention seeker, the media grew tired of her and the scandal quickly fizzled out. But not before dragging Natalie, her trainers, the choreographer, and the rest of the production thoroughly through the mud. During a radio interview for Thor promotion (which just goes to show you how long this really went on), a weary-sounding Natalie finally broke her silence on the topic. While she essentially repeated what she had said previously during Black Swan promotion — she danced what she was capable of and a double filled in for the rest — she had nothing but kind words for Sarah Lane and said that she was sorry that she didn’t feel she was acknowledged for her work on the film.
In early April, David Gordon Green and Danny McBride’s comedy/fantasy Your Highness dropped into American theaters. Unfortunately, much like the awesomely bad movies the filmmakers paid homage to, it was a huge failure. Your Highness received overall negative reviews, from both critics and audiences alike. Though many wondered what Natalie Portman was doing starring in such a stinker, her small role as Isabel, the feisty warrior and straight (wo)man to McBride, was generally considered to be one of the film’s few high points.
Marvel Studios and Kenneth Branagh’s superhero movie Thor debuted in Australia in late April. Natalie starred in the film as Jane Foster, the titular character’s love interest. Though many were skeptical, it turned out to be a surprise hit at the box office and one of Natalie’s most successful films of the year. Thor received generally positive reviews from critics and audiences, though response to Natalie’s underdeveloped character was rather lukewarm. Following the film’s success, a sequel was announced, with Natalie set to reprise her role as Jane. In October, it was announced that director Patty Jenkins would be taking over for Branagh (who would not be returning for the sequel due to scheduling conflicts) and a release date is slated for November 15, 2013. However, Jenkins exited Thor 2 production due to creative differences in early December. Though Jenkins stated that she parted with Marvel on good terms, it is rumored that she was fired without warning and Natalie (who may have had a hand in getting her hired in the first place) is furious. At the end of the month, Alan Taylor was announced to be her replacement.
After distribution and legal woes, Spencer Susser’s dramedy Hesher finally received a limited theatrical release in the U.S. in May. Much like The Other Woman, the film was given such a selective release that many had to wait for a home release. Hesher received mixed reviews from critics, but audiences were more positive. Natalie had a small role in the film as Nicole, an insecure, down-on-her-luck grocery clerk who befriends a troubled boy.
It’s a boy!
In June, People Magazine announced that Natalie had given birth to her first son with fiance Benjamin Millepied. According to “sources,” baby Aleph was born on June 6, 2011. Considering how fiercely private Natalie is, I wouldn’t expect any more information than that.
And that’s all, folks. Since the birth of her son, things have been all quiet on the Nat front. With only an appearance at the Academy Awards, a 3D re-release of the The Phantom Menace, and Thor 2 to look forward to (more than a year away), let’s hope we get some news in the new year!