The Complicated Reasons \'Cruelty Free\' Isn\'t Always True In Cosmetics

Portman’s career can be divided in half: pre-“Black Swan” and post-“Black Swan.” Darren Aronofsky, the director responsible for “Requiem for a Dream” and “The Wrestler,” had first discussed making a ballet movie with Portman back in 2000. But by late 2009, when they started shooting “Black Swan,” the experience took on a whole new meaning.

“As I’m getting older, it’s becoming more and more difficult to rest on the patterns of being sort of cute and girly,” Portman had said earlier that year, again revealing a mindfulness that veterans like Julia Roberts and Johnny Depp sometimes lacked. Hardly the sort of de-glammed indie that acts as a calculated career rebirth, “Black Swan” ― like “Swan Lake,” the production that inspired Aronofsky’s story ― married the two halves of Portman’s persona. She was the good girl gone bad, but with a twist: Her character, Nina Sayers, had a distinct, pulsating psychology that rooted her obsessive quest for perfection in personal history, the competitive New York dance scene and a hunger to abandon the arrested adolescence prescribed by her mother (Barbara Hershey). Nina refused to be a “sweet girl” any longer, and so did Portman. Armed with an operatic character arc, unconventional leading-lady stature and a grandeur that recalled “The Red Shoes” and “Repulsion,” Portman found what any famous actor longs for: material uncannily hewed to their own talents and reputation. That the role won her an Oscar isn’t even the most relevant thing about it. 

Ever since, Portman has claimed a jurisdiction that extends even to her blockbuster endeavors. Her character in “No Strings Attached” (2011) is an underwritten garble, but at least the movie gave her a genre that had somehow eluded her: the romantic comedy. (Later, it would also let her lament the gender pay gap.) She helped sculpt Jane Foster in “Thor” (2011) and “Thor: The Dark World” (2013) ― hardly her most compelling work, but still an important marker of her feminist ideology, as she touted the heroine’s book-smart heft. The juvenile “Your Highness” (2011) was an unfortunate diversion for everyone involved ― seriously, it’s terrible ― but not many people saw it, so Portman sailed unscathed into arty Terrence Malick territory, bringing an inspired naturalism to “Knight of Cups” (2015) and the superior “Song to Song” (2017). 

The gumption she’d showcased in “Black Swan” fully manifested with her feature-length directorial debut, “A Tale of Love and Darkness” (2015), an uncommercial passion project that let her tap into her Jewish roots and show off her Hebrew. No one could call her unworldly anymore. Portman perhaps shouldn’t have cast herself as a plagued midcentury Jerusalem mother, but “Love and Darkness” boasts an eye for tone and aesthetics. Her next starring role, in the revisionist Western “Jane Got a Gun” (2016), could have been a milestone, had the project not suffered production woes after its initial director, Lynne Ramsay, dropped out. Portman should have exited with Ramsay, but she stuck around for what became a noble misfire and a financial dud.

The spottiness of “Love and Darkness” and “Jane Got a Gun” made it all the more enrapturing when, in late 2016, Portman delivered a performance that rivaled “Black Swan.” I’m referring, of course, to “Jackie,” in which she plays Jacqueline Kennedy in the days after JFK’s 1963 assassination.

Portman walks a tightrope throughout Pablo Larraín’s brilliant psychodrama, again contending with what it means to put on a public performance, just as she did in “Black Swan.” In her hands, Jackie is forever on the cusp of a breakdown, and yet she remains stunningly composed, bottling up her grief and packaging it for the world’s prying consumption. To watch Portman in “Jackie,” shot largely in close-ups, is to realize that no one else could have played her. Maybe Portman’s familiarity with professional criticism helped her relate to the much-loved and much-loathed first lady, or maybe she’d become such a nuanced actress in her 30s that she could convey a dozen emotions with a soft smirk. Whatever it was, enough can’t be said of how important ― and perfect ― “Jackie” is for Portman, and Portman for it. Her enchanting stare, first seen two decades earlier, had never been put to such urgent use. 

It’s the path that led her to “Vox Lux,” another fiery melodrama about public performances. If Portman channeled the Freudian superego in this year’s “Annihilation,” she’s total id in “Vox Lux” ― and that’s a far more salient dichotomy than the madonna-whore dynamic that once followed her. As a scientist exploring a trippy netherworld in “Annihilation,” she is calm and resolved; as an emotionally and intellectually scarred pop star in “Vox Lux,” she is brash and vituperative. But both movies present a steely reserve, and both are among her most dynamic work. 

Just as “Black Swan” retooled Portman’s caliber, her off-screen persona throughout the ensuing decade has contributed to her renewed renown. Having dated Moby and Devendra Banhart, she married “Black Swan” choreographer Benjamin Millepied in 2012; they have two children together. She’s been an advocate for liberal causes like marriage equality, veganism (inspired by pen pal Jonathan Safran Foer) and the developing world, as well as a critic of the Israeli government. Portman sometimes seems standoffish, but that comes second to her vocal feminism, which has made her a key player in the Time’s Up movement

No one in this day and age can look at Portman and still think of her as the little girl from “The Professional” and “Mars Attacks!” Part of that is fortuitous. The ebbs and flows of fame, after all, are not cooked in a vat and ladled out with precision. But Portman also deserves credit for much of it, for being a well-read, conscientious warrior who weathered critical disfavor, male directors’ sexualizing instincts and an ecosystem that once encouraged us to trash actresses. She has emerged the author of her own legacy, a true professional.

Source : https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/natalie-portman-vox-lux-career-evolution_us_5c080ddfe4b069028dc5f66b

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