Olivia Wilde Gets Naked!
Ok, so my headline is a shameless bit of click-bait. But I’m willing to do anything to get people to see Meadowland, the transcendently powerful new film produced by and starring Olivia Wilde. And my title isn’t completely untrue. Wilde does a semi-nude scene in the film, but more importantly, she goes full-frontal emotionally naked.
She stars as a Newark public school teacher whose young son disappears from a gas-station bathroom. So it’s not exactly a date movie. More like a stay-home-alone-and-attempt-suicide kind of movie. But Wilde’s stunning performance—and the entire film, written by first-timer Chris Rossi and marking the directorial debut of Skeleton Twins cinematographer Reed Morano (a woman)—demands to be seen.
The unimaginable grief of losing a child has been depicted on film before with varying degrees of creative success—I walked out on Nicole Kidman’s hollow turn as a mom in mourning in Rabbit Hole but was deeply moved by Jessica Chastain’s little-seen tour de force in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. But Wilde plumbs new depths of pain and reaches new heights as an actress in the process.
Ever since her revealing 2003 debut as a porn-star Juliet in the Shakespearean drama Skin (sadly cancelled by Fox after only three episodes), Wilde has proven to be truly wild at heart. True, she’s made some bad mainstream moves (Cowboys & Aliens, The Change-Up), but she’s also shown an appetite for meatier fare like Alpha Dog, Butter and Deadfall. As her character descends into mental illness, death metal and self-harm—and becomes disturbingly obsessed with an epileptic outcast student at her school—Wilde does the finest work of her career.
She’s surrounded by an equally flawless ensemble: Luke Wilson as her confused-cop husband, Giovanni Ribisi as her drugged-out brother-in-law, John Leguizamo as a support-group friend, and Kevin Corrigan as the young outcast’s skeezeball foster father. (Only Elisabeth Moss rings untrue as a convenience-store customer.)
Meadowland is not a film for everyone. But from its jarringly cold opening scene to its beautifully surreal last shot, it’s breathtakingly, punch-you-in-gut beautiful. And in an age when actresses are acclaimed as brave for going makeup-free in empty exercises in narcissism like Jennifer Aniston’s Cake, Olivia Wilde puts them all to shame…and drives me to shamelessness.