Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Anna Kendrick, before the Oscar breakthrough

Before Up In the Air, before the string of honors (some 16 citations!) that culminated in an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her fantastic work in that film (I was rooting for her over Mo'nique, and I wanted Up In the Air to win at least Best Screenplay for Jason Reitman), before even the Twilight (non-)Saga, Anna Kendrick was a Broadway baby.

She was, in fact, a Tony nominee at age 12, for the musical High Society--making her “the third-youngest nominee ever after 10-year-old Frankie Michaels and 11-year-old Daisy Eagan, who both went on to win” [Wikipedia].

If you're a Broadway-musical junkie like me and you've seen the concert My Favorite Broadway: The Leading Ladies on DVD, then the name Anna Kendrick would have rung a bell. In this 1998 extravaganza, ranged against the likes of Liza Minnelli, Jennifer Holliday, Marin Mazzie, Audra McDonald, Bebe Neuwirth, Elaine Stritch and other musical-theater giants, Kendrick, all of 13 years old, held her own with a winning number called Life Upon the Wicked Stage.

The conceit was, this song from the landmark musical Showboat, sung by a dreamy ingenue, was juxtaposed with a gaggle of cynical, foul-mouthed, rum-addled bar women--the Kit Kat Girls from Cabaret--whose job it was to mock the naivete of the girl and her song. Throughout, Kendrick, already a lovely presence, was poised, charming--blissfully “in the zone,” so to speak. After watching her in this number, you knew she was a bright young talent bound for bigger things.

The next time the name Anna Kendrick came up, it was in the 2003 movie musical Camp, which had a more radical conceit: a summer retreat for kids who ate and breathed theater, especially musical theater of the Sondheim kind (there IS a camp like it in the US). Naturally, these were often the school outcasts--the young artistes, the sensitive ones, the gay and fey (or suspected to be), the unconventional kids who marched to a different beat. So you get a scene where, on the bus, instead of the teens horsing around to--oh, I don't know, Lady GaGa or Miley Cyrus--they're collectively warbling Losing My Mind instead.

Kendrick plays Fritzi, a mousy, needy girl always bossed around by her friend Jill, a girl of imperious self-assurance who throws her weight around and schemes to grab the best roles. In a climactic scene, as Jill is about to launch into her showcase performance--The Ladies Who Lunch, from Sondheim's Company--Fritzi, fed up at her shabby treatment, sabotages the young diva's moment by marching up the stage, dragging her into the wings and finishing the number with a fierceness and sophistication never seen before. Kendrick is hilarious and dazzling in the part.

Have you seen Up In the Air? Go buy the DVD if you have to. Kendrick's breakdown scene in the airport alone is worth it. If she wants to, she'd make a great comic actress. But here's hoping she finds time to return to the stage and sing again soon.


ʎonqʎʇıɔ said...

saw up in the air a few days ago and her performance compelled me to google her endlessly. i barely recognized her from her non-ganap performance at twilight. i'm surprised she isn't getting more work. she can really act!

i was a little sad the movie didn't win any major awards. the writing alone was very impressive. the acting too was rather impressive although i've always been a clooney fan.

erasmusa said...

haven't seen the film, but kendrick is delightful in these clips. salamat, gibbs!

John said...

I love Anna Kendrick! She was so amazing in the My Favorite Broadway concert. And when I was 9 I watched CAMP almost everyday. She is waaay too talented for Twilight.

Anonymous said...

shocks, siya nga iyon! i saw camp and ang galing ng performance niya doon. buti pa siya, kahit bata pa ang galing na. unlike ng ibang artista natin dito,tumanda na at lahat, HAMON pa din umarte.!

Martin said...

I LOVE CAMP! It's a good movie hahaha. Hilarious.

Drei said...

I love Up In The Air and was rooting for it for best picture, but honestly I thought Anna's performance and especially her role weren't challenging enough, not even for a nomination. I'll watch the film again. By the way Gibbs, kapitbahay ko si George Clooney ngayon haha!

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