What’s happened to the world when we say a promising young starlet might be able to expand her acting craft by acting in a movie adaptation of a Stephenie Meyer book? With the “Twilight” movies finally wrapped and nobody claiming those as proof of acting gold, it’s too bad Kristen Stewart’s Bella Swan wasn’t allowed to have more than one personality. Fortunately, for rising star Saoirse Ronan, she’ll have that chance, even if it has nothing to do with multi-personality disorder.
In “The Host”, opening March 29, Ronan plays the protagonist Melanie Stryder who becomes possessed in part by a soul named Wanderer. And while that was conveyed compellingly in the book, nobody really knows how Ronan will be able to portray two distinct personalities through one body. It’s a challenge only the best new actresses covet, even if a chance like it is exceedingly rare.
Consider that the last time an actress effectively portrayed a dual personality was long before Ronan was even born. While many of them were literally about those with multiple personality disorders, the best of them were by some of the world’s greatest directors. If you’ve ever seen “Persona” by Ingmar Bergman from 1966, then you know how the depiction of two women with changing personalities can become sheer art and cerebral.
As well, such a plot can shed significant mainstream light on the problem as Sally Field did with “Sybil” in 1976. Never, though, have we seen a movie that deals with a dual personality from a space-traveling soul possession. The only thing coming close is in the soul swap movies of “Freaky Friday” and the like that merely exaggerated the demarcation between the swapped people.
So how will Saoirse Ronan depict the communication between Wanderer and the Melanie character? Will we see her shift personalities back and forth throughout as fans read in the book? It shouldn’t be a challenge for the gifted Ronan who has one of those blank canvas faces that can paint myriad expressions in the way Mia Wasikowska does slightly more profoundly.
The fact that Wanderer loves one man and Melanie loves another is another unique way to convey a complicated romance without a physical triangle. Ronan, however, has to really show a clear difference in personalities if she doesn’t want to confuse viewers. If she succeeds, she’ll prove herself more than capable of going beyond playing strong teenagers caught up in action-oriented situations.
Once you can prove you can play two people in one film before even turning 21, you’ve done something never accomplished before. Whether that means award talk is something to consider. Regardless, the problem lies in Ronan being nominated for a project from the author of “Twilight” that perhaps gives instant feelings of anathema to academy members.
No matter, because great performances can easily be remembered from movies that aren’t ordinarily considered worthy of the award circuit. We’ve seen that before, and it usually means being rescued from those non-award projects into something greater.
But imagine how much better things would be if a good idea that’s stuck in a mediocre film could transplant into a higher-end project, much like the souls in “The Host” do with people.