Think about the last time you were compelled to make a joke on Kristen Stewart's behalf. Now think about the exact moment you realized Kristen Stewart is actually cool. Was it when Joan Jett gave her word of blessing? When Patti Smith gushed over Stewart in Interview? Was it the humiliating and genuine public apology for her breakup with Robert Pattinson or the unapologetic and unpublic way she went about her next relationship? Was it the Kerouac movie or the Guantanamo movie? Were you more into her killer performance opposite Julianne Moore or her killer performance opposite Juliette Binoche?
I personally was on board for Kristen Stewart through and despite the Twilight madness because my adolescent obsession with the Oscars led me to the return-to-nature drama Into the Wild in 2007, in which she’s just great in a small role as a trailer park teen who crushes on bourgeois wanderer Emile Hirsch.
Maybe you’re not into indie movies, maybe you’re not into fashion, and maybe you haven’t noticed it yet, but there is nothing to hate about Kristen Stewart. Her performances have ranged from good to great in her last five or so films, and she’s eschewing Hollywood studio fare that doesn’t suit her offbeat, natural performance style in favor of working with major directors in smaller projects. She’s settled into a consistent style that incorporates the messy locks that once infuriated fashion bloggers. She’s upped her dating situation. And, hopefully, we’ve grown, too — who in 2016 is about to tell a girl she has to smile?
But if American audiences still need a little time to get over past associations to fall in love with Kristen Stewart properly, she only has to look across the Atlantic to France to find a nation waiting with open arms.
It’s a silly yet reliable phenomenon, but in every generation, the French film industry unofficially chooses an American star to carry the baton for all that is the best, the sulkiest, the cigarettiest, and the Frenchiest in American movies. The chosen one once seemed as if it would be Ryan Gosling, back when he was looking fine every year on the Croisette with a different Nicolas Winding Refn or Ryan-Gosling-Imitates-Nicolas-Winding-Refn art film. Before Ryan, when the world was still weeping for The Pianist, France swooned for Adrien Brody. Before Adrien, it was Sean Penn, who just last year won a lifetime achievement award from the Césars, the French equivalent of the Oscars. Before Sean, the French loved Woody Allen, whose movies still do major box office work abroad, and who has opened the Cannes Film Festival twice in his career thus far. As with Woody, France was on board early for Jane Fonda, who starred in films by French legends Jean-Luc Godard and Roger Vadim, the latter of whom she even married for a time. And so the chain continues on from Jerry Lewis to Josephine Baker — a most agreeable form of transcontinental trade.
And now there is Kristen Stewart. It was announced last week that Stewart will be starring in the next Woody Allen film set to open Cannes, and she’ll also be in the Cannes competition with her Paris-set Olivier Assayas film, Personal Shopper. She won a César for her role in The Clouds of Sils Maria, her last movie with Assayas co-starring Juliette Binoche, making her the only American to ever win a French award for acting in English. She’s been the longtime muse for French design legend and Chanel head Karl Lagerfeld. She’s dating a French singer-songwriter, Soko. It’s not just that France is calling — Kristen Stewart is answering.
The EU might be waning, but from Balzac to Balmain, French taste is always in style. What je ne sais quoi are these stateside stars projecting that’s setting the French industry en flambé, and how can we follow? Is it the artfully greasy hair? The devotion to dark clothing, cigarettes, beatnik literature, and subtle tattoos? The mumbly and purer-than-thou artistic aspirations?
Let’s just say the French film industry has a type. Doesn’t matter the decade, France will always love America’s soft-boy problematic faves — just looks like now our best soft boy is a girl.