In that aforementioned moment, after having breakdown after breakdown, personally or professionally manifested, she finally gets what she wants: a decent part in a play. But suddenly, she isn’t so sure she wants to continue acting after all. The role requires her to learn a song in a matter of a few days, and the production interferes with a wide variety of obligations. She’s scared. Why, she wonders, has she always had a habit of putting herself out there only to be overcome with terror when the moment of truth hits? Maybe she doesn’t really want to act, and her dreams of returning to the business were really her way of being hopeful for something outside her small domestic world.
We know exactly how she feels. Such is not unlike getting a job or getting accepted into college: elation is overwhelming at first, but it’s slowly overtaken by the anxiety of realizing that you’re going to have to step outside your comfort zone to get what you think you want.
For Burre, the stakes are high and the emotional tolls have the possibility to be big; she hasn’t acted in nearly a decade, and has grown to be so accustomed to life as a stay-at-home mom that it’d be much easier to simply continue being a wife and mother with little else to devote herself to besides her family. She hasn’t had to be courageous in years, and now she abruptly has to be brave and then some.
Actress, then, is a fascinating study of identity, and how playing multiple parts at once, fictional or otherwise, can still lead you to crises with yourself. Written, directed, and edited by Robert Greene, the film is a documentary that blurs the line between the real and the fake. We’d like to think all is candid, but the infrequent inserts of staged artistic flare-ups and by the reality that sometimes Burre is almost too frank about her struggles causes us to ponder just how much we’re watching a real woman’s hardships and how much we’re watching a performance. That makes the film octaves more intriguing — it’s invigorating, considering so few documentaries take such risks.
Adding to its redefinition is the grainy camerawork, which mimics any home video taking during Generation X’s prime, and its lack of conventionality. It follows its subject around as if she were a slightly more sane version of Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence (1974), never taking the time to have her formally introduce herself. Her endeavors and her emotional storms take precedence.
Burre is interesting as is, amplified by the knowledge that she is hardly the only actor or actress — or really any individual in the world — who has given up on their dreams early on only to later understand what a grave mistake they made. Burre wishes she could turn back time, and watching her have to come to terms with the fact that both her marriage and her stabs at regaining professional traction are flagging is heartbreaking. Since the movie’s release, Burre has gotten a couple roles here and there — but will she ever feel the satisfaction she once felt when she was a part of The Wire’s ensemble? B+
1 Hr., 27 Mins.
Actress July 21, 2017
particularly great moment in the provocative semi-documentary Actress (2014) occurs at the center of the film’s last act. The movie itself is about Brandy Burre, a 40-ish performer best known for a supporting role in The Wire (2002-2008), and her attempts to insinuate herself back into the entertainment industry after retiring to raise a family.