January 23, 2013

Ah, Kirsten Dunst. She was the queen of the late 90s and early 2000s, and for a while there it seemed like her attractive but also definitely kind of weird face was absolutely everywhere. She defined a generation! Or, sort of. Then she disappeared, and many of us ceased to think about her at all in her absence.

However, starting with Melancholia in 2011 and continuing with the acclaimed Bachelorette in 2012, Kirsten Dunst is making herself something of a little comeback. Now 31 years old, she’s starting to prove that she’s more than the teen queen we all took her for. I feel genuinely happy for her! And do you know why? Because she made some damn fine movies back in her heyday, and they got me through countless boring weekday afternoons as well as one really awkward date. In celebration of a career revived, I propose that we remember an impressive body of work gone by.

1. Dick – 1999


Who was Deep Throat, and what REALLY went on during the Nixon Watergate scandal? Who cares! This movie expertly evades facts and makes up a way better story instead. Together with Michelle Williams, Kirsten plays one half of a pair of teenage best friends who wander off during a tour of the white house and stumble upon some shady business. In exchange for their silence, they are appointed the official white house dog walkers, a position that allows them to get everybody in the white house stoned with some “special” brownies and leads to Michelle Williams’ character developing a major crush on the soon-to-be-ex President. Every little piece of the Watergate scandal is explained via the girls’ story – it’s brilliant. In it, Kirsten displays a keen sense of irony – she’s a foolish teenager, but she’s no fool. Kirsten Dunst everybody!

2. Drop Dead Gorgeous – 1999


Yo, this movie is fantastic. It has everything you could ever want: a beauty pageant, murder, Kirstie Alley, Allison Janney, a morgue, and the best Midwestern accents that have ever graced the silver screen. Kirsten basically plays her character from Dick – if that character worked in a morgue in Mount Rose Minnesota and were competing in a beauty pageant – and she does it expertly. Once again, she’s just an innocent teenager in the midst of a morally questionable situation!

3. Bring It On – 2000


Finally, a movie that took Kirsten’s innocent but shrewd teen and added that crucial hit-making element: cheerleading. Once again, Kirsten’s Torrance Shipman just wants to do right by her team; she had NO IDEA that all those moves were stolen from the talented but financially struggling inner city squad! It’s an uphill battle that includes a cheerleading dream sequence, a new best friend with a dreamy brother, and, of course, spirit fingers.

My sister and I rented the VHS from our local Video Horizons and kept it for so long that they just made us buy it, and we proceeded to watch it every single day for months.

4. Get Over It – 2001


This movie went somewhat unnoticed, but I can’t imagine why. Not only did it have Kirsten doing her now completely perfected thing, but it featured SISQO (who falls for Mila Kunis) and, in one of the best performances of his career, Martin Short. The premise is high school comedy gold: a fairly nondescript and forgettable guy gets broken up with, decides to do the school play to win back his girlfriend, and instead falls for the sweet and talented star (Kirsten). Martin Short plays the drama teacher and says stuff like “You’d tell me if you had a stroke, right?” Shane West is even there, doing an insane British accent (side note: his character is in a British boy band). IT’S AMAZING.

I saw “Get Over It” in theaters; I was on a date with my new boyfriend and I was so nervous that I just brought my best friend, too, without warning. Needless to say, it’s a nightmare of a memory, but the movie was good enough that we all got through it. I’m forever in Kirsten’s debt.

5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – 2004


Here, finally, we get a glimpse of what’s to come – a new character, someone with more depth than the Kirsten’s of the past. In the heartbreaking role of Mary, Dr. Howard Mierzwiak’s receptionist, Kirsten is a fuller version of the teenager she’d now been playing for so many years. Mary is one of the saddest and most telling parts of this haunting movie, even though she’s not as often remembered as Clementine and Joel. Kirsten plays her beautifully, and the acute tragedy of the movie comes alive in her struggle to accept her memories.

Kirsten has given us much. Let’s support her as she forges ahead.

Re-live her glory on Portable.

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