Mother Unnatural

Stop making that face, Nicole Kidman — don’t you know it’ll get stuck that way?
Stop making that face, Nicole Kidman — don’t you know it’ll get stuck that way?

I’m 36. Thanks to good genes (hi, Grandma!) and religious use of sunblock and sunglasses, my face is holding up pretty well. I don’t mind, really, that three little lines have appeared on my forehead or that my mouth is getting set off by those parenthetical lines. Beats the alternative, as they say.

That said, I do like it when I hand over my ID and get complimented on not looking my age. I understand the attraction of wanting to look younger. And if a woman wants to get Botox or Juvederm or surgery, good for her. Not my thing, but neither are capri pants, and that industry is doing just fine without my support.

Then there’s Nicole Kidman, who appears in “Stoker,” a deliciously creepy film (opening locally Friday) in which she plays Evie, mother to 18-year-old India. Kidman is mesmerizing in the film; it may be her best performance since 1995’s “To Die For,” which featured my favorite turn of hers. And director Park Chan-wook loves his close-ups, particularly in this film, where the devil (nearly literally) is in the details. Every close-up of Kidman, though, jolted me because her porcelain skin looks, well, porcelain.

Kidman works in an industry that requires its women to be beautiful, which is often a synonym for “young.” Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren are held up to be paragons of aging gracefully, but paragons are, by definition, the exception. I understand if Kidman sought out a needle or a scalpel, or if there’s a portrait of her in an attic somewhere that looks 100. She’s also in a profession, though, that requires her to be someone else; in this case, she needed to be the mother of an 18-year-old.

Kidman has the talent to keep her long career going, but not if she’s going to insist on trying to look unnaturally 30 for the rest of her life. She’d be so pretty if she’d just lose a little face.

Kristen Page-Kirby covers film for The Washington Post Express.
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Marc Silver · March 14, 2013