Cultural tipping point alert: You can all stop making fun of Kristen Stewart now

Much like Hathahate, bashing Kristen Stewart is officially out of vogue

Published April 14, 2015 6:21PM (EDT)

Kristen Stewart              (AP/Jordan Strauss)
Kristen Stewart (AP/Jordan Strauss)

Kristen Stewart has long been trying to distance herself from her “Twilight” persona. Post-Bella Swan, Stewart has veered sharply towards the arthouse, taking eclectic roles in small, un-flashy indies that couldn’t be more different from the blockbusters that made her famous.

And the reinvention campaign she’s been embarking on for the past few years? Well, it looks like people are finally taking notice. While K-Stew has displayed her talent time and time again ("The Runaways," "Camp X-Ray," "Still Alice," etc.), she hasn’t had much luck cementing her reputation as serious actress, and her name is most likely to be mentioned in the context of “Twilight” mania or as the flashpoint for some tabloid controversy (as we were recently alerted, she was "spotting holding hands" with a female friend, not to mention the pressing question of whether she'll be invited to FKA Twigs and Robert Pattinson's wedding).

Yet as her new film -- French auteur Olivier Assayas' "Clouds of Sils Maria" -- premieres to rave reviews, we sense a shift in the wind. In the past few weeks, a number of mainstream publications, including our own, have written in praise of Stewart: In particular, how the meta-narrative of her tumultuous fame plays into her role in the film, and how she’s successfully capitalized on her brittle offscreen persona and turned it into a likable one. All of a sudden, the critical community has figured out what "Twi-Hards" have been saying for years: Kristen Stewart rocks!

Here’s why bashing K-Stew is out and loving K-Stew in:

Our own Andrew O’Hehir -- who back in 2012 dubbed Stewart "the thinking person's movie star" -- writes that Stewart's indie career is "no gimmick, and no surprise." 

“Of course it’s not quite that simple, since everything Stewart does from now to the day her obituary is published will be haunted by the ghost of Bella Swan. Her new role as personal assistant to a famous European actress (played by French screen legend Juliette Binoche) in Olivier Assayas’ “Clouds of Sils Maria” is loaded with meta-references to Stewart’s own trajectory as a target of gossip mags and paparazzi, and can be read as a commentary on celebrity and its discontents. If she had continued on the “Adventureland” path without ever playing Bella, Stewart might well have wound up in an Assayas film. But presumably not this one, in which Valentine, her gawky, earnest and ambitious character (clad throughout in glasses, jeans and a T-shirt) manages public appearances and media exposure for her boss, and earnestly debates the craft of a hot young actress best known for her role in a ludicrous science-fiction franchise.While “Clouds of Sils Maria” has many layers and elements, and Stewart’s fame is certainly a part of the puzzle, it never feels remotely like a showcase constructed for her benefit or a complicated pop-culture in-joke.”

Over at Time magazine, Dan D’Addario writes about how Stewart “shook off “Twilight” to become one of the best actresses of her generation”:

“But by choosing roles in which she’s able to spin variations on an edgy young woman with deep, almost scarily intense passions, Stewart is making the absolute most of her fame. More young stars should be as savvy, and as willing to tempt the haters, as is Stewart in her pursuit of new shades and dimensions of Bella Swan-ish angst. She’s doing the same thing as Jennifer Lawrence, who finds roles in which she’s able to be outspoken and relatable. In temperament, Lawrence is Stewart’s opposite. Yet their talents are comparable, and Stewart is making her mark by creating work out of the uncomfortable, strange world of modern fame.”

Anya Jaremko-Greenwold at IndieWire offers five reasons to stop picking on K-Stew:

“So far, she has successfully portrayed characters that suggest certain direct connections with her off-screen life. But it's unreasonable to hold any actors accountable for their types. Stewart challenges herself while sticking to her strengths. She exposes herself in small but essential increments. By picking roles that hit so close to home, she projects an image that's both honest and incredibly brave.”

Grantland's Kevin Lincoln proclaims that “Kristen Stewart’s Celebrity Sabotage Has Worked Out Perfectly”

“What’s truly interesting, then, in the meta-narrative of celebrity is when famous people start fighting back. Some — like, say, Justin Bieber — do so by reinventing themselves as a pure product, trying to become as uninteresting as humanly possible. With Stewart’s excellent new movie Clouds of Sils Maria, she has done the exact opposite, and she has done it so effectively that she’s robbed trash acts like the Daily Mail’s of both their power and their reason to exist.”

Over at the Dissolve, Scott Tobias also makes “the case for Kristen Stewart”

“Even without the knowledge that Assayas originally wanted Stewart in Moretz’s role, the exchange is a meta-defense of Stewart as an actor—and an excellent one, at that. Had Maria Enders been forced to watch anything from The Twilight Saga, she’d have been asked to leave the bar for spraying so much ale on the counter. And yet that’s how most of us know Kristen Stewart, too. We have to convince our inner Maria Enders to see the real actor behind the center of a widely disrespected supernatural love triangle. Assayas is making a good point about the craft in general: Acting is acting, and an actor’s job, finding some emotional truth, doesn’t change from project to project.”

While the National Post's Calum Marsh explains that "The K-Stew Army is right: Kristen Stewart doesn’t need defending."

"Stewart is a good actor — indeed, has always been a good actor, perfectly clear as far as back as Panic Room in 2002. What’s happened is that the Twilight saga has for too long eclipsed (ahem) the actress behind the phenomenon. Made, in 2008, instantly and irrevocably ubiquitous, Stewart was in the popular imagination no longer eligible to be taken seriously; so synonymous did she become overnight with a ludicrous vampire romance and the stardom it entrained that few saw the nuance she brought to bear on the inanity. Stewart, as she says of Jo-Ann Ellis in Clouds of Sils Maria, went deep into her character. It’s a testament to how silly Twilight still seems that laughter might be the natural response."

By Anna Silman

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Actress Clouds Of Sils Maria Kristen Stewart Movie Star Movies Twilight