Did Claire Danes move to big-screen roles too quickly?
At a recent press screening of ”Brokedown Palace,” Claire Danes’ latest foray into feature films, some people were cackling out loud at the actress’ game attempt to pull off the drama’s teary, overwrought conclusion. In truth, neither the movie nor the star were laughable, but even so, ”Palace” did little to change my long-held belief that Claire Danes left television far too prematurely.
”Palace” — a.k.a. ”Midnight Express With Girls,” or ”Help! We’re Trapped in a Thai Prison With Bad Haircuts and Lots of Cockroaches” — is not a horrible movie, but there is absolutely nothing new or interesting about it. And thus there is absolutely no reason that the exceptionally talented and apparently intelligent Danes (hey, she IS attending Yale) should have chosen to be a part of it. But ever since Danes jumped ship from ABC’s exquisite and short-lived teen drama ”My So-Called Life” (yes, ABC canceled it, but it’s long been industry lore that the network did so in large part because Danes wanted out), the doe-eyed redhead has made a series of ill-advised career moves.
Really, was there any excuse for her 1997 clunker ”I Love You, I Love You Not”? Or for last year’s turgid remake of ”Les Miserables”? And let’s not forget her misguided spring project: A too-cool-for-school update of ”The Mod Squad.” (At least in 1995’s goofy family spoof ”Home for the Holidays” she got to work with a fellow Yalie, director Jodie Foster). Her one cinematic bright spot, ”William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet,” worked because it showcased Danes’ penchant for luminous characterizations of complex young women -? a talent that was abundantly evident in her 19 episodes as ”My So-Called Life”’s brooding beauty, Angela Chase.
My theory is that had Danes stayed with ”Life” -? a brilliantly crafted series of unequaled dramatic power -? for at least another season, the adolescent actress would have learned a great deal about good story, good character development, and most of all, good writing, that would have aided her greatly in her movie choices later on. Because, when it comes to feature-film scripts, Danes is clearly having trouble separating the wheat from the chaff.
Perhaps the best thing for this fine young actress to do now -? lest she make more strides toward destroying her big-screen viability -? is return to television for awhile. I’m sure if she asked, ”Life” creators/producers Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz would whip up another series for her in a second. A steady TV job would allow Danes to grow into her craft more fully before she need head out into the big, bad world of feature films. Even better, her spare time would be more limited, so she’d be forced to be far more selective when it came to signing movie deals. And if Danes is worried that joining a TV series would interfere with her college education, I’m sure with a little persuasion she can convince Yale to create some sort of flexible-hours Celebrity Curriculum.