How Kristen Stewart Became one of the Most Misjudged and Versatile Actresses of her Generation

Personal Shopper: The Searchers

On the 9th of April 30 years ago, Kristen Jaymes Stewart was born in Los Angeles, California. As both of her parents were working in the entertainment industry as stage manager and script supervisor respectively, it was only a matter of time until Stewart herself would join the industry. While initially not being interested in standing in front of the camera, things changed as she began acting at the age of eight and had her first non-speaking part in The Thirteenth Year in 1999. However, when many of us think of a younger acting Stewart, our minds might first and foremost circle back to David Fincher’s Panic Room where she portrayed the diabetic daughter of Jodie Foster’s character. 

Next followed a bunch of films in various genres, including Speak where she portrayed a high school freshman who stops speaking after being sexually assaulted. However, in 2007 it was announced that Stewart would play Isabella “Bella” Swan in the film adaptation of YA novel Twilight and when the film was released the next year it didn’t matter that it received mixed reviews— it was a worldwide phenomenon. Suddenly, everyone seemed very vocal about whether they were “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob”. I, however, always felt like I was “Team Kristen”.

During the height of her fame, the media often slammed her for “never smiling” and instead of crediting her acting performances as subtle, she was classified as being unemotional and criticised for not trying hard enough. However, she stepped out of the controversial franchise taking chances to experiment with her career.

Twilight: Summit Entertainment

Stewart has almost a silent-film-star-quality about her, as you can read every fluctuation in her mood even though she’s barely moving. She has a unique way of inhabiting the screen, of using her body within the shot to convey meaning to every move. She’s quiet and reserved, but full of emotion and always alluring to watch. Every time she bites her bottom lip and every time she drags her hand through her hair, it’s not for nothing. She was never a bad actress; it just took a little longer for her to find her style— to find the projects that worked with her preferred style of acting.

Even in “less serious” things such as SNL, she has time and time again proved worthy of praise as she has explored different sides of herself that many viewers might not associate with her. In “Meet Cute” she and Pete Davidson have a classic meet-cute at a coffee shop and in the now-fan favourite fake “Totino’s” commercial with Vanessa Bayer, she is at the top of her game. Stewart is unpredictable in everything she does, but always effortlessly cool. Following the theme of SNL, in her opening monologue in 2017, she addressed the fact that Donald Trump tweeted about her relationship with Robert Pattinson. “If you didn’t like me then, you’re really not going to like me now,” she said, “because I’m hosting SNL and I’m like, so gay, dude.”

Panic Room: Columbia Pictures

“I have fully been told, ‘If you just like do yourself a favour, and don’t go out holding your girlfriend’s hand in public, you might get a Marvel movie”, she said to Harper’s Bazaar, and continued with “I don’t want to work with people like that”. It’s tough to stand up against a world where pretending to be someone else is seen as an advantage, especially in an industry where things quickly can change for women. This is exactly the reason people love Stewart, not just for her acting but because of the person she is. If she can continue to work on what she wants, we’re lucky. 

Still on the fence about Stewart’s talents? Down below are my five recommendations that are sure to prove the strength and diversity of her career and where you can currently watch them in the UK.

The Runaways (2010) dir. Floria Sigismondi

The Runaways: Apparition

Based on the world’s first all-female rock band, The Runaways depicts the formation of the band in 1975 and primarily focuses on the relationship between lead vocalist Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) and rhythm guitarist and vocalist Joan Jett (Stewart). The Runaways perfectly captures the vibe of the 70s and if you enjoyed Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, I think this is for you. Floria Sigismondi’s vision for the film works great as less of an autobiographical piece and instead as a very good (and underrated) coming-of-age story. These girls did things that society told them they couldn’t, and while they are navigating the rock ‘n’ roll world they are also trying to figure out their own bodies and identities. Stewart cut and dyed her hair to a shaggy black mullet for the role and plays guitar and sings on the films soundtrack.

The Runaways is available to stream on Amazon Prime and to rent for £2.49 on GooglePlay

Clouds of Sils Maris (2014) dir. Olivier Assayas

Clouds of Sils Maria: Les Films du Losange

Masterfully directed and written by Olivier Assayas, Clouds of Sils Maria centres on an established ageing actress (Juliette Binoche) preparing to play the older female role in a revival of the play that 20 years ago made her famous.There is an uncomfortable reflection of herself to deal with, as she is overcome by both personal insecurities and professional jealousies as the tension between her and her personal assistant (Stewart) starts boiling. It’s a complex and enchanting story and while all women give praiseworthy performances, Stewart is nothing short of incredible. Stewart’s performance resulted in both a César Award nomination and win, making her the first American actress to ever win a César. 

Clouds of Sils Maria is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video and GooglePlay for £2.49

Equals (2015) dir. Drake Doremus

Equals: A24

Although its futuristic aesthetic is a treat for the eyes, this isn’t a particularly great film. However, due to Stewart’s performance, it’s still very captivating and it proves her quality as an actress. The science-fiction romantic drama stars Stewart and Nicholas Hoult as two people diagnosed with a disease that restores their human compassion and emotions in a world where emotions do not exist. Its particularly funny how Stewart —someone who has for so long been criticised for having no emotions—  portrays a character who shows the deepest range of emotions. It’s a master class in suppressed feelings and longing glances, as well as wishing for something more in life than what you have been given.

Equals is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video for 99p and GooglePlay for £2.49

Personal Shopper (2016) dir. Olivier Assayas

Personal Shopper: The Searchers

After working with Stewart on Clouds of Sils Maria, Assayas wrote Personal Shopper specifically for Stewart — and after seeing it, I can’t picture someone else portraying her character. Personal Shopper is a psychological thriller with supernatural elements. Stewart stars as a young American woman in Paris who works as a personal shopper for a celebrity and tries to communicate with her deceased twin brother. It’s a quiet film very much up to the viewer’s own interpretation. It explores how people deal with trauma from losing a loved one and how the grief that comes with it takes shape. It felt kind of terrifying in an unusual way that’s hard to put down in a specific category without letting it work against the film itself. It looks incredible and it’s a subtle film with Stewart’s acting being the main focus.

Personal Shopper is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video for 99p and on GooglePlay for £3.49

Come Swim (2017) dir. Kristen Stewart

Come Swim: Refinery29

I’ve to end with this film as it’s proof that Stewart has dipped her toes into the world of directing. As a part of Refinery29’s ShatterBox Anthology, Stewart made her directorial debut with a short film called Come Swim. Written and directed by Stewart, the short was described by Cannes Film Festival as “a diptych of one man’s day; half impressionist and half realist portraits”. We follow a man and the voices he hears in his head. It’s a poetic film open for interpretation as it blends elements of that blurry space in-between dreams and reality. Is it about a break-up? Death and loss? Anxiety? You tell me. Nevertheless, it makes me very intrigued as to what is next for Stewart and especially since she is currently working on her feature film directorial debut, which will be an adaptation of Lidia Yuknavitch’s ‘The Chronology of Water’. 

Come Swim is available to watch for free on Youtube here.

Rebecca Rosén (she/her) is a writer from Sweden with a university background in film, TV and gender studies. While enjoying everything from extremely silly to gory, she thinks that it’s better if you care a little bit too much about what you’re watching than not at all. You can find her on Twitter.

1 reply »

  1. She is a bonafide star and I feel is a successor to the kind of physical persona and performative style of JODIE FOSTER ( the casting directors on PANIC ROOM did a world of good by casting both as mom and child)

    Apart from TWILIGHT, she has shone in works like WELCOME TO THE RILEYS, STILL ALICE and INTO THE WILD for me . Her filmography is beautifully diverse and I hope I get to see more of her work .


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