Kiwi actor Thomasin McKenzie is earning rave reviews for her latest performance.
The 22-year-old Jojo Rabbit and Last Night in Soho star appears opposite Anne Hathaway in British director William Oldroyd’s (Lady Macbeth) steamy adaptation of Ottessa Moshfegh’s critically acclaimed 1960s-set, 2015 book Eileen.
McKenzie plays the eponymous young woman whose dreary life is transformed when the charismatic Rebecca (Hathaway) joins her as a member of staff at the local prison.
Writing after the film’s world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Sunday afternoon (New Zealand Time), The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney believed that “like Oldroyd’s previous film, which thrust Florence Pugh into the spotlight, this one stands to kick McKenzie’s career up a notch”.
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“Her work here takes the promise she showed in movies like Leave No Trace and Last Night in Soho and runs with it in bracing new directions.”
Deadline’s Valerie Complex said “McKenzie’s ability to switch between the mousy and maniacal is masterful”, while Screen Daily’s Amber Wilkinson agreed that this is a terrific showcase for the Wellington-born actor.
“She deftly indicates there’s a lot more to Eileen than first meets the eye. She also subtly shows the changes that come over the 24-year-old, sparked by a first night out with Rebecca.
“The heat she and Hathaway generate between one another is so strong that it’s a wonder Rebecca’s martini doesn’t start to steam, as a dance scene evokes the kind of sapphic desire of Todd Haynes’ Carol.”
Meanwhile, from Variety’s Jessica Kiang’s perspective, part of the film’s thrill is “the blackly comedic shift in the power balance between the two women, as exceptionally played by Hathaway and McKenzie, both turning in career-high performances”.
Speaking during the post-premiere Q&A, McKenzie revealed that she had auditioned in her great-grandmother’s old fur coat and enjoyed the challenge of tackling another accent for the role.
“I love my accent. I’m a very, very proud New Zealander, but I find it pretty distracting myself when I listen back and go, ‘oh I sound like that?’.
“It helps me to get into character to have exciting accents to work with, like Boston, Cornish, American or RP [Received Pronunciation].
“It kind of helps me to move past feeling quite so self-conscious about myself and focus in more on the character.
“I love accents because I usually use them the entire time throughout the shoot – it helps me to become invested in the world that we’re living in.
“It’s also really fun at the end of the job when I finally break out my Kiwi accent and people are like, ‘What? What is this?’”
No date has yet been set for Eileen’s release in New Zealand.
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