THE Hollywood star is rarely lacking in beauty.
FROM Garbo to Clooney, audiences have always been accustomed to dazzling women and dreamy men populating the big-screen. After all, American cinema is a place for fantastical tales with little room for the ‘ordinary’.
To tell a story without conventionally beautiful people is often to go courageously (in Hollywood terms at least) against this escapist type – like when Jennifer Anniston begone make-up for Cake or when Nicole Kidman donned a prosthetic nose to play Virginia Woolf in The Hours.
At present, superhero movies are a prime example of Hollywood’s ever-soaring image standards. A realm where perfect-looking people perform inhuman feats of good. It is not enough for Captain America or Wonder Woman to save the world – they must also look impossibly attractive while doing so. Adulation is thus drawn from both the action and the aesthetics of our protagonists.
Australian-born actress Margot Robbie falls into a superhuman category of Hollywood stars whose level of beauty is inescapably present. A high cheek-boned, golden haired and blue-eyed look that sets Robbie apart – even among Hollywood’s gleaming roster.
It is an appearance that many critics have been not shy of referring to. Jordan Hoffman of The Guardian commented on how ‘damn beautiful’ Robbie looked in the closing moments of entertaining con-flick Focus. Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers has labelled her ‘spirited, sexy’ and ‘usually irresistible’ in his reviews. Robbie too has joined in with the compliments – at least within the context of a film – as her war-correspondent character in Tina Fey’s Whiskey Tango Foxtrot un-ironically claims to be ‘a 15’ out of 10.
Yet such natural advantages can be a blessing and a curse. Robbie’s rise from Aussie television to Scorsese films and comic-book blockbusters was faster than most. But with this, her talent has at times taken a backseat to her look. A fact that is evidenced in many of Robbie’s early film appearances.
In About Time, Robbie serves purely as an object of desire – and an unreachable desire at that – for lonely time traveller Tim (played by Domhnall Gleeson). Robbie’s character offers little more than tempting sex appeal, as is emphasised by bathing suit aerial shots and tennis outfit slow-mos. Her appeal, like the popular girl out school who you could never get, acts as a contrast for the imminent arrival of the gentler, homely dimpled beauty of Rachel McAdams.
Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street gave Robbie slightly more character as feisty Brooklynite Naomi who seduces big-money banker Jordan (Leonardo Di Caprio) only to have to put up with his wild, Quaalude-driven antics. Even still, Robbie’s most memorable scenes in the film are highly sexualised, either undressed or legs spread. As Mark Kermode pointed out in his Guardian review, Robbie is ‘more Sharon Stone than Lorraine Bracco’.
The most simplistic use of Robbie came in highly-acclaimed 2015 film The Big Short. In a male-dominated cast, Robbie turns up in a Jacuzzi to provide some eye-candy exposition before the film returns to the more serious business of Brad Pitt, Steve Carell and Christian Bale.
Despite this, Robbie has found ways to let her talent shine through, even when she is subject to the most unapologetic, drooling male gaze. I am of course referring to her cosplay-friendly portrayal of Harley Quinn in 2016’s Suicide Squad.
Although the film encourages us to leer pornographically over her, Robbie wins out with a show-stealing performance that oozes neon-soaked vibrancy and baseball bat twirling charisma. Not only is she easily the most redeemable part of a truly terrible film, but a standout character who leaves us yearning for tighter individual focus. A huge credit that lays solely at Robbie’s door.
Harley Quinn is not Robbie’s only success. She has also turned in accomplished performances in Focus, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and – better still – Z for Zachariah, displaying a range that stretches far past sitting in Jacuzzis or sunbathing.
For her latest film – I, Tonya – much of Robbie’s beauty is stripped away so she can embody troubled ice-skater Tonya Harding. An opportunity to be a character that is less about looks and more about inner-turmoil. The result is a spiralling performance that proves Robbie’s star has boundless potential.
In an industry that often struggles to look beyond looks, Robbie has reminded everyone that she has legitimate talent to burn. She possesses an accomplished magnetism that is certainly more than skin deep.
Robbie should be unapologetic of beauty, just as she should be unapologetic about her supreme acting abilities.
Let us hope filmmakers find a way to spotlight both without feeling the need to swash the other. Margot Robbie is an antipodean tour de force.