*She of Little Faith

I have written before on this very website of my ‘relationship’ with Nicole Kidman. This relationship is, essentially, that I really hated her a lot between the years 1987 to 1995, and then, by and large, turned into a staunch defender, simply because I now regard her as someone who at least puts her back into things, unlike, say, Mr Dean Martin at any point in his career. The actress is preoccupying me again because of the triumvirate of my having been to see Rabbit Hole; watched her recent 60 Minutes interview; and read a noisome column by Herald Sun writer Wendy Tuohy, entitled ‘Why it pays to have faith – or how I’m finally thawing on our Nicole’.

First we come to Rabbit Hole. I’ll be honest, if I hadn’t read Tuohy’s column and been driven even further out of my mind by it, I may not ever have gone to see this particular flick. It’s hard ever really to be in the mood to take in a film about a couple dealing with the death of their young son. What’s more, it’s the kind of subject matter that you would imagine would repel pretty much everyone: that people who are parents would find it too distressing and that people who, like myself, aren’t parents would not want to spend an hour and a half feeling emotionally inadequate in the face of not really being able to comprehend what it is like to experience this especially terrible bereavement. So, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to what was ahead as I trotted off to the cinema on an appropriately ‘autumnal park’ sort of day; I was going purely to remind myself of Kidman’s professional attainments. But, happily for me, Rabbit Hole turned out to be a treat to watch, with its brisk avoidance of cliché, and the intelligence underlying everything about it. And, in any case, I’m hardly going to turn my nose up at any film that contains a discussion of ‘the curse of the Kennedys’.

While watching Rabbit Hole, though, Tuohy’s column was still unwelcomely lurking about at the forefront of my mind. Her piece begins with the acknowledgment that she has never really warmed to Nicole Kidman, even though ‘as a movie-loving Australian’, this particular journalist is ‘as chuffed as everyone else about the many awards she has added to the national mantelpiece’. I have to tell you, ‘as a movie-loving Australian’ myself, I actually get quite bored at the sight of my fellow Australians at the Oscars and other such awards. The way I look at it, if I want to see an Australian I’ll open my front door and go outside; I don’t feel the need to see my compatriots mingling with the big American stars at, say, the Kodak Theatre. That is only a minor bleat on my part, though. The main thrust of the piece is that Tuohy has always found Kidman to be just too much of a big old Miss Frigidaire-style princess for her liking, unlike the ‘warm and wicked types’ the writer prefers: namely, such obvious everywomen as Anne Hathaway, Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz.

Still, I can simply agree to disagree with Tuohy up to this point. I only really started to lose such will to live as I actually have when Tuohy solemnly reveals having shed a tear when Keith Urban flashed a picture on his iPhone of Kidman ‘looking a little bit bed-haired and absolutely overcome with joy as she held her new baby, Faith’. Then she informs us that ‘the ginger goddess’ appeared on 60 Minutes and, rather than ‘being demurely stoic, she at last seemed ready to lend her authentic voice to the chorus of heart-breaking infertility stories’. Tuohy notes with approval that it was the first time she’s really seen Kidman play herself, even though she would have about as much idea of whether that is really the case as would my Aunt Fanny.

Then, as if my sufferings were not great enough, I caught up with the much-vaunted 60 Minutes interview. To my surprise, the interviewer was Karl Stefanovic, while I’d been thinking in 1980 terms of there being someone in charge who would have the sombre visage of Ian Leslie. It was apparent in the introduction that the profile was going to be the traditional colossal bag of shite, as the viewer is informed that ‘A loving marriage and a new family have brought her the happiness that eluded her for so long’. Geez, what a forlorn existence Kidman had endured previously, with her lively love life, massively successful career, and even more massive divorce settlement from Mr Tom Cruise, once he was no longer rejoicing in the Ray-Martin-bestowed title of ‘Australia’s Favourite Son-in-Law’.

In the interview itself, Stefanovic, of course, presents Kidman with a minute pair of RM Williams boots for her youngest daughter, which is, at least, a neat twist on when 60 Minutes profiles Australian males in LA and there is the customary exchange about, eg, showing the Americans how to pull a beer. Stefanovic then asks for baby pictures, which, natch, Kidman just happens to have on her person; asks whether her youngest has ‘Mum’s hair’; asks whether Kidman was at Faith’s birth; asks whether the bond she felt at the birth of two children was the same; asks whether the children whom she adopted with Tom Cruise have met little Faith; asks whether Kidman thinks she’ll have another baby; and observes that Keith Urban (tagged in this interview, I am thrilled to say, as ‘the wild boy from Caboolture’) ‘sounds like a good bloke’ and that he, Stefanovic, has read that Kidman likes Urban’s hands.

The eventual detour into actual mention of Kidman’s career, which is, as far as I’m aware, how she got famous in the first place and thus essentially why any of us is actually bothering to watch this interview, begins with Stefanovic wanting to know whether, while working on Rabbit Hole, Kidman found it hard to ‘leave all that at work and come home to Sunday Rose’. After a flirtation with the question of how Kidman feels about her acting, the discussion turns to how she gets her hair so straight, as well as oblique references to her having had cosmetic surgery, both of which topics I was, at least, quite happy to see raise their heads, and that gave the interview some interest for me beyond finding out to what extent Kidman had developed a variety of accent that I refer to as ‘the Peter Allen’.

Now, I’m not even mounting an attack on all this on ‘Women’s Lib’ grounds, as you get the ‘Being a parent has made me happier than all the, now meaningless, things I’ve ever done, because it’s not all about me anymore and/or there’s nothing better than making my children laugh’ hooey in interviews with male stars as well. It’s just that I fail to understand why family life is supposed to be the most intriguing thing about these individuals. While I would never dispute that being a good, or even average, parent is very difficult and time-consuming, most people are capable of being some kind of parent. Most people, on the other hand, don’t have the talent and luck required to become a world-famous and plaudit-laden actor, so I am constantly mystified by the perpetual emphasis in celebrity interviews that whomever it is who is being profiled is really nothing more nor less than ‘a mum’ or ‘a dad’. The only thing that comes close to equalling the sheer tiresomeness of this phenomenon is when Australian males who work in the creative sphere and don’t want to appear pantywaist feel the need humbly to insist that their real dream in life would be to do a manly thing such as opening the batting in the cricket.

Tuohy’s column finishes with the nutty plea ‘Quick someone, please give that girl an Oscar.’ Apparently, Kidman didn’t deserve an Oscar merely for giving an excellent performance in, not to mention producing, Rabbit Hole, but did deserve one for having cried on 60 Minutes, in something that a child of two would recognise as a piece of blatant image-softening-attempt public relations flapdoodle. Quick, someone please give this girl a vomiting basin.

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