'Clouds of Sils Maria' a nuanced and strong performance by Juliette Binoche

Rating: ★★★★☆

In the "Clouds of Sils Maria," Juliette Binoche stars as Maria, a middle-aged actress, as she approaches to take on stage play and portraying an older woman, in which she once played the ingénue. Kristen Stewart, of "Twilight" fame, is taking on a much more grounded character as Maria's personal assistant Valentine. And Chloë Grace Moretz portrays the new ingénue, ready to claim the stardom that is slipping from Maria.

"Clouds of Sils Maria" comes from a screenplay and was directed by Olivier Assayas. This is subtle film that contrasts the aging woman to the backdrop of a cloud formation in Switzerland known as "The Snake."

The majority of the film is spent with Maria (Juliette Binoche) and her assistant (Kristen Stewart). Kristen Stewart finally shows some real acting talent as she plays a more common girl with strong ideas and convictions. As Maria decides to take on a role that she really doesn't seem to want, she interacts with Valentine via lines of the play. Sometimes, the lines are blurred to whether the women are expressing themselves as characters on a page or as boss and assistant. As Maria gets closer to donning on the character of an older woman, that now suits her age completely, she starts to mistreat the assistant that has only done her job.

In an epilogue, Valentine is no longer in the picture and Maria must face the real issue, facing the new ingénue Jo-Ann (Chloë Grace Moretz). It becomes apparent quickly that Jo-Ann is not willing to accept Maria even as a mentor on stage and thus Maria realizes that the day in the sun, the shining glory of being a star is started to fade.Juliette Binoche adds another fine performance to her resume. Some may feel that her performance is worthy of recognition at award time, but I feel that her role as Maria is too nuanced to get that kind of notice. Kristen Stewart does a fine job as a supporting character, and although not an-award worthy performance, shows that she does have the gusto to move on to meaningful lead characters. Thankful there are no long looks of angst that she so easily doled out in the "Twilight" films. Stewart is practically born again as an actress in "Clouds of Sils Maria".

"I like this story by Olivier Assayas and his steadfast direction. I truly look forward to seeing more films by the French filmmaker. For the art-house crowd, "Sils of Clouds Maria" will find affection from the film fans that feel Hollywood has forgotten them.


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