Julianne Moore is a living legend for one reason (besides the unbelievable Bulgari ad above): her utter and absorbing onscreen command. Can you think of a time she was less than in complete control of her material? She even ruled in that weird-ass Vanya on 42nd Street (though she did perform in Uncle Vanya for years prior to that movie’s release, to be fair).
I like going to the movies when I know a star will flawlessly sell dialogue. You always know Meryl Streep will kill. Cate Blanchett will kill. Glenn Close will kill, perhaps in boiling water. But so will Julianne Moore, and for some reason I always feel compelled to note her flawlessness since she retains a strange underdog quality. Oh, and top of this? She is my nominee for a new gay icon.
In case you need a refresher on the rules of our Gay Icon Nominee selection, I tend to prefer to the following: 1) stars who’ve emerged within the past 25 years, since most gay icons predate Madonna; 2) underdogs (hear, hear!), and 3) entertainers who follow in the tradition of great gay icons’ defiance, independence, and charisma. That brings us to Ms. Moore, who is soon exhume Piper Laurie’s chilling work as Sissy Spacek’s, uh, spiritual mother in the upcoming Carrie remake.
Here are five key reasons she should be beatified as a gay icon.
1. Her blistering soap cred.
For four years, Julianne Moore threw longing glances and shed ferocious tears as a key cast member of As the World Turns. She played the dual roles (of course) of Frannie and Sabrina Hughes, and she ended up winning a Daytime Emmy for — wait for it — Outstanding Ingenue in a Drama Series. What could be more Soapdish-licious than that? I want a Daytime Emmy for Most Dazzling Nymphet in a Serious Game Show. In the above clip, she sulks in front of Marisa Tomei and looks defiant as she does it. Which is tragic foreshadowing when you consider Tomei has an Oscar and Moore doesn’t. Sigh.
2. She slapped Madonna on film.
What else are you supposed to do in a horrid Madonna movie but slap her in the ladies’ room? In Body of Evidence, that movie where Madonna kills her ancient husband with sex and then seduces an attorney (Willem Dafoe) to win her freedom, Julianne plays Dafoe’s jilted wife. Before trial, Julianne whaps Madonna right in her “Bad Girl” hairdo. Does it get any better? I usually think Madonna fares well onscreen when she’s acting alongside other women, but her delivery of “Wish me luck?” here is worthy of immediate rebuke from a future four-time Oscar nominee.
3. She was gorgeous, autumn-colored, and flawless while dealing with a harrowing gay situation in Far From Heaven.
Every frame of Todd Haynes’ throwback to Douglas Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows looks like it belongs on the cover of a box of colored pencils. It’s a stunningly photographed movie, and more importantly, it deals with a picture-perfect suburban housewife’s (Moore) un-pretty descent as she learns her husband (Dennis Quaid) is gay. She’s also dealing with gossip concerning her own behavior — that fraternizing with an African-American man, namely — but let’s talk about that gay situation for a moment. When she stumbles in on her hubby kissing another man, she freezes and appears traumatized. But later in the movie when she asks her self-impressed, bigoted friend Eleanor (Patricia Clarkson) about why she dislikes gay people, Moore approaches the scene with such straightforward poise that her character’s maturity feels like a great discovery to the audience. Did I mention she looks fantastic? Because she’s what every distaff Mad Men character dreams of looking like. And Sal too.
4. She was impossible to resist in The Kids Are All Right.
We live in a universe where Julianne Moore played a lesbian mother and knocked it out of the park. Phew. With Annette Bening, she makes The Kids Are All Right a refreshing and familiar family drama that treats gay adults like gay adults and throws in some Joni Mitchell quotes for the hell of it. It’s like a James L. Brooks movie (from the time when those ruled). Maybe best of all, Moore gave great interviews during the promotion of The Kids Are All Right and often discussed her experiences with the LGBT community.
“In my life, and in my children’s lives too, we have friends where there are two dads, or two moms, and from what I witness around me, there are positive role models for gay families everywhere… You know what else is really nice, is if you’re in a same-sex relationship, you can’t have a kid by accident, so these children are planned and loved and wanted, well-educated and well-adjusted – and that’s what you want. That’s what we’re all here for, right?”
5. Most importantly: She is a legendary crier.
Meryl may be mightier and Glenn may be grittier, but no one — no one — weeps like Julianne Moore on film. She contorts her mug into a veritable Angel Falls, her face flush with two gigantic cataracts of hydroelectric feelings. Note that Boogie Nights breakdown. Reel in that Savage Grace rawness. (Everything about that movie is raw, by the way.)
In fact, maybe her unmatched ability to cry is why — and I don’t think I’m exaggerating here — 100% of my gay male movie-lover friends love Julianne Moore. She is a subtle and versatile actress who billows into vulnerability. You can’t predict what kind of character she’ll be playing, but you know you’ll be treated to surprising depth. I’m still not over that scene in Short Cuts where she screamed at her husband without wearing anything below the waist. Such a shocking and memorable scene that illustrates the frankness and often strange intimacy in a marriage. And Julianne pulled it off like no one else could. It’s that simple.
Is Julianne Moore a rightful gay icon to you? What’s your favorite JM role? I never saw Game Change (a.k.a. The Thrilla in Wasilla), so you’ll have to assure me that she was a knockout as Sarah Palin.