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Please Explain: Kirsten Dunst (No.2)
2007-01-15 21:54
by Scott Long

The Juice Blog's newest contribution to society, Please Explain is on to its next subject. I've never understood how actress Kirsten Dunst gets so many high-profile movie roles. The first time I ever remember seeing Dunst was as a 12 year-old in "Interview with a Vampire." It was one of the best child acting performances of all-time. Guess what, it's still her best work.

I don't like to get too personal on the looks front, but if you are a lead actress, you need to be sexy. Kirsten Dunst is not. The biggest role of her movie career has been playing Peter Parker's girlfriend in the Spider Men movies. When you watch a scene on the big screen and think that even Toby McGuire is slumming it, I think you need to reconsider casting your lead actress.

Looks are only half the problem, as I don't think Dunst is a particularly gifted actress. Glenn Close doesn't turn me on, but I've enjoyed her as the female lead before, because she is a powerhouse actress. Dunst has starred in movies done for top-notch directors like Cameron Crowe, Mike Newell, Michael Gondry, and Sofia Coppola. She's not the worst actress, but her mix of talent and looks makes it a mystery to me why she has gotten such high-profile gigs.

If you are a fan of Kirsten, explain why my feelings are wrong. If not, please be as descriptive in what you don't like about her. I chose her as the second subject for Please Explain, as I know she isn't as easy of a target as Dave Matthews.

Comments (59)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2007-01-15 22:55:11
1.   joejoejoe
Dunst is very funny in 'Dick'. Also lots of fun in 'Bring it On'. As for the insane amount of work that Dunst gets she's reliably average and has had the good sense not to go slut or diva in her personal life. That makes her more castable in a broader range of films. I also think supporting players in blockbusters are in demand because they bring potential crossover viewers/renters to otherwise small market films like 'Marie Antoinette'. Believe it or not, Dunst has been working for 17 years in films. My guess is she's got a great reputation in her profession and gets cast accordingly.
2007-01-15 23:05:32
2.   scareduck
When you watch a scene on the big screen and think that even Toby McGuire is slumming it, I think you need to reconsider casting your lead actress.

I read stuff like this and it makes my head spin. Maybe she doesn't do it for you. Fine. "Slumming" is just... so wrong. I'm not a fan, but Jesus, she at least makes it to attractive. To get in front of a camera, women generally have to be three sigmas of gawjeous above average to even get in the conversation... I'll agree with you that Dunst doesn't have a strong screen presence, and in the Spiderman movies particularly, she seems to be the role of Actress Whose Name Will Be The Answer To A Trivia Question In A Decade. But "slumming" is just weird and hopelessly wrong.

2007-01-16 01:07:32
3.   deadteddy8
Kirsten Dunst is the Reggie Sanders of actresses. She won't embarrass herself when partnered with some very good actors (Mona Lisa Smile, Spider Man), but I'd be shocked if she ever wins an Oscar for Best Actress (Reggie Sanders: MVP?). That said, a Best Supporting Actress Oscar isn't out of the question (Reggie Sanders: All Star). Furthermore, it may be a question of causation/correlation, but I noticed from her IMDB page that while she's been in a bunch of movies, she hasn't been in many very good ones, and of the good ones, has she ever been the shining light? Not in "Drop Dead Gorgeous". She had only a tiny role in "Wag the Dog". Anyone?
2007-01-16 03:39:36
4.   Ravenscar
If your criteria for judging actresses is as noted, in the following order of importance:

1.) Turns me on
2.) Can act

then you are kind of operating in a broken system anyhow.

2007-01-16 06:42:16
5.   Knuckles
She's sexy enough, and she has that klutziness that makes awkward 16-year-olds think that, if they got to meet her, they'd actually have a chance. My opinion anyway.
2007-01-16 06:58:02
6.   Penarol1916
I think Knuckles has it right, it really is that she is attractive, but she has a quality that makes her seem attainable and thus more attractive than she actually is. To me, that quality is that fact that she seems to have a goofiness. I like her as a comic actress, she doesn't make you laugh out loud, but reliably smile. I'd call her comfort food as an actress.
2007-01-16 08:27:54
7.   Schteeve
I can't. She's terrible. And she has pointy incisors that make her seem somewhat feral.

As is Tobey McGuire.

2007-01-16 08:48:23
8.   Dagwood
The pointy incisors are exactly what make her sexy, and doubtless it is this very distinguishing characteristic that some directors and casting directors like.
2007-01-16 09:03:14
9.   Penarol1916
I read in some blog where the author thought that the pointy incisors were what made Dunst appear attainable, nice boobs and bad teeth were the fellow's exact terms.
2007-01-16 09:11:29
10.   dianagramr
I would watch Kathy Bates in just about anything. I would watch Steve Buscemi in just about anything.

Neither one of them is "leading actor" beauties, but who says only beautiful people can have relationships, romances, etc.

Besides, if you are thinking "gee I'd really like to do her", you probably aren't following the movie too closely.

Free your mind, and the rest will follow.

2007-01-16 09:14:23
11.   D4P
I don't like to get too personal on the looks front, but if you are a lead actress, you need to be sexy. Kirsten Dunst is not


Looks are only half the problem, as I don't think Dunst is a particularly gifted actress


Dunst is yet another on a very long list of people who are way more rich and famous than they should be.

2007-01-16 09:46:08
12.   dzzrtRatt
5 nails it.

I'm way too old for any of these girls, but projecting back to when I was 19, I would have known I had no shot with Scarlett Johanssen or Jessica Alba. Kirsten Dunst seems like the kind of girl who, if you could make her laugh, would overlook your POS car, your crummy job and your love handles. And is she really that bad of an actress? If she's cast in the right part-- in a comedy as a spacey chick--she's pretty good.

2007-01-16 09:49:25
13.   D4P
And is she really that bad of an actress?

Is there a more overrated "skill" in our society than "acting"?

2007-01-16 10:07:35
14.   Daniel Zappala
10 Absolutely.
2007-01-16 10:21:27
15.   photogirl

Like Lindsay Lohan? :::shudder:::


2007-01-16 10:22:18
16.   Ravenscar
13 - blogging?
2007-01-16 10:30:03
17.   El Lay Dave
16 No one is overrated to the tune of millions of dollars to blog. (But that's a good line!)
2007-01-16 11:14:41
18.   kirbyk
Attractiveness is sort of to each their own. I tend to prefer the Dunsts and Barrymores and Scarlett Johanssons of the world to the Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron, and Nicole Kidman types. I guess I like short and a little busty over the skinny leggy look. I also really like Dunst's voice - it has a nice soft quality without being unconfident.

I'd agree with the general consensus that her acting is passable and not superior - fine for a Mary Jane Watson role, but not lead actress quality.

It doesn't baffle me the same way that Keanu Reeves career does.

But I'm right with you still on the Dave Matthews thing.

2007-01-16 11:32:12
19.   JoeyP
I think you should compare DMB fans to Kevin Smith fans.

Both seem incredibly loyal to entertainers that are incredibly average.

2007-01-16 11:35:14
20.   Scott Long
Here is where I'm at by this point of the discussion.

I'm talking about her as a LEAD actress in a movie. Those of you who are using examples of Kathy Bates are not following the thread. I mentioned how much I like Glenn Close despite her lack of babelicious looks. My main point is she neither a great actress or a knockout, so why is she the LEAD in so many movies?

The movie Dick is my favorite movie she has been in and she did a nice enough job as the valley girl ditz, but I thought Michelle Williams was much better. Williams is an example of a very talented actress who also happens to be very good looking without being a gooddess. (see Mary Louise Parker and Julie Warner for more examples of this characteristic)

None of these actresses have consistent LEAD roles in major Hollywood releases, despite being Dunst's superior in every way. This was my point. I don't think Dave Matthews is terrible, I just don't understand the level of his fame and celebrity. The same goes for Dunst.

Oh and saying you prefer the Scarlett Johansson and Kirsten Dunst over another type is like comparing Alex Rodriguez and Neifi Perez as being the same type. The only thing they have in common in they are in the same profession. Scarlett's talent and especially looks magnify why I don't get how Dunst gets LEAD roles. Put her in supporting part or on a TV show, but movie stars need to have some kind of special something that I just don't see in her.

2007-01-16 11:41:01
21.   Scott Long
Joey P,
Now that is a commment to torch up the flamewars here. I want to try to keep the comments section for PLEASE EXPLAIN, focused on the topic at hand. My brief answer to you would be to say that Clerks and Chasing Amy were great films to me and that I would take a Joey Lauren Adams over Dunst any day of the week. (Adams is a poor woman's Renee Zellweger.)

Oh and one more thing I've enjoyed is the continued shots at Dave Matthews. Man does this guy have some haters.

2007-01-16 11:46:25
22.   Brent is a Dodger Fan
"If you like that kind of thing" is one of my favorite expressions these days. I guess Scott just doesn't.

I have these rare moments in movie theaters where, when the face on the screen, so large and up-close, comes across with something much, much more than what could be objectively described from seeing it. Just a moment that transcends and defies explanation. I had a moment like that during Spider Man...

I agree that Kirsten Dunst is no Meryl Streep, but talent is clearly not the same thing as bankable, and bankable is why she gets the roles.

Perhaps you just don't like that kind of thing... But others do.

2007-01-16 11:48:29
23.   Penarol1916
20. I think the difference between Dunst and those people you mentioned is that all of them have a desire to be taken seriously as an actress before everything else and thus take on more challenging and somewhat obscure roles, while Dunst realizes she isn't a great actress and tackles what she gets in a decent way, nothing more, nothing less. She's the macaroni and cheese of young actresses.

I think in the end, most of these Explain features are going to come out at, why does the mainstream appreciate mediocrity over greatness. To me, the answer so far has been with these two answers, that the mainstream audiences prefer consistency and knowing what they are going to get over the ups and downs that you get with the more middle-brow choices such as Michelle Williams and what-not.

2007-01-16 12:20:08
24.   Scott Long
I think that the comparison of Dunst to macaroni and cheese is a really apt one. I would specify though that I believe she is not of the Kraft quality, more being the generic brand version that you wonder why you didn't spend the extra quarter more for the Kraft after consuming it.
2007-01-16 12:23:29
25.   Ravenscar
As much as I don't understand the "she ain't hot" comments as if subjectivity is somehow fact, I will also say that I always thought Dunst is miscast as Mary Jane Watson, who was always a bustier type, actually MORE of a Jolie.

As far as Scott's comments on lead actresses, I can't say as if I imagine him (or many these days) finding Katherine Hepburn or Ingrid Bergman all that empirically babelicious either. They seemed to lead a few films.

I'm not really sure if I have a point here, but I'll go with my previous one on subjective statements.

2007-01-16 12:31:16
26.   Penarol1916
26. No, I was actually thinking more of the home-made, comfort foodish mac & cheese, the Kraft brand never had enough substance for me.

I find your unwarrented attack on store brand mac & cheese to be the most offensive of all, especially given the fact that I've been to the factories that make Kraft Mac & Cheese and that they happen to be the exact same factories that make Safeway and Kroger Brand Mac & Cheese following the exact same formula with the only difference being the color of the label. Just another brand name dupe.

2007-01-16 13:04:11
27.   Brent is a Dodger Fan
If Kirsten Dunst is mac & cheese, she's the best mac & cheese I've ever had.

Would that make Scarlett Johansson a filet mignon? And Anjelina Jolie a Chilean Sea Bass on a bed of wild mushroom risotto?

Hm. It starts to get a bit disturbing to compare women to food...

2007-01-16 13:17:54
28.   Penarol1916
27. Why? It's all consumption, you're not rating them as human beings, you're rating them as products. You can do the same thing with ballplayers. A mac & cheese might be a Don Sutton, consistently solid, year-in year-out, but never great. Is it the sexual nature of it that bothers you?
2007-01-16 13:45:51
29.   dianagramr

there's a "getting your noodle wet" joke in there somewhere ... :-)

2007-01-16 13:59:21
30.   richie allen
Noooo, she's lovely. I'm not one for finding mainstream actresses attractive, but I make an exception for Kirsen Dunst. If I were 16 again I'd be seriously in love.

Scott, for your next 'please explain', I propose one Victoria Beckham. If she's not well known in the states then I apologise, but this is the most stupid, untalented, unattractive and soulless individual in the mainstream over here. She is considered a style icon, but I can only assume she has bought off the magazines making such judgements. Poor Dave.

2007-01-16 14:11:13
31.   overkill94
Put me in the Dunst-lover category. I realize she's not quite a traditional beauty, but she just has that "it" factor that I tend to go for. She's an average actress, but her parts always portray her as a very sympathetic character and the fact that she can pull it off time and again makes it seem that she herself is a sympathetic person. And oh that voice...

Plus, I do dig the snaggletooth thing.

2007-01-16 14:21:34
32.   dzzrtRatt
25 As far as Scott's comments on lead actresses, I can't say as if I imagine him (or many these days) finding Katherine Hepburn or Ingrid Bergman all that empirically babelicious either.

Ingrid Bergman??? The word "babelicious" did not exist in the 1940s but I think she was considered one of the world's most beautiful women in her day, in every possible sense. Did you ever see her in "Casablanca?" "Notorious?" The roles she was given in those days were predicated on her being sexually irresistable, and it was no stretch.

Here's just one of many images of her that prove my point:

2007-01-16 14:45:08
33.   JoeyP
Is Reese Witherspoon really that much of a better actress than Kirsten Dunst?

Reese has an Oscar.....

2007-01-16 15:07:38
34.   Eric Enders
I'm in the middle here. Not the biggest Dunst fan, but not someone who thinks she's worthy of a "please explain" segment either.

I'll throw out the Vincent Vega explanation: Personality goes a long way. There are looks, and then there's attractiveness. Personality would be included in the latter but not the former. Dunst seems to have this "regular gal" sort of persona, like if you met her on the street, you could have a normal, relatively interesting conversation with her.
(Unlike, say, the aforementioned Alba and Lohan.)

A good personality makes you hotter. It just does.

And as for Ingrid Bergman, one needs only the lyrics to Woody Guthrie's ode to understand how babelicious she was considered to be:

2007-01-16 15:16:46
35.   Scott Long
Ravenscar- Once again let me stress that I'm throwing talent in here as well. My questioning of Dunst might not be equal parts looks/talent, but no one here has yet explained to me why she should get LEAD roles in movies over other actresses who beat her in both categories. Bergman and Hepburn are considered 2 of the greatest actresses of all-time. This is more than just about looks. I don't find Laura Linney or Meryl Streep hot, but I do recognize their immense talents.

I have eaten store versions of Mac and cheese (Kroger and Safeway) and they didn't taste like the same product. I generally eat the store versions of products when I can because I don't taste the difference. Soda and mac and cheese are 2 categories of food that never taste the same as the brand name to my tongue.

2007-01-16 15:24:00
36.   Scott Long
The following link confuses me even more on what men see in Dunst, but at the same time it wrecks the whole "she seems like a regular gal who would be interested in a less than hunky guy."

In the People piece it says she has dated actors, Orlando Bloom, Leo DiCaprio, and Jake Gyllenhall. So unless you are part of the Hollywood Studscene, it doesn't look good for you.

On the subject of snaggletooth's, Jewel is the only one who does it for me.

2007-01-16 15:30:15
37.   El Lay Dave
32 I agree with you 100%.

25 A properly cast MJ would have blown the wan Tobey Maguire off the screen. I can sort of accept Ms. Dunst with Mr. Maguire; but not, say, Ms. Jolie.

33 I find Ms. Witherspoon's general face shape disturbingly distracting.

Are we ready to list Sofia Coppola as a "top-notch director"? She has three credits - "Lick the Star" hardly counts - with the most recent, "Marie Antoinette", receiving very mixed reviews. Small sample size.

2007-01-16 15:33:00
38.   Eric Enders
37 Coppola's credits are not so very different from Tarantino's. Both have won screenwriting Oscars and have been nominated once for best director but not won. They have the same number of credits if one forgets about "Kill Bill," as everyone should.
2007-01-16 15:45:53
39.   Scott Long
Thanks Eric, your comments should take the heat off of me for a bit.

EL Lay Dave- Many in the media see Coppola as a top notch director. After Lost in Translation she had a lot of pull and could have hired pretty much any young actress when she did Marie Antoinette. She chose Dunst. This was part of my PLEASE EXPLAIN.

You caught me on her though, as I don't believe Coppola is a top-notch director.

2007-01-16 15:54:07
40.   scopi14

Look at the 'lead' roles she has been offered in the last five years - three Spidermans, Marie Antoinette, and a couple of leads in dopey romantic comedies. She lucked into the Spider Man thing, perhaps as Sam Raimi wanted a female lead who would not outshine Tobey Maguire (not hard to do).

Both "Wimbledon" and "Elizabethtown" were terrible movies that would even be embarrassing to watch on a 22-hour plane ride, and the role in "Marie Antoinette," with all of the po-mo hoopla surrounding it ahead of the fact, could have scared away more qualified actors. And she had worked with Sofia once before.

Her movie resume is a bit barren, too. "Dick" was great (you were right about Michelle Williams - the scene where she sings "I Honestly Love You" on the tape to Nixon is classic), and she had a nothing role in "Eternal Sunshine" and a supporting turn in a very good "Wag the Dog." It gets real thin after that.

Given this, along with a slew of forgettable movies, it goes to show you how lucky she was to get the Spidey roles. But this was no great stroke of genius - super hero movies always do well at the box office. Hell, I bet "Daredevil" made 100 million. Makes you wonder how in demand she'd be without the three Spideys.

Given that, I see her not quite as a Reggie Sanders, but someone who is not the team star, nor even the #2 option on the team. Maybe someone who happens to be lucky to have secured a good role on a team with far superior players. Someone that you might forget about but whom keeps getting playing time and the media loves - say, Mark Belanger.

2007-01-16 16:02:09
41.   Scott Long
Belanger was a great defensive shortstop. Don't see the talent that Dunst has in being great, unless it's the magic to get directors to hire her.
2007-01-16 16:04:23
42.   blue22
40/41 - Maybe someone who happens to be lucky to have secured a good role on a team with far superior players.

Would you believe...Scott Brosius then?

2007-01-16 16:05:44
43.   Ravenscar
Well, I was reaching on Bergman as I couldn't really think of anyone else from the era - the first time I saw Notorious (VHS!) I practically fell out of my chair when she made her entrance and proceeded to rewind the movie over and over to keep watching it. My point was more with Hepburn. A lead actress who carries films. I admit not being sure what the opinion was then, but I have no doubt now that she's not held in high regard as one of the most beautiful women of the era. At least amongst the FHM/STUFF/CAMGIRL generation I'm in. I was basically wondering if Scott wold put her under the "must be hot babe to deserve lead" status.

Even with your opinion of Dunst, I'm surprised you wouldn't agree with Coppola's opinion that she could probably pull off "empty, selfish, and vapid." I don't actually think that film was Dunst's fault. Not sure, would have to see it again.

Coppola the Younger does have too small a sample size to be considered a top-notch director. But she's is a director who's made at least one really superlative film. That alone - looking at the moutain of dreck that's put out - places in kind of a small percentile at least in the top of the pile of working directors.

2007-01-16 16:11:42
44.   El Lay Dave
37 39 I tend to think of the "top-notch" as a pretty reserved rung; I picked on Sofia Coppola, but the entire list is arguable. As for Tarantino, not only are you not allowed to forget about "Kill Bill", it counts as TWO movies, so he has 66% more movies directed. (Screenwriting is tangentially related to their directing merits.) We're arguing semantics on a tangential point, your list of directors certainly had sufficient influence to cast or not cast Dunst in their movies.

Perhaps Sofia Coppola simply pictured Marie Antoinette as exceedingly pale and washed-out and about Dunst's age.

2007-01-16 16:13:10
45.   El Lay Dave
40 41 David Eckstein.
2007-01-16 16:27:39
46.   stevegoz
I'm sorry, I couldn't read past the part where someone claimed Scarlett Johansen was a talented actress. She's got talentz, alright, but she can't act.

As for Dunst -- thought she was incredi-hot a few years ago, but then her fun bags seemed to shrink more and more with each photoshoot, making her much harder for me to objectify. But I still wouldn't consider her slumming, either for Petey Parker or his friend what will one day become the Green Goblin Jr. Or, well, me.

Great fun new feature, this "Please Explain."

2007-01-16 16:28:26
47.   stevegoz
Which is higher, Dunst's VORA or Dave Matthews's VORS?
2007-01-16 16:33:46
48.   Eric Enders
They're both Performers, so we could just use good old-fashioned VORP.
2007-01-16 17:16:52
49.   Voxter
As for Tarantino, not only are you not allowed to forget about "Kill Bill"

44 - I wish I could. That's four hours of my life I'll never get back. What a collossal waste of talent and time.

I have essentially neutral feelings about Kristen Dunst, other than that I wouldn't mind seeing her naked. I don't think she's such a terrible actress, but she is limited -- fun in "Bring It On", inoffensive in "Spider-man", not so good when she's supposed to be carrying a movie, like "Elizabethtown" or "Wimbledon".

I think part of why Coppola used her for "Marie Antoinette" is that she has a certain blank-slate quality to her -- friendlyish, not bad-looking, but not striking in any particular way. Antoinette was very young, and somewhat unformed as a human being, when she came onto the scene; Dunst, who lacks even the hint of forcefulness that you get from more talented actresses, was good for that kind of thing.

2007-01-16 17:41:21
50.   Penarol1916
35. I think that Laura Linney is hot. I've been smitten with her since Primal Fear.
Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2007-01-16 19:35:54
51.   Scott Long
Here is a link to a piece I did in 2005 on Kill Bill.

Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs are 2 of my 20 favorite movies. I agree with Voxter's sentiments on Kill Bill.

2007-01-17 07:49:56
52.   FirstMohican
I'm annoyed by Dunst because half of my friends are infatuated with her and I can't comprehend why either. I typically avoid movies featuring her as I've never enjoyed her as an actress.
2007-01-17 07:58:07
53.   Benjamin Kabak
Everyone's forgetting The Virgin Suicides. She was pretty fantastic in that movie. So at least we know she can be better than she is as Mary Jane in Spiderman.
2007-01-17 11:48:38
54.   Sushirabbit
I agree with 37 and the sentiment that whoever played MJ couldn't over power Tobey Macguire or it would weaken the movie. So in that sense, Dunst is ideal. She's like the "quiet" lead actress. I kind of like her, but for me there is something in the best actor/actress' eyes (or face, I don't really know), that makes it seem like you know what they are thinking or feeling.

Say the scene where Dr. Kimble (Harrison Ford) jumps off the dam in fugitive, and the immediate reaction of the Marshall (Tommy Lee Jones). I think at her best Dunst is able to pull this kind of thing off, which is like eloquence in acting. Maybe she doesn't bring much else to the table, but that one thing is pretty good.

2007-01-17 15:40:16
55.   Ravenscar
53 - I'm not sure if anyone is as much "forgetting" the Virgin Suicides as thinking "the Virgin what now? That was a movie?"
2007-01-18 13:53:36
56.   scareduck
20 - None of these actresses have consistent LEAD roles in major Hollywood releases, despite being Dunst's superior in every way. This was my point. I don't think Dave Matthews is terrible, I just don't understand the level of his fame and celebrity. The same goes for Dunst.

Newsflash: MOST actresses don't get consistent work. Most of them are butterflies whose careers die by the time they're 30.

2007-01-18 19:53:17
57.   Ravenscar
Given this discussion, I have to say I find that truly hard to believe.
2007-01-18 21:07:31
58.   Scott Long
Scareduck you make my point. Very few actors get a chance to star in a movie. Dunst has had numerous top roles. I don't get it.
2007-01-19 13:34:28
59.   Benaiah
I think Dunst is fine, she isn't mindbogglingly hot, she doesn't blow you off the screen, but she is easy to look at and pleasant to be around. Plus, she is both very hot and very good in Eternal Sunshine, which is one of the best movies of the past couple years, in my opinion.

46 - Bashing Scarlett is just silly, she is smoking hot, and curvey to boot. Plus, she has an impressive list of credible movies: Ghost World, Matchpoint, Lost in Translation et al. She is already Woody Allen's latest muse and has held her own with Bill Murray.

Oh and I agree with Scott about Jewel, I was flipping the channels one Sunday and ended up watching an interview with her for half an hour. Unbelievably good looking and I consider myself more of a brunette guy.

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