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Zoe Kazan deserves Best Actress consideration for “The Monster”

Zoe Kazan
There are no shortages of talented young actresses who aren’t getting their due in Hollywood. We know that. For my money though, no one is as underrated and deserving of acclaim as Zoe Kazan. She has been doing really compelling work for years now, but always seems to be stuck somewhat on the periphery of the industry. Simply put, she deserves better. This week, she once again puts forward a top tier performance, this time in the independent horror movie The Monster. Not only is the film good, she’s positively incredible. This is one of the best performances I’ve seen all year long.

The film is an indie horror tale that’s also as much a character study as anything else. Young mother Kathy (Kazan) has a tough relationship with her daughter Lizzy (Ella Ballentine). Kathy isn’t too responsible and is struggling with addiction. They’re at some of their most strained points during a fateful car trip, one in which the car breaks down on a lonely stretch of road. Only, it’s not so lonely, as a literal monster begins stalking them. There is a body count, as other folks come into play, but for the most part, this is just them, with flashbacks that do a great job of fleshing out the character. Bryan Bertino writes and directs, while the rest of the small cast includes Aaron Douglas, Christine Ebadi, Marc Hickox, and Scott Speedman.

Kazan absolutely blows you away here. She’s easily the best part, though it would be unfair to pretend that Bertino doesn’t execute his end as well. After all, this is the filmmaker behind the really good horror film The Strangers. This is even more stripped down, requiring the cast, in particular Kazan, to elevate things. Ballentine is solid, but Kazan shines bright. In a just world, she’d be in the mix for a Best Actress nomination. If nothing else, hopefully a body like the Independent Spirit Awards recognizes her in some way. One can dream, at least. Regardless, she’s just incredible in this part.

Remember, Kazan is not just an actress, but a writer as well. Her screenplay for Ruby Sparks is one of the sharpest feature debut scripts in recent memory. She’s also co-writing the adaptation of Wildlife, the directorial debut of Paul Dano. Frankly, it seems like only a matter of time until she makes her own feature film directorial debut. When that happens, I have no doubt it will be a top notch outing. For now, she’s a multi hyphenate on the rise. Her acting is unimpeachable, with her writing so far just as good. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Here are what I consider to be Kazan’s ten best performances to date:

1. The Pretty One
2. Ruby Sparks
3. The Exploding Girl
4. The Monster
5. What If
6. Some Girl(s)
7. Happythankyoumoreplease
8. Meek’s Cutoff
9. In Your Eyes
10. Revolutionary Road

Honorable Mentions: Me and Orson Welles, My Blind Brother, and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

Overall, this weekend brings a really strong horror outing in The Monster, which has the added benefit of featuring Kazan in a really phenomenal role. Bertino deserves credit for writing such a role, but Kazan aced the part, which is perhaps even more essential. She’s so outstanding that you just want to sing her praises. Horror never winds up really transitioning to the awards season, but I sincerely hope that she’s not completely forgotten. If you like fright flicks, this is one to see, though if you just like strong acting, this is a must see. Kazan is full on incredible here…

Be sure to check out The Monster, in theaters on a limited basis starting tomorrow!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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