How much do you know about Brandy Burre outside of being regular character Theresa D’Agostino on The Wire? In Actress, we get to see Burre’s full range as an actor and human being, left to ponder which is which on screen. There are staged moments when we see Burre in an apron at the sink and question whether this is something she actually does, how she views herself or how she wants us to see her. It’s this questioning that makes Actress so appealing, but also incredibly frustrating.
Having left the world of acting to raise her two kids, Burre now lives a life of desperation as a mother who has lost her love for her husband. Her days are spent getting the kids off to school, doing the grocery shopping and cleaning up the house. The quiet moments of a house with toys strewn about and dirty dishes in the sink paint her life as being one of bold loneliness where she finds herself drinking wine alone in sweat pants. But is this all an act? In other scenes, we see her in a classic housewife dress and apron. She also spouts some rather melodramatic dramatic lines and speaks to her little children as if they were adults. Is she preparing for roles or this the real woman? The camera hides the honesty. Her kids and husband don’t seem to reveal anything either as they mostly stand off to the side, watching her struggle with being a mother and a woman.
Director Robert Greene toys with our perceptions of one woman struggling with the loss of her acting career and trying to gain it back. Burre left The Wire after 15 episodes when she became pregnant. Throughout this film we see her long for those days to a concerning degree. She laughs in dismay at her royalty checks from the show which don’t even crack a dollar (I wonder if the sales of the new Blu-ray set pushed that number up slightly). She brings trots out DVDs of The Wire to show her mother and discuss the series. Burre wants back in and tries to inch her way back in despite the presence of her children and her increased age since The Wire.
Though clearly staged to an almost absurd degree, Greene manages to touch on the real emotion he wants to evoke out of Burre’s situation. It’s one that any parent who leaves behind a career can relate. There are very surreal moments as when she sits in the room of her children in a bean bag chair amid board games and toys. She says that she is not acting and states that this is her creative outlet. Is it? Burre repeats this saying with a different meaning as if the filmmakers needed another take. Is it another take? Is Burre practicing her acting chops in front of the camera or does Greene just want to pull our leg about what is real? Question after question, staged scene after stage scene, screwing with the audience at every turn, Greene challenges us to define Burre with a foggy lens.
If nothing else, Actress will serve Brandy Burre as a platform for her talents and a helpful addition to her resume of work. In that respect, the film is oddly intriguing about trying to decipher what lies ahead for Burre being unknown as much as her presence in this film. Is she acting for the camera or truly bearing her soul for the audience? Perhaps she can never be herself in front of a camera and refuses to adhere to the documentary format of pretending that she is not being watched. Burre wants the attention and wants us to see her for all she is worth. It may sound rather pathetic, but with all that has happened in her hectic life, could you blame her?
Reviewed by Mark McPherson, CinemaParadiso.co.uk