Regardless of what you might think of her acting abilities, Kristen Stewart is undoubtedly a star. Her portrayal of the frail, useless and consistently vanilla protagonist Bella Swan in the Twilight series catapulted her into the spotlight at the age of 18. Stewart recently announced that she is taking a break from acting, which I think is the best possible decision she could make if she wants to extend the longevity of her career. Let’s take a look at the evolution of her career to analyze why now is the perfect time for Stewart to step out of the limelight for a bit.
As a child actor, Stewart immediately showed promise for a successful acting career. In 2002’s Panic Room, an 11-year-old Stewart holds her own next to the masterful Jodie Foster. Her performance in that film, much like her co-star’s legendary role in Taxi Driver, revealed a surprising amount of maturity despite the film’s dark subject matter. As a teenager, Stewart again delivered smart performances in Into the Wild and Zathura, a fun sci-fi adventure film that bombed at the box office but received critical praise. If you liked Jumanji and you’re interested in seeing a young Stewart, Dax Shephard as an astronaut and adorable preteen Josh Hutcherson, I definitely recommend it.
Then came Twilight, the film that completely changed Stewart’s career. While I believe Stewart could have been successful without it, it certainly jump-started fame for her. Looking back at the other films she appeared in, it certainly seems to be an odd choice. Up to that point, she appeared in films that, at the very least, had interesting scripts. Except for Catch That Kid.
The blockbuster franchise gave her box office credibility, but stifled her as an actor. If you judge Stewart’s performance as Bella too harshly, remember that a paper doll could have played Bella Swan. There’s no depth to the character or anything about her as an individual that isn’t entirely dependent on her relationships with two guys. With all of her shivering from the torture of having to spend time with herself instead of a man, you’d think she’d be wearing an apron and ironing Edward’s shirts the whole time. The point is Stewart’s blank stare performances weren’t all her fault. Remember, during this same time period she gave decent performances in Adventureland and The Runaways. Close your eyes and imagine any other actress playing Bella Swan. It still sucks, right? There’s only so much you can do with a one-dimensional character.
That being said, her performance in Snow White and the Huntsman barely registered above Twilight level passion even though she was given far more interesting material to work with. Despite her weak British accent, she shows sparks of interest but ultimately drowns in the shadow of the dazzling effects and Charlize Theron’s intimidating performance. Stewart finally broke out of her acting slump with her roles in Camp X-Ray and Still Alice, but her most impressive feat was in Clouds of Sils Maria. Stewart somehow manages to give a performance almost on par with the legendary Juliette Binoche as her personal assistant. She recently made history by becoming the first American actress to win a César award. The César Awards are the French equivalent of the Oscars, so Stewart’s win for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Clouds of Sils Maria is more than a big deal.
Even after these recent successes, Stewart is planning on stepping away from acting for a bit. It’s a good move for Stewart, who has been overexposed through her involvement with Twilight and the obsession of the unrelenting paparazzi. Admittedly, some of the negative press is Stewart’s own fault. She was caught red-handed making out with Snow White and the Huntsman’s married director, Rupert Graves. Yes, it was gross and morally wrong but everyone makes stupid mistakes when they are young. For more than six years, Stewart has been at the mercy of the bloodthirsty paparazzi that follow her every move. With no privacy, I’m sure it’s been next to impossible to maintain a healthy personal life.
With her recent successful performances and three more films coming out this year, it’s a great chance for Stewart to take some time off. When she returns to the acting scene people will remember her box office potential but more importantly, her excellent turn in Clouds of Sils Maria. Give it a few years and Stewart’s next big roles will make you forget all about those silly vampire flicks.