This guest post by Angelina Rodriguez appears as part of our theme week on The Great Actresses.
Ellen Page already had an acting career in Canada when she came to the states to make her debut in Hard Candy. The young, bright actress kicked off her career in America with a controversial role that many found to be extremely unsettling. Teenage honor student Hayley decides to take justice into her own hands when a local girl goes missing. She uses her wit to overpower the voyeuristic pedophile character played by Patrick Wilson. Page sports a red hoody as if to conjure images of Little Red Riding Hood but, she is somewhat of a wolf in Red’s clothing. She is not to be underestimated.[caption id="attachment_9710" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Hard Candy movie poster[/caption]
Hayley is intelligent, confident, and sure of herself in a way that I had never seen before in a character her age. It was extremely empowering to watch the film as a 12-year-old girl with my nose in a book and 90s girl punk blasting in my ears.
Page delivers a layered performance as she commands vulnerability and even turns it into a strength. Her acting skill is obvious as she carries the film with her co-star Wilson. The majority of the scenes are dialogue-rich and only contain the two actors and a single house as the set. Both characters are complex, relatable, and completely human. This movie is unique, in that it does not do the work for you; it really makes you think. Hard Candy drove audiences to play out their own scenarios and call their own ideas about morality and nature vs. nurture into question. It was a daring role selection for the young Page.
Page’s character Hayley declares with tears and determination in her eyes, “I am every little girl you ever watched, touched, hurt, screwed, killed.” This role was for survivors, for women, for those that have simply had enough. Although violent justice isn’t something that all survivors necessarily wish for, the film brought attention to the subject of rape culture during a time when its existence was completely ignored. The dialogue confronts victim-blaming and addresses that law enforcement, along with society as whole, don’t do their part to stop terrible things from happening or seeking justice when they do.
The film is multifaceted, but it is definitely a comforting story for every girl in need of a good revenge fantasy.
Ellen Page had a smaller part as Kitty Pryde in X-Men: The Last Stand. Although her part is small, Kitty Pryde uses her ability to phase through walls to assist the team of mutants. She is a badass when she faces off against The Juggernaut, a much larger enemy, and manages to be a hero. Hopefully we will be able to see more development in the Kitty Pryde character in X-Men: Days of Future Past, set to be released in summer 2014.
Her biggest role and somewhat of a fame catalyst was Juno MacGuff in Juno. This heartfelt comedy follows a quick-witted high schooler through an unplanned pregnancy. This adult issue is handled well by Juno as she tries to continue to be a teen. She takes the disapproval of her classmates in stride with clever, sarcastic humor. Her parents are accepting and nurturing and help her through the process. Although character Juno makesthe choice to go through with the pregnancy and give the child up for adoption, some people were upset about the message in the film, claiming that it was pro-life. Page responded publicly to these concerns when she told The Guardian, “I am a feminist and I am totally pro-choice, but what’s funny is when you say that people assume that you are pro-abortion. I don’t love abortion but I want women to be able to choose and I don’t want white dudes in an office being able to make laws on things like this. I mean what are we going to do – go back to clothes hangers?” Page’s skills in Juno earned her a Best Actress Academy Award nomination. Her performance runs the gamut of emotions from side-stitch humorous to deeply moving.
The next underrated film Page starred in was Whip It; she plays Bliss Cavendar. Whip It is a story about a girl from a small town trying to find her niche and navigating the murky, adolescent waters of self discovery, early romance, friendship, and parental approval. Her mother wants her to devote her time to beauty pageants, and Bliss wants to find herself and hang out with rough, tough roller derby girls.
This film shows women being aggressive, competitive, and joining together over the love of the game and in the spirit of sisterhood.
Roller derby is a sport that allows women an outlet to express their athleticism, excludes men, and takes all kinds. Women of all shapes can find a home in the pack. Not only can any body type find a place, but any body type can be an asset. I’m glad the film was made and that it brought derby into the public eye, but it’s unfortunate that there was little diversity shown in the cast. Whip It is definitely a fun, inspirational girl power flick.
Later, Page played the role of Ariadne in Inception alongside star Leonardo DiCaprio. Page plays the intellectually driven, adventurous architect who is necessary to complete the team that illegally searches the sleeping consciousness in order to obtain information.
Recently Page delivered an incredible speech at a Human Rights Campaign about her struggle as a closeted gay person and her hopes for a better future. Although I do not fully support Human Rights Campaign for many reasons, mostly their lack of dedication to the queer community as a whole, Page gave an important speech worth listening to.
She made me proud of my generation and very sure that she is one of the great actresses of my time. Page said in her speech, “I’m here today because I am gay and because maybe I can make a difference. To help others have an easier and more hopeful time. Regardless, for me, I feel a personal obligation and a social responsibility.”
Page explained that she has a sense of responsibility that compels her to be honest and ethical as a person and a public figure. This same integrity will help her to continue her dedication to playing strong, interesting, dimensional characters that speak to young women. She sets her standards high with her roles and looks for stories with uniqueness, depth, and a message. Ellen Page earned her spot as a Great Actress by demonstrating a commitment to progressive roles and speaking well about the issues within her films and the issues that women face. She is an excellent role model and icon as well as a self-declared feminist.
Angelina Rodriguez studies Sociology at Fairmont State University. In her free time she thinks about things and pets puppies.