Bright Lights Film Journal

Celebrating 40 Years of Anne Heche

All stars are subject to fits of madness, and if you date a daytime TV talkshow host for long enough, who knows what kind of depths of self-confessional martyrdom you can reach? Anne Heche has come a long way, from sizzling rising star to cutting edge public profile gay couple member to childhood sex trauma victim/survivor with tell-all books and so forth. I refuse to judge any of it as bad–more power to her for saying things that need to be said–but I fear it hurt her box office career (alienating the Red states, for example, which is fun and right, but hardly profitable)–what I want to celebrate this month (she hits the big 4.0 on the 25th and man do I know how that goes) is Anne Heche’s marvelous screen career. The pictures may get small around her, but whatever she does is always worth seeing; she has just enough Norma Desmond to balance out the sass.

A sexy, devouring firebrand onscreen, Heche often looks too skinny and insane* in her cover shoots and magazine spreads, where she can’t vibrate, but becomes pinned down, like a butterfly on a board. Onscreen is where she’s meant to be, a relentlessly moving spirit, the closest thing our cinema has to a sprite, a pixie, or an elf; not quite physical. If she stopped vibrating, she’d disappear. She’s sexy, sure, but it’s a sexiness that comes with uncompromising intellect and feral cunning, a bisexual energy that transcends sex, like Garbo pretending to be Jean Harlow (in a good way, not like TWO-FACED WOMAN).

In the pictures above you can see that she’s aces at being in pictures with someone else; she’s a natural presence whose whole demeanor changes to reflect those around her, onscreen or off. In psychology class we call that “mirroring” — a tactic which includes “antithetical mirroring” wherein you assume a complimentary opposite to the person (if they cross their legs, you might uncross them at the same time, etc.) It’s the opposite of what someone like Nicole Kidman does, which is why they’re so perfect together in BIRTH, or the opposite of what Christopher Walken does, which is why they’re so perfect together in WILD SIDE.

VOLCANO: I recently caught this on FoxM and you could say it “re-ignited” my passion for Anne Heche. She’s such a cute little firebrand here, hopping around in and out of Humvee backseats as she points out fault lines and sewer tunnels to Tommy Lee Jones. The whole movie is one long frenzied 9/11-predicting flash of smoke and fire trucks, and she surfs through it like a champ, even covered in soot and dust. She cracks that crooked smile and all the urban apocalypse and hellfire seems to vanish in the haze.

BIRTH: While rich debutante Nicole Kidman swoons over the memory of her late husband, and the possibility that some little shrimp of a kid from Brooklyn is his reincarnation, Anne just watches from the wings, alternately trying to steal the kid as a matter of course, and later… well, I won’t spoil it, but you should see this amazing film if you haven’t already. It’s more Kubrick than EYES WIDE SHUT.

She’s not always perfect, sometimes needy and bandwagon-jumpy (see above “Jennifer Aniston hair day” photo), but she’s got guts. And as Sgt. Emery once said…

* Her book’s called CALL ME CRAZY, dealing with her mental illness among other things. I’m planning to get it at the Strand today, presuming they have it, and why the hell wouldn’t they?