Bright Lights Film Journal

Three Brilliant Performances by Natasha Richardson (1963-2009)

. . . and not one of them is presently available on U.S. DVD. Here’s a box set I would happily purchase.

Patty Hearst (1988). Directed by Paul Schrader. Screenplay by Nicholas Kazan.

Richardson plays the title role. The film is seen entirely from her point of view (when she’s locked in the closet, we’re locked in the closet, knowing her captors only by their silhouettes and voices). A pawn caught between the Revolutionaries and the Establishment. Her Northern California accent, alone, is awesome. And who can forget her last line delivered from a jail cell? “Fuck them. Fuck them all.”

The Handmaid’s Tale (1990) – Directed by Volker Schlondorff. Screenplay by Harold Pinter.

Allegorical SF about a totalitarian American theocracy. Richardson plays a “handmaid” – essentially a breeder in a world where most women are sterile – hired out to a privileged couple (Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall) to conceive their child.

The Comfort of Strangers (1991) – Directed by Paul Schrader. Screenplay by Pinter.

Richardson and Rupert Everett play a “good couple” vacationing in Venice (uh-oh) who are seduced by a “bad couple” (Christopher Walken and Helen Mirren). More fundamentally disturbing than you could imagine.

None of these unabashed art films were popular successes. Nor were they meant to be. Richardson eventually found her greatest acclaim on the stage.