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The Glass Onion’s Kate Hudson Is the Best Part

What distinguishes a genuinely iconic performance? The phrase itself—despite being overused—is the only way to convey that indelible, magical phenomenon that occurs when acting, writing, costuming, and some other intangible element join together to create a character who is simultaneously timeless and revolutionary. The number of performances that truly merit the title is quite small. It might have actors like Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara, Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly, and Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly. After watching Glass Onion, I am certain that Kate Hudson’s portrayal of Birdie Jay should be added to the list of classic performances.

Hudson has a scene-stealing humorous delivery, easy charisma, and outstanding character work in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. It’s a flawless portrayal that captures a very specific type of shallow rich It girl behaviour while also suggesting an unexpected emotional nuance.
The 2019 film Knives Out introduced us to Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc, a dapper investigator with a Southern drawl. Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion is Benoit Blanc’s second outing. The second movie, like any good murder mystery series, introduces us to a completely new array of characters as Benoit investigates a brand-new mystery. In this one, the picturesque cold New England woods give way to a Greek villa bathed in sunlight. When a wealthy software billionaire (Edward Norton) invites several wealthy old friends to a weekend getaway with a murder-mystery theme, the lethal fun quickly takes a very real turn. Janelle Monáe, a businesswoman, Dave Bautista, a right-wing Twitch celebrity, Leslie Odom Jr., a future senator, Kathryn Hahn, and, of course, Hudson’s Birdie, a former supermodel turned entrepreneur, are among the guests.

It’s a real group effort. The suspects all have large, almost caricature-like personas, which are supported by vibrant, high-octane performances. Hudson’s Birdie, who is a member of a larger ensemble, is rarely the centre of the action for very long, yet she still manages to steal every scene with, for example, a brilliantly insensitive one-liner, a killer dress that borders on the absurd, or a flash of physical humour.
Birdie, a former supermodel who is today the face of a line of sweatpants, is clinging to her fame with all of her might. She constantly clamours for relevance, which makes her prone to errant tweets and a startling lack of self-awareness. She first appears to us during a home party during a pandemic, appearing utterly bored. Don’t worry, she assures us apathetically, all of the countless attendees are “in her pod.”
What should be terrifying is, nonetheless, really entertaining to witness. Instead of repelling, her terrible political ignorance is infused with confidence and simplemindedness, causing shock-horror and delight at the same time. Yes, she is that type of affluent, thoughtless woman—the kind that carelessly hosted wild house parties during a lockdown. This woman, though, turns into the funniest character on screen in Hudson’s hands.

There’s also the instance when she wrongly pronounces “It’s tic-tac-toe” loudly and repeatedly while staring at a challenging, technical problem. In one particularly tense sequence, she makes sure to correct a viewer who misidentifies a character’s sandals as Gucci. “Valentino,” she snorts critically. In one particular passage, she expresses with a single glance her sincere belief that “sweatshops” are actually the unobtrusive, unproblematic locations where actual sweatpants are produced, not the cruel and exploitative factories that they are often portrayed to be. Although Hudson’s delivery of each line, which is always perfectly pitched anywhere on the scale from subtle to melodramatic, is what makes Birdie an instant classic even though she has the best lines.
In addition to being humorous, Hudson is the epitome of beauty as Birdie. She is all hair, heels, and sunglasses. The party girl look with sparkly wide-leg pants and a coordinating kimono is in style right now. There is also the vacation girl look, complete with a loose-fitting purple jumpsuit, a wide-brimmed sun hat, and of course, a genuinely outrageous gold mesh face mask that is both highly effective and highly porous. As she approaches the pool, a slow-motion orange sarong is seen blowing in the wind. Even an evening gown in a glittering kaleidoscope of colours is present. She is, in a word, a style icon.

There is something about this mocked and celebrated style of glitz that feels very distinctly of the 2000s; Birdie reminds me of Regina George, Cher Horowitz, or Elle Woods. And it should come as no surprise that Kate Hudson, the aughts’ reigning queen, was the ideal choice to play her.

However, Birdie also has a sinister side. She occasionally shows glimmers of an elderly model with ingrained fears beneath the ditzy character and the neatly coiffed veneer. The essential accomplishment of Hudson is that she achieves the ideal harmony and provides an incredible trinity of flair, humour, and depth. The London Film Festival press conference included Hudson, who described herself as “so deeply humorous, blind to herself, layered, and sad and codependent.” Hudson succeeds in being a bit of a glass onion herself in many respects. Birdie isn’t only entertaining to watch; if you stare at her for a while, you can see some of her layers.

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