Ryan Gilbey on film

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The Independent Online
Is Anjelica Huston the best actress working today? Yes, she is. She has two new films out: Sean Penn's grim and disappointingly sentimental drama The Crossing Guard, and Mira Nair's messy but endearing The Perez Family. She is outstanding in both - fragile but somehow indomitable, and fierce, and sad - but I think her power is most evident in The Perez Family, where she has more screen time and actually holds together an entire film which might otherwise fall to pieces. (The Crossing Guard is a lost cause which even Huston can't fully redeem.) She plays Carmela (right), a woman waiting in Miami for her husband (Alfred Molina), a political prisoner of 20 years. But he doesn't arrive, or rather he does, but a series of comic misadventures result in him being elbowed into a bogus marriage with another woman.

That woman, Marisa Tomei, is as sparky as a firecracker, but Huston suggests a far greater depth through much more subtle, delicately shaded work. That has been the story of her career. She held her own against Jack Nicholson, her (now ex-) partner of nearly 20 years, in her father John's film Prizzi's Honour, where she was cool and slyly sensual. In Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanours, she tore your heart open as a woman killed at the behest of the lover she was blackmailing, and that was despite Allen's writing, which tried to turn her into a screeching caricature. She towered in his Manhattan Murder Mystery, a deep presence in a shallow film. Her best work was in The Grifters, Enemies: A Love Story and her father's last film The Dead.

And now she has directed a film - Bastard Out of Carolina, a disturbing child-abuse story, premiering tomorrow night at the Drambuie Edinburgh Film Festival. Expect to find every ounce of the honesty and drive that characterises her acting; expect the exceptional.

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