Isabelle Huppert can do anything. And she frequently does. In the past 40+ years she’s acted in over a hundred films in all genres from musical to quirky comedies to WWII era dramas. She’s committed to challenging herself in bold, new ways, continually delivering fierce, complex, and unforgettable performances in roles most actors would be nervous to approach. But perhaps her greatest skill is her withering judgmental stare.
The idea of actually being on the other end of any of her characters’ disappointment is terrifying, as we see in full force in the widely circulated film twitter famous clip from her upcoming film Greta in which she yells, “I deserve better!” at co-star Chloe Grace Moretz, flips a table, and charges at her. I have a sneaking suspicion I would fare no better than Chloe when it comes to her characters, and as such am revisiting some of her most iconic roles, ranked by how letdown she’d be in me personally.
5. Natalie, Things to Come
A brilliant and caring philosophy teacher and writer, Nathalie would have been one of my favorite teachers in high school and I absolutely would have been a total suck up and teacher’s pet. Speaking up during all of the class discussions and staying after class to talk with her about books, my dreams, writing, and life. Running into me years later she’d find any academic and literary promise I once had is gone and my literature degree sits unused. My dreams for writing a novel or becoming a journalist abandoned. She’d sit me down for a frank conversation at a Parisian cafe and remind me of the importance of intellectual fulfillment and encourage me to start writing and reading again.
4. Maria Vial, White Material
However naive, entitled and stubborn, Maria is a desperately hard working farmer and employer, who risks her life (and others) for the sake of her plantation. Seeing me, a 20 something, lounging around my family’s home watching films all day and out of work, she couldn’t help but be reminded of her own lazy son and be quietly dismayed with me. I wouldn’t be surprised if I shared the same fate as another character at her hands and wound up clubbed to death out of frustration and sadness as well.
3. Augustine, 8 Women
As the stern, over-dramatic and judgmental spinster aunt, Augustine is constantly in everyone’s business and looking for a reason to criticize her family. At strained family dinners, my love life, or lack thereof, would be an easy target for her. She’d question, perhaps in the form of a song, why I’d never brought anyone home, make disparaging comments about my appearance dress and attitude being partially to blame, and threaten to set up with some nice boy from church (despite the fact that I’ve told her multiple times I’m gay).
2. Erika Kohut, The Piano Teacher
As a teen I begged my parents to give me piano lessons. Eventually, they gave in, though it lasted only a year before I realized I didn’t have the skills or patience to develop them. As my piano teacher Erika would have viciously scolded me for not practicing nearly enough and starting too late, proclaim I was wasting her time, and call me untalented to my face. And she would be 100% in the right to do so.
1. Michèle Leblanc, Elle
In spite of all the traumas she’s experienced, Michèle is a confident, collected, and successful woman. And she’s rightfully sick of putting up with inadequacy in others, whether in her son, parents, lover, or her childish and jealous employees. She most certainly would not let me off the hook, immediately zeroing in on all of my failings. My perpetual single romantic status, my inability to get and hold onto jobs, and the fact that I recently had to move back in with relatives would all be of immense disgust to her.