Esther Kahn

Director: Arnaud Desplechin
Year Released: 2000
Rating: 3.5

Idiosyncratic, grossly underrated portrait of an introvert 'becoming' an extrovert through her love of the theater and her desire to 'perform.' Esther's dilemma - or scenario, whichever - is complex: how does a cipher (or passive voyeur) that has been criminally mistreated and painfully unhappy since childhood project that internal drama onto the outside world for others to see (perhaps, in a very Freudian way, she uses her psychic energy - formerly repressed - to properly emote)? Summer Phoenix pulls off the praise-worthy balancing act of playing a character that's frigid and unexpressive off the stage ("You're a machine," she's told at one point) and at the same time maintain audience sympathy and understanding. It's only appropriate that Esther's first leading role be the "spiritually hollow" Hedda Gabler.