In a time of cultural noise, in which the loudest and most outspoken receive the most attention, Andrea Riseborough succeeds through nuance and restraint. Her spellbinding 2018 performances are the sublimest spectacles.
Because Riseborough speaks little in 2018 films like “The Death of Stalin,” “Mandy” and “Nancy,” character detail and directorial form become essential to the viewing experience, and how one interprets the performances. What would Robert De Niro’s Johnny Boy be without Martin Scorsese’s Caravaggian lighting and framing in 1973’s “Mean Streets”? And how would Sissy Spacek’s “Carrie” performance hold up without Brian De Palma’s blood red production aesthetic? Riseborough, a 37-year-old English actress, elevates films by harmonizing with the director’s mise-en-scène, and by keeping the audience engaged.
For Armando Iannucci’s political satire “The Death of Stalin,” Riseborough represents the grounding force; the mediator of ridiculous men. As Svetlana Stalina, she delivers a Charlie Chaplin-esque performance, speaking with her hands and reacting to contrived male machismo with calculated non-verbals. Alongside loud male performers like Steve Buscemi, Jason Isaacs, and Michael Palin, Riseborough punctuates dialogue with her slanted grins, numerous face palms and rhythmic movements within each comedic scenario.
Riseborough essentially functions as a frustrated middle child in “The Death of Stalin,”