Sunday, 7 August 2011

ICONIC: Winona Ryder

Isn't it everyone's dream to have eternal youth? Dorian Gray sells his soul for it, Michael Jackson built Neverland in an attempt to cling on to it, and 'Winona Ryder' made a whole career out of it.

Contrary to popular belief, 'Winona Ryder' only lived from 1986 to 2001, when her star was tragically extinguished by an unfortunate brush with reality in Saks Fifth Avenue, Beverly Hills. The incident left Ms Ryder fighting for her life and her career, but the outcome was not positive. She enjoyed just fifteen years under the Hollywood sun.

The slim-limbed and fresh-faced Winona, who was born with the surname Horowitz, was one of our last great actresses. Her star was born on the back of a small but hugely significant role in the football comedy Lucas in 1986. As Corey Haim's best friend she shone with winsome charm amidst a rabble of teen co-stars (among them Charlie Sheen), and even when puffing on a clarinet maintained dignity and grace.

The rebirth of Winona Horowitz as 'Winona Ryder' ranks with the greatest of Tinseltown transformations, like the legends Norma Jeane (Marylin Monroe) and Audrey Ruston (Audrey Hepburn) before her. Winona's entrance to this Hollywood pantheon of stars came just a decade before it was brought to ruins by the Internet and reality television shows in the late nineties.

Winona's 'type' was The Hyperbolic Heroine: a regular kind of person multiplied by ten. When faced with an alienating high school clique in Heathers, Ms Ryder takes the drastic measure of poisoning her best frenemy with bleach before blowing up the school. The rebellious daughter to Cher's hip-swinging beehived Mom in Mermaids? A retreat into devout Catholicism is really our young heroine's only option. And as a misfit teen in Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael, founding a sanctuary for farm animals and casual goth styling will surely help with the playground teasing.

Throughout her defining roles she remained a beacon of dewy insouciance and an immortal vision of youth, but the tragedy of 'Winona Ryder' is that she never reached adulthood. As she entered her thirties, she was still playing a closeted sorority leader in love with Rachel in Friends ('I can still hear the coconuts knocking together!'), and the high-school cool girl subjecting a 46-year old ex-junkie to a makeover in Strangers With Candy.

'Winona Ryder''s death-by-shoplifting is to Hollywood what Macbeth is to theatre, a cursed legend only referred to in pseudonym or hushed tones. Alas, her last great performance – on the witness stand – was not captured on celluloid, and she was consigned to the Hollywood scrap heap.

After noncommittally haunting The Private Lives of Pippa Lee and A Scanner Darkly, the ghost of 'Winona Ryder' horrifically returned in Darren Aranofsky's Black Swan last year. As the washed-up ballerina Beth Macintyre, Winona rattles through the picture like an unhinged poltergeist, a psychobiddy caricature of middle-age. Like Bette Davis as Baby Jane before her, she is a spectre of youth; art and life were never so cruelly and deliciously intertwined. 'Did you suck his cock?' she drunkenly slurs at Natalie Portman before throwing herself in front of a car. Winona's visage, once the face that launched a thousand scripts, is brutally torn to shreds by her own fair hand. 'I'm nothing!' she cries, stabbing her porcelain cheek with a nailfile. 'Nothing!' she shrieks, writhing and foaming at the mouth. She lays down dead, finally exorcised.

As Jocelyn Wildenstein discovered and continues to discover on a daily basis, the elixir of youth is a double-edged sword. What Winona Horowitz does now is neither here nor there; like River Phoenix before her, 'Winona Ryder' never grew up.

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