Courtney Love: the unlikeliest comeback story of the year?
The Hole frontwoman, onetime critical darling and '90s cultural icon has been racking up an impressive number of acting credits lately, from recurring guest arcs on shows like “Sons of Anarchy,” “Revenge” and “Empire” to her new role in the James Franco-directed feature “The Long Home,” an adaptation of the 1999 William Gay novel about a young carpenter (Josh Hutcherson) who's contracted to build a honky-tonk by the man who murdered his father ten years earlier (Tim Blake Nelson). As reported yesterday, Love is set to play the wife of Nelson's antagonistic character in the 1940s Tennessee-set drama, which represents her first feature-film credit since — are you ready? — the 2002 thriller “Trapped” co-starring Charlize Theron and Kevin Bacon.
Could this be the beginning of a new chapter in Love's career? It's a little too early to make any grand pronouncements, but if nothing else it appears the 1997 Golden Globe nominee (“The People vs. Larry Flynt”) is serious about making a return to the acting scene after more than a decade spent focusing on both her music and personal demons (the period, for the record, resulted in two lukewarmly-received albums and a six-month stint in rehab). As she told Q Magazine last May: “Rock 'n' roll is great, and I'm good at it, and I like myself onstage better than I like myself in real life and all that stuff. But I really, really like acting. As I get older, acting is something I want to do a lot more of.”
Perhaps unfortunately for Love, this (so far) minor career resurgence is coinciding with renewed interest around her late husband Kurt Cobain, the subject of Brett Morgen's HBO documentary “Montage of Heck,” which premiered Monday night on the network and has received no small amount of attention in the press (Love is heavily featured in both archival footage and as an interviewee). She's always been accused of riding her husband's coattails, and this will no doubt provide further ammunition for her tireless legion of haters.
And yet I would counter by arguing that Love rightly won acclaim for her performance in “Flynt,” in addition to showing flashes of real talent in films ranging “Basquiat” (in which she played the enigmatic Big Pink) to “Man on the Moon” (as Andy Kaufman's lover Lynne Margulies) to the little-seen 2001 indie drama “Julie Johnson” opposite Lili Taylor. If her “Flynt” role was criticized for reflecting her real-life persona a little too closely, her less-showy performances proved she could effectively portray a broader range of characters, and even charm us with real movie-star charisma (check out her standout performance in the uneven ensemble pic “200 Cigarettes” for more on that).
I'll admit I'm biased: I had “Live Through This” on repeat for a solid five-year period and still frequently revisit the album to this day (Hole's 1998 followup “Celebrity Skin” is also good, if not the artistic statement its predecessor was). I consider Love a mercurial talent and great star who got sidelined by addiction for far too many years, and I'm happy to see her back on track after a seemingly endless string of erratic personal appearances, cringe-inducing Twitter rants and troubles with the law. For a woman who has been assailed, counted out and even pegged for the morgue countless times over the last two decades, a career comeback would merely be the icing on an already miraculous feat: the fact that she's managed to survive at all.