Regular readers will be unsurprised to learn that last month's Oscar nominations did not exactly wow me in the Costume Design category. All five nominated films are period dramas (if you're interested in more detail as to why this irritates me, try my Introduction to Costume Design post), and in my view only one of them deserves a win: Hugo, whose costume designer Sandy Powell has already been nominated ten times and won three. Her acceptance speech for The Young Victoria last year mostly amounted to, "This one's dedicated to all the costume designers who work on films that aren't about dead monarchs -- you know, the ones you guys routinely ignore." COME ON.
the easiest answer is Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Although perhaps not an obvious contender for its costumes, my other favourite movie of 2011 was Hanna. It stars Saoirse Ronan as a girl raised in complete isolation by her father, a former spy. When Hanna reaches her mid-teens she decide that she's ready leave the forest where they've lived for her entire life, but in order to live freely they must first escape the clutches of Marissa Wiegler (Cate Blanchett), the CIA agent who has been hunting Hanna's father for years.
Not a hugely original story, but it's handled incredibly well by Joe Wright, the director of Atonement and Pride & Prejudice. He's not known for action thrillers, but rather than attempting a hit-and-miss approach to the genre (as Rob Marshall did with Pirates of the Caribbean 4) he sidesteps almost all common action-movie tropes. Instead of going the "sexy yet ass-kicking waif" route one might expect, Hanna comes across as a sweet and funny person, and displays none of the stoic angst that action filmmakers tend to use in place of characterisation.
The mother and daughter's costumes cracked me up because they were so spot-on. The daughter is clearly taking great pains to be as girly and trendy as possible, nattering on about reality TV and boys and various other teenage pursuits that leave Hanna utterly confused. The mother, on the other hand, is a wonderful portrayal of well-meaning middle-class British liberalism, a university-educated feminist who used to backpack around the world and is now trying to relive the experience with her family. She commends Hanna for her apparent independence, but it's evident that she doesn't fully understand what that independence really entails.
Interview with costume designer Lucie Bates, at Clothes On Film.
Giorgio Armani's sketches for Marissa's costumes.