1 April 2009

Is there an open-mouthed school of acting?

When I was a child, I remember being told that it wasn’t a good idea to walk about with my mouth open, or even partially open – advice that sometimes came with dire warnings about the dangers of allowing oral access to flies and other marauding insects.

Now I don’t know if it’s just me (and the small, unrepresentative sample of people I’ve consulted on it so far), but it does seem that film and television actresses are spending more and more time with their mouths open – both when there’s no dialogue and when they’re listening to one of the other actors saying something – than used to be the case.

Nor are those of us who’ve noticed it particularly impressed by it.

For one thing, once you’ve spotted someone doing it early on in a film, it becomes a big distraction - because you go on noticing the same actor doing it again and again. For another, it can be quite confusing trying to work out just what emotions and feelings all these open mouths are supposed to be conveying

So here are five questions on which I'd welcome feedback:

1. Has anyone else noticed it?
2. Is it a recent trend?
3. Am I alone in finding it irritating/distracting?
4. Is open-mouthed acting being taught in drama schools?
5. If so, why?

And, if your answer to Q1 is 'No', have a look at these clips of Keira Knightley in action, as she'd surely be the odds-on favourite to win if there were an Oscar for this style of acting.

P.S. Since first posting this, I've had this supporting email from a friend, who also happens to be a professional actress:

"Yes! I too have observed the (female) open-mouth school of acting. KK is the main offender who’s come to my notice, but I remember Scarlett Johansson adopted it in Girl With a Pearl Earring. Mind you, the girl in the painting by Vermeer is doing the same thing – I’ve just checked!

"The other perpetrator is Andrea Riseborough, she whom you admired so much in The Devil’s Whore! I think it’s considered sexy by the young actresses. Or, possibly, the (male) film directors encourage it for the same reason. To me it says ‘vacuous’, which is a shame, as I believe Johansson and Riseborough are both intelligent young women."

Her point about it being considered sexy by young actresses and male directors may be getting to it, as I've just typed 'Brigitte Bardot' into Google Images and noticed that most of the shots of the young Bardot (on the first two pages) show her with her mouth open!