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Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2005 07:02 am

Enduring Foster

Jodie Foster makes the implausible believable

A two-decade-old song by the punk band Ism, “John Hinckley, Jr. (What Has Jodie Done to You)?”, mockingly recalls a legacy that might have derailed the career of a lesser actress. Jodie Foster survived — there has never been a better actress in movies — but being the obsession of the man who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan is the kind of publicity no one needs. She has become known for an array of intelligent and strong-willed characters, many of whom are victimized. In Flightplan, her current hit, Foster portrays one of those types, but she perseveres by means of her wits and self-reliance. Great acting often takes a back seat in action thrillers, but Foster turns it into an acting tour de force. She makes the implausible believable. Foster has been acting professionally since she was a small child doing the usual kids’ roles, from Disney flicks (Napoleon and Samantha) to TV guest shots (The Partridge Family, etc.). Her taking on the Tatum O’Neal role in the short-lived television series Paper Moon must rank as one of the great ironies of show business. A supporting role in Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974) led to a landmark role in Taxi Driver (1976), in which she played a 12-year-old prostitute. Foster perfectly created a character whose childhood innocence was robbed by the shocking world around her. She proved that her talent was far beyond the capabilities of most child actors and that a solid adult career should be hers for the taking. It almost ended, thanks to Hinckley and her stint at Yale, but The Accused (1988) gave Foster her first substantial adult role and a well-deserved Oscar. She bared all emotionally as a brazen woman who is gang-raped in a bar, and her performance is raw and heartbreaking. The Accused perfectly challenges the notion of the double standard that suggests women deserve retribution for behavior that is acceptable for men. Whatever one thinks of this great film, Foster is absolutely unforgettable. Foster’s presence enhances any movie, but some noteworthy gems in her filmography are Foxes (1980), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Contact (1997), and Little Man Tate (1991), which she also directed.
New releases on DVD on Tuesday (Oct. 18): Batman Begins, Land of the Dead, and Herbie: Fully Loaded.
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