Sienna Miller in 'After Miss Julie' on Broadway: What did the critics think?
Sienna Miller may best be known in the U.S. as a Maxim It-girl and erstwhile arm-candy to Jude Law. But in Britain, she's received credit for her edgy career choices, including performing Shakespeare on stage and acting in a number of independent films.
Whoever you are, making your Broadway debut is never easy, and Miller has chosen an especially challenging drama for her big splash: Patrick Marber's "After Miss Julie," a quasi-adaptation of the August Strindberg classic "Miss Julie."
The drama updates the Strindberg play to Britain in 1945 on the eve of an election that brought the Labor Party to power. Miller plays the title character, a wealthy young lady who takes control of her father's estate and must confront her desires for the strapping young chauffeur John, played by Jonny Lee Miller (who is no relation to Sienna).
Directed by Mark Brokaw, this production (at the American Airlines Theater) is produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company.
So what did the New York critics have to say about Sienna Miller? Let's just say that their tendency to eviscerate young hot talent has not abated...
David Rooney of Variety wrote that "Sienna Miller is out of her depth in the title role, making her dance of power and death an unaffecting tragedy." He added that the actress "looks smashing as the wayward aristocrat, but this is a complex character fraught with contradictions, and she comes off simply as a loony tart whose cat-and-mouse games careen out of control." As for the overall production, he described it as "enervated."
Newday's Linda Winer called Sienna Miller "awfully actressy at the start of the 90-minute drama, purposefully meandering in her clingy summer dress and camera-ready makeup." But she becomes "more believable" later in the play "as powers keep shifting from predator to victim, from lust to tenderness to violence and back." The reviewer complimented Jonny Lee Miller's performance, writing that he "twitches and flips between being an upward-mobile hustler and a besotted slave to the landowner's overheated daughter, who hunts him down in the huge old kitchen of the estate."
The New York Times' Ben Brantley began his review saying that he "was rooting" for Sienna Miller, whom he considers to be a "game and gusty kind of gal." But the reviewer concluded that the actress "looks smug at first, then saucy, then distinctly uncomfortable and finally a bit frightened." He added that on paper, Miller wasn't a bad choice for the play's heroine but that ultimately, her "grasp never seems firm" on the role.
John Simon of Bloomberg complimented the actress' performance as "persuasive" but added that "there is some sort of ultimate aristocratic hauteur in which she is a bit lacking, making her downfall less dramatic." He complimented Jonny Lee Miller for "ably combin[ing] a convincingly working-class appearance with patently upward aspiration."
The Hollywood Reporter's Frank Scheck offered one of the few positive reviews of the actress' performance, writing that she "delivers a respectable, emotionally charged turn that actually gains resonance from her tabloid newspaper notoriety." But like other reviewers, he seemed more impressed with her male co-star, saying that Jonny Lee Miller "superbly conveys his character's complex mixture of macho bravado, well-honed courtliness and underlying vulnerability."
-- David Ng
Photo: Sienna Miller and Jonny Lee Miller in a scene from the Broadway production of "After Miss Julie" by Patrick Marber. Credit: Joan Marcus / Associated Press