What makes a performance truly iconic? The word itself, though overused, is the only way to describe that unforgettable, magical thing that happens when acting, writing, costume and some kind of indefinable flair all come together to produce a character that is somehow both timeless and revolutionary. The list of performances that really deserve the label is a pretty short one. It might include the likes of Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly, Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly, and Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara. After seeing Glass Onion, I am convinced that there is a new iconic performance to add to the list: Kate Hudson as Birdie Jay.
In Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Hudson has scene-stealing comedic delivery, effortless charisma, and exceptional character work. It’s a pitch-perfect performance that nails a very specific brand of rich It-girl shallowness while simultaneously hinting at an unexpected emotional nuance.
Glass Onion, directed by Rian Johnson, is the second outing of Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc, the debonair detective with the Southern drawl whom we first met in 2019’s Knives Out. Like any good murder mystery franchise, the second film introduces us to a whole new cast of characters as Benoit tackles a brand new mystery. This one moves the action from the idyllic snowy woods of New England to a sun-drenched villa in Greece. When a billionaire tech mogul (Edward Norton) invites a group of well-off old friends to a murder mystery-themed weekend retreat, the fatal fun soon takes a very real turn. The invitees include a businesswoman (Janelle Monáe), a right-wing Twitch star (Dave Bautista), a famous scientist (Leslie Odom Jr.), a senator-to-be (Kathryn Hahn) and, of course, Hudson’s Birdie, a supermodel-turned-entrepreneur.
It’s a true ensemble piece. The cast of suspects is filled with big, almost caricature-like personalities, bolstered by colorful, high-octane performances. As part of a larger ensemble, Hudson’s Birdie is rarely the center of the action for long—nevertheless, she manages to steal every scene with, say, a perfectly insensitive one liner, a killer outfit that verges on the ridiculous, or a burst of physical comedy.