This photograph is the last known documentation of these two people as a married couple. Last month, Sean Penn and Robin Wright finally divorced after two decades together (they have two teenage children: a 19-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter ), a significant span of time in general, and a nearly inconceivable one in Hollywood.
This is a photograph of a couple. Not necessarily a photograph of a movie star couple. They match; both have wavy hairdos; neither is really smiling nor really sad. Like many couples who've been together for 20 years, they have - together and individually - a look of settled maturity, and faces upon which time has etched conflicting messages. In other words: They look like real people.
Penn, who just turned 50, was feted by the American media, which crowned him one of the greatest actors of his generation. He has a reputation for lacking a sense of humor - a shortcoming he falteringly tries to make light of in public appearances. Shortly after this photograph was taken by the AP on the red carpet at the February 2009 Oscars, he won his second Oscar for his leading role in "Milk." (Penn got his first Oscar in 2005 for "Mystic River." ) This time his speech managed to be lighthearted.
Wright, born in 1966, is just as accomplished an actor as her ex-husband. She is a woman who plays against her looks, as if her beauty were of no concern to her. She has no need to highlight it, to market it or enhance it, and therefore also no need to "uglify" herself as some female movie stars are wont to do in order to show they are serious actresses. She's like a restrained Gena Rowlands, an emotive Joan Allen.
In her best role to date, in the 2005 Rodrigo Garcia (son of Gabriel Garcia Marquez ) film "Nine Lives," Wright played a woman who meets her ex-lover in a supermarket after both are married to other people. Somehow, the two of them are caught up in a hallucination: It seems to them (and to the director ) that their passion for each other will kill them, that it is the one true passion, and that they must abandon it. You can't take your eyes off of Wright. It's crystal clear that the breakup from the ex-lover was the most painful thing this woman in the supermarket has ever experienced. Her expression holds unbearable hurt and longing. She manages to break away from him and then changes her mind, but he is already gone, having disappeared among the shelves. And what's even more amazing is that in this scene, this woman is pregnant with her new husband's baby.
Sean Penn has a new girlfriend. Robin Wright, it was announced this week, has been cast in the American version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," one of the most prestigious projects in Hollywood and a film that is expected to draw millions of people to the theaters. Perhaps now the world will finally discover her. She is not surgically altered or enhanced, injected, straightened, peeled, stretched or anything of the kind. She is a very, very beautiful woman, and she has wrinkles. Because Robin Wright is real. For comparison's sake, think about the grotesque face of Nicole Kidman. They are the same age.
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