Now Is Good12A
Making a name for yourself as a child actor can be a double edged sword – just ask the cast of Different Strokes. Yes, it can well make you an overnight success, but it doesn't necessarily guarantee you a career for life.
The dark side of the industry was just too much for Jake Lloyd, who shot to fame playing the young Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace when he was ten years old. Two years later he retired from acting, citing too much pressure from the media, as well as bullying from his class mates.
In contrast, Dakota Fanning has seemed at ease with the pressures of fame. She's been working pretty much constantly from the age of five, when she appeared in a soap powder ad in the US. Now aged eighteen, she impressively already has over twenty features on her CV including 2004's Man on Fire and 2005's remake of War of the Worlds.
The next big step for this young actress is her transition from child actor to blossoming young actress. Now is Good (based on the novel Before I Die by Jenny Downham), on paper at least, appeared to be a step in the right direction.
Unlike most teenagers, Tessa hasn't got a lot to look forward to. She's been suffering from Leukaemia for four years now, and no-one's more aware of the fact than she that she won't be recovering from it.
She therefore compiles her own bucket list, and her number one thing to do is to have sex before she dies. And let's face it, that's easy enough for many teens to accomplish. What Tessa doesn't expect however, on the way to fulfil this particular wish, is to fall in love. But what should be a beautiful experience is marred by the fact that she doesn't have much time left to love.
Fanning is clearly out to prove she's in this business called show for the long haul by taking on a role that not only has all the expected emotional baggage, but as it's set in England, also saw her having to tackle a British accent. To be fair she pretty much nails the voice, but struggles with the emotional complexities that her character deals with.
Everything about her performance of a dying teen is monotonous. Apart from one late scene, Fanning's character shows no tears, no tantrums, no anger nor fear. And when it does finally turn up, it's all too little too late. Maybe Fanning concentrated so much on getting the voice right that she just didn't have time to handle the emotional side of things. This is a shame as films about robots coming to life have shown more heart than she does here.
She can't be completely to blame for this. Director Ol Parker, directing only his second feature, fails to bring any emotion to the surface of his young leading lady, which leads to her being nothing more than an empty vessel drifting from one scene to the next. So much so that you're put in that somewhat uncomfortable position of wanting the character to just hurry up and die already.
Jeremy Irvine (last seen in Spielberg's War Horse) does well considering he's interacting with a character with the emotional depth of a blow-up doll most of the time, and certainly looks like he has better days ahead. It's left to Paddy Considine, who plays Tessa's dad, to save the day by giving the closest thing to a heartfelt performance. And sadly Kaya Scodelario (Wuthering Heights) has nothing more to do than play the supportive best friend role; it would have been interesting to see what she could have done with the lead role – she wouldn't have had to worry about the accent at least.
As far as Fanning is concerned, it's only a slight setback in her acting career. She has proven time and time again in her childhood years that she has what it takes to be a talented actress for many years to come. But in this tearjerker – which is more jerky than teary – her so-so performance in an average low-budget British film is one that everyone will be more than happy to forget.