Winona Ryder talks with her hands


No, I don’t mean that time when she got arrested for shoplifting. But that’s the first thing that comes to mind, isn’t it? It’s true: After a self-imposed hiatus from acting, Winona Ryder is trying to get her career back on track, but first she has to explain herself in public.

I’m only exaggerating a little when I say that Ryder’s career is like a scrapbook of my college movie night memories. Even her films without lesbian moments had a queer subtext that we loved. There was this:

“I myself am strange and unusual.” (Beetlejuice)

and this

“Sometimes you can still catch me dancing.” (Edward Scissorhands)

and this

“Hey, I’m a non-practicing virgin.” (Reality Bites)

and that’s just to name my favorites. I also clearly recall sitting up for hours to catch the lesbianish moments in her career. These included the ratings stunt kiss on Friends (which still made me squeal, exploitative or not)

and Girl, Interrupted, which was a creation of painful beauty (there’s a nice music video of Jolie’s and Ryder’s characters here)

and, of course, an all-too-short moment with Sigourney Weaver, for which I sat through the entirety of the supremely crappy Alien: Resurrection. It was almost worth the money for a theater ticket, though, just to see Weaver in that vest:

Ahem. Back to the present.

Ryder, now 35, will be representing women of her generation for Vogue’s “age” edition in August. Considering her cult status as queen of late ’80s and ’90s angst, this is actually a pretty good idea, despite the bow-tied monstrosity of a dress she’s wearing on the cover.

In the feature, Ryder describes how she benched herself from 2002 to 2006 to get herself together and, one assumes, to let the negative press die down. I do sort of agree with her when she notes that the papers should have had more important stories than hers to cover in December 2001, so close on the heels of a national tragedy. Here’s her explanation for her sticky-fingered trip into Saks Fifth Avenue:

“Two months prior to that, I broke my arm in two places, and the doctor … was giving me a lot of stuff (Oxycodone), and I was taking it at first to get through the pain. And then there was this weird point when you don’t know if you are in pain but you’re taking it. Have you ever taken painkillers? It isn’t a reckless (state), like you’re out of your head. It’s just confusion.”

Well. Shoplifting at Saks is not a side effect listed on the warning label of any medication I’ve ever seen, but it is time to move on. Everybody makes embarrassing if not so public mistakes. I just hope that reviving her career will not be one of them.

Ryder’s recent work includes the 2006 A Scanner Darkly, with Robert Downey, Jr. and Keanu Reeves. She gave an interview about the film, speaking sincerely about her concerns over censorship in our times and gesturing emphatically all the while:

Ryder has three films coming out this year, all of which sound as quirky as the ones she’s famous for. In The Last Word, she falls for a guy who writes suicide notes for other people for a living. In Sex and Death 101, she plays a woman out to punish men who commit sex crimes. And The Ten has the interesting premise of telling ten stories somehow related to the Ten Commandments. I’m baffled by the trailer, though, which includes a wooden dummy and lots of naked men sitting around:

It’s good to have you back, Winona Ryder. I’d insert a joke here about a return of the girl, interrupted, but that’s too cheesy even for me.

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