By Morgan Roberts
**Please note: this article contains spoilers for “The Politician”**
Every year, we are introduced to a handful of young actresses between the ages of about twenty and twenty-five. Brie Larson. Jennifer Lawrence. Emma Stone. Kristen Stewart. The list goes on and on. Each of the women mentioned above have impressive resumes. Their work rightfully has solidified them for further career success.
One young actress is approaching that precipice of success: Zoey Deutch. You may know her from Richard Linklater’s “Everybody Wants Some!!” (2016) or from the Netflix rom-com “Set It Up” (2018). But, this year, Deutch has been particularly poignant in her work. So, we need to talk about it.
First, she starred in the new Ryan Murphy series “The Politician”, opposite Ben Platt and Jessica Lange. Her character has some Murphy-verse tropes, some twists and turns that you could hear in tap shoes coming around the corner. But Deutch used her natural charm and some smart vocal changes to ensure her character Infinity does not fall into the trap of another disappointing character who has potential but lost it. Quite frankly, the character had potential and Deutch ran with it.
Here’s why: Infinity is the granddaughter of Dusty (Lange), a woman suffering from Munchhausen’s By Proxy. It is a little bit (okay, a lot bit) of a rip off of the real-life story – documented in HBO’s “Mommy Dead and Dearest” (2017) and Hulu’s limited series “The Act (2019) – of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, who was a victim of her mother’s Munchausen syndrome. Much like Gypsy Rose, Infinity has been stunted in her growth. Deutch brilliantly gives her character a little bit of a higher pitch and, at times, a whisper-y voice. That distinct character trait gives you a sense of who Infinity has been this whole time: a child, happy in that role, interested in the fun things you get from being a pampered little kid.
However, once she learns that she is essentially being poisoned by her grandmother, Infinity shifts. She doesn’t kill Dusty, a la Gypsy Rose, but instead runs away to become her own person. Deutch uses this shift to explore Infinity in a different light. While the voice doesn’t consistently change, Deutch allows Infinity to express herself a little differently. She experiences anger, frustration, becomes cunning – and a little conniving – and confident, but does not lose her essence. That’s a hard thing to balance. Deutch does so perfectly. Those changes are built upon the base of the character. Infinity, while childish, is also extremely kind. She is also extremely lonely. She craves attention, but not in the way she has always received it. Plus, her delivery of the line, “Tough titties, Nana” with earnest intention, absolutely slayed.
After “The Politician,” Deutch starred in “Zombieland: Double Tap” (2019), as new addition Madison in the sequel to the 2009 film. Madison could easily be written off as a dumb blonde. I mean, she is dumb. But there is a reason she survived the zombie apocalypse, right? Deutch effortlessly balances being the constant comic relief while making Madison an authentic person. Deutch’s line delivery is utterly hilarious. She flawlessly delivers lines such as mispronouncing Tallahassee’s (Woody Harrelson) name and calling women’s suffrage “women’s suffering” with a straight face. Comedy, in my opinion, is the hardest form of acting to do right. Not only does Deutch knock it out of the park, she truly steals the film.
I have seen Deutch in a number of films such as the aforementioned “Everybody Wants Some!!” and “Set It Up.” The former film, like many of her other films, underutilized her. However, in “Set It Up” and the indie flick “Flower” (2018), you begin to see what Deutch can do. “Set It Up” is a classic rom-com, but there are hints of peak millennial humor and Deutch hits those marks well. In “Flower,” Deutch holds together a first-time director’s film in a delicate and truthful way. It is an underrated movie that highlights her ability to lead a film.
Now, with “The Politician” and “Zombieland: Double Tap” coming out so close together, it feels like the rise of Zoey Deutch is upon us. It is well-deserved. With acting, one has to take on the histories – and traumas – of the characters they inhabit. Some characters are darker than others, but it still requires someone to be honest and authentic in their approach. Deutch does that. Either climbing into the darkness of a Munchausen by Proxy victim, or an angsty teen who commits involuntary manslaughter. Or, by bringing redeeming qualities to a bit of a selfish young professional or what could have been a caricature of a dumb blonde.
Comparing her solely to Larson or Lawrence or “Zombieland: Double Tap” co-star Emma Stone is probably annoying. But all of the actresses that Hollywood has bestowed “It-Girl” status to have been absolute trailblazers in the own individual ways. Deutch has the natural acting ability to blaze trails in her own right.