This Summer We Are Channelling: Jennifer Connelly in Blood Diamond

Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly in “Blood Diamond”, 2006
Warner Bros., Virtual Studios, Spring Creek Productions

Revisiting some of your favourite summer movies can provide the best style inspiration. The usual likes of Plein soleil, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and all these other films easily come to mind. But there are other movies less obvious at first sight that offer great sartorial advice for the warm months ahead and I will bring them into our rotation, and your attention, this summer.

In Blood Diamond, Leonardo DiCaprio, as Danny Archer, is a South African diamond smuggler, or “soldier of fortune”, as he likes to call himself, and Jennifer Connelly, as Maddy Bowen, is a dedicated journalist who makes him think about interests bigger than his. “She’s about as fiery and feisty as they come,” Connelly said about her character in an interview for Marie Claire. “She has a passion for life, drinks her minibar, flirts a lot. But she’s striving to do some thing good — she’s sort of frustrated by herself and her limitations. She wants to be a toughie, but she’s not.”

Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in Edward Zwick’s film remains one of his best. It’s one of his most singular roles. He explores the complexity of emotions he is capable of and especially a darker side that we didn’t get to see much until Blood Diamond. Too bad the film does not end on the same tough, risk-taking note it starts with and falls into the all too well-known safe Hollywoodian ending, seeking a hopeful and sentimenatal closing.

“I wanted someone who could give Leo a run for his money, who was confident and would not be overawed and would help him raise the level of his game. There are any number of actors who are perfectly talented who wouldn’t have had that effect on him. He sensed that from the beginning, and I saw him sit up straigther in his chair,” the director said about casting Jennifer. “The camera can always tell whether someone knows what they are saying in the deepest meanings, and she inhabits the lines.”

Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly and Leonardo DiCaprio in “Blood Diamond”, 2006
Warner Bros., Virtual Studios, Spring Creek Productions

Sharp intelligence, lightness of being, passion for her profession can all be used to describe the character of Maddy Bowen, and Jennifer simply inhabits her role. “You find yourself a good man,” Danny tells her when they part. “I have three sisters. They are all married to good men. I like my life,” she answers. That, is obvious. That she has a commanding presence is obvious, too, even if her clothes have nothing to do with that. They are simple clothes, the kind every journalist in the field is wearing. Cargo trousers, plain t-shirts, chambray shirt, a navy tailored vest she wears over her khaki t-shirt (the most effortless take on masculine tailoring), a stack of bracelets, a metal necklace, a man’s watch. These are utilitarian items a reporter throws on without thinking about them because they are part of the job. But that is exactly where their appeal lies: in their sheer functionality, the well of so many timeless garments.

And it’s true that basic items can always find a place in one’s closet, whether you see them in a film or not. But it is Maddy’s attitude that draws most attention and added interest to her look and makes you want to make it part of your overall style. The minimalism of her wardrobe is something else to reflect on, and something to aim for in this society of consumerism that we are confronting with and which the film itself brings into our consciousness – the hellish reality of a country, Sierra Leone, that serves as source for the illegal diamond trade of the white-collar criminals in the Western world.

But that’s not the only reason her look is worth channelling. I read that Jennifer spent her days off while filming Blood Diamond, which was shot mostly in Mozambique, at a local orphanage. But unlike other celebrities, whose African humanitarian appearances make tabloid headlines, Connelly’s presence there didn’t get any press coverage. It was in fact director Edward Zwick who mentioned it in the Marie Claire interview. And that’s something else I want to channel: live life for yourself without constantly looking for the approval or admiration of others, do good without showing off. “Have more than you show. Speak less than you know.”

Jennifer Connelly in “Blood Diamond”, 2006
Warner Bros., Virtual Studios, Spring Creek Productions


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