The older I get, the more appreciation I have for Kristen Stewart, and the surer I am that all the things that used to rub me the wrong way about her were actually just the result of her being ill at ease with all the attention that the spotlight entails. My complaint was that she didn't seem "real," but now, watching Stewart in The Rolling Stones' music video for "Ride 'Em On Down," I'm convinced that this is the real her. Careening through Los Angeles, belting along to the music on the radio, totally alone — this, I now believe, is Stewart's natural state, and the only reason I hadn't seen it in the past is because she was uncomfortable. A lot of celebrities give lip service to wanting their privacy, but I think Stewart is one of those rare cases who actually means every word. I don't think she wanted to get blasted to stardom by a blockbuster franchise like Twilight, or for her relationships to be splashed across tabloid covers. I think she saw that as a necessary compromise for working as an actor, a job I now believe she feels in her bones and loves, so she made it work.
Whether you're a fan of the 26-year-old actor or not, you've probably contributed in some way to the dissection of her personal life or assessment of her skills onscreen. I know I have. But seeing her in the video as this free, uninhibited version of herself is, for me, a sobering reminder that Stewart could have been that way her whole career, if she'd been allowed to fly even just the teensiest bit under the radar. Ironically, I think it was the attention of fans and detractors alike that closed her off and gave her something to protect — herself, and I didn't fully realize it until I saw Stewart letting loose in "Ride 'Em On Down." Take a look.
That girl — lip-syncing like her life depends on it, getting fully absorbed into the song, and quite literally dancing like no one is watching — is the one audiences don't get to see onscreen, or in interviews, or on the red carpet, because there's always that pressure to perform. But when that pressure falls away, you're left with Stewart, plain and simple, with her face as relaxed and happy as I've ever seen. And I only felt that more strongly when I saw how she herself spoke about the project, which was directed by Francois Rousselet and shot by Newton Thomas Sigel, and will appear on The Stones' brand new album Blue and Lonesome. According to Just Jared, Stewart said in a statement,
"It didn’t take much more than a few words to get me amped on the idea. The Stones. A 65 Mustang. Alone in Los Angeles. And the shoot was just as dreamy as the idea. We tore LA apart in a day and we had one hell of a soundtrack."
She sounds confident, loose, and relaxed, and I might have actually been lying when I said before that I'd never seen her this way. I've actually noticed this ease one other time — in Jenny Lewis' music video for "Just One Of The Boys" actually, which you can watch below.
These are the two instances where I feel like I've gotten closest to figuring out what Stewart is about, and I suspect it's because the stakes couldn't be lower. She won't get awards buzz for her performance in a music video, nor does she ever speak, so there's no chance of inadvertently causing offense when something slips out of her mouth. It's just Stewart herself, having the time of her life, being as true to herself as always, but inviting us in for once.