At the movies this weekend—specifically if you live in New York or Los Angeles—you can get a double dose of the Fanning sisters. In Disney's major release, Maleficent, Elle Fanning, the younger Fanning, plays the Princess Aurora. Meanwhile, the elder Fanning, Dakota, stars in the indie Night Moves from director Kelly Reichardt, playing a eco-focused woman who embarks on a plan to blow up a dam. So which Fanning is, at this instant, the top Fanning?
Dakota, who was the bigger star as a littler person, certainly gets points for offering up the more interesting movie and performance this weekend. Though Dakota certainly moved away from the adorable child fare of her youth long ago—(and Dakota has always seemed almost preternaturally mature)—Night Moves lets us see her truly as an adult. Dena is passionate about the environment and uses her privileged background to bankroll what is revealed to be an act of eco-terrorism. Dakota allows small gestures to betray her confident exterior, as she and her cohorts (Jesse Eisenberg and Peter Sarsgaard) execute their plan.
On the press tour for the film, Dakota has been, quite awesomely, highlighting the fact that she's majoring in women's studies at NYU, specifically focusing on "the portrayal of women in film and culture." We always knew Dakota was talented, but it's really exciting to figure out that she has academic interests that could one day make her an important voice for women in the industry in which she grew up.
Unfortunately, it's not really a fair fight between Elle and Dakota's movies this weekend. While Dakota is exercising her indie muscles, Elle is straying from her Sofia Coppola roots, and going full Disney spectacle, playing the princess Aurora in Maleficent. Aurora plays a distant second fiddle to Angelina Jolie's Maleficent, even though—spoiler alert—she doesn't spend that much time sleeping. Despite the movie's attempt at a revisionist take on Sleeping Beauty, Aurora is still a fairly standard Disney princess, with a hint of Frozen-style ingenuity thrown in the mix. Elle, however, lends her ethereal beauty and an innate sweetness to the part. It's, sadly, one of the least interesting of Elle's roles, but it will make far more money on its opening weekend than both Somewhere and Ginger & Rosa made in the entirety of their runs. We can't begrudge Elle for wanting to make some bank, especially in a movie that, for all its faults, puts women front and center.
Elle is 16 to Dakota's 20, and Elle's press frequently focuses on her status as a fashion muse, a status which doesn't seem to be waning as she shows up in the front row at Paris Fashion Week. But Elle isn't abandoning indie movies entirely. She was in two movies at Sundance this year.
If we're basing this purely on which Fanning appears in the more interesting movie and performance, we'd go for Dakota. If we were basing this on red carpet prowess and being able to handle a massive press tour with grace, this round would go to Elle. But in our heart of hearts we can't pick, so just enjoy your double Fanning weekend, everyone.