Saturday, May 27, 2023

Body Language Analysis №4693: Brie Larson at Cannes Film Festival Press Conference (Video, Photos, and Analysis)


Last week, the Cannes Film Festival opened with “Jeanne du Barry” written, co-produced, and directed by Maïwenn — in which she also co-stars, playing the role of Jeanne du Barry alongside Johnny Depp as Louis XV.

Brie Larson won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and BAFTA Awards as Best Actress in 2015 for her portrayal of Joy “Ma” Newsome in “The Room”.

What follows is a nonverbal, verbal, and paralanguage analysis of Ms. Larson’s response to a particular question from a journalist at the Cannes Film Festival.

Note: I’m a strong advocate of #MeToo and #WomensRightsAreHumanRights.

This analysis is not a critique of Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, their relationship, their behavior, or the recent defamation lawsuit. 

In one of the pressers for the festival, Brie Larson was asked, “…As thee [sic] sort of outspoken and very vocal, um, ah, advocate for Times Up and Me Too, I’m curious how you feel about Johnny Depp’s film opening the festival and do you plan to see it?”

(It’s notable that the reporter referred to Jeanne du Barry as “Johnny Depp’s Film” [one his companies’ was a co-producer] — however, Maïwenn, not only played the title role [Jeanne du Barry] — but she wrote, directed, and co-produced it as well.)

*Please note: the analysis descriptions appear below their corresponding images*


At the 0:01 second mark, just as the journalist was saying, “…outspoken…”, Ms. Larson displays a Hard Swallow — a common anxiety tell. 

As he continued to ask his question, Ms. Larson nodded several times while she’s displaying a Social Smile.

As soon as “Times Up” and “Me Too” were spoken, her eyelids opened significantly — wider than baseline (indicating an adrenaline surge). 

Immediately after he says, “…Johnny Depp’s film opening …” (0:07), Ms. Larson’s smile disappears — the contour of her mouth opening is replaced with a horizontal configuration (anger).

Also, her head turns slightly away from the reporter (to her right), (disapproval and distancing herself from the question) with a mild increase in muscle tension in her midface (nostrils, area above upper lip), (anger) as well as a slight jaw jut (adrenaline surge).

After he says, “… and do you plan to see it?”, Ms. Larson looks up to her right.

Although it can sometimes be an unreliable indicator (use caution, for not everyone follows this pattern and norming their behavior is crucial), looking up to one’s right can indicate visualizing a future event or an unwitnessed past event (visually constructing).

In this context, immediately after she’s asked, “… and do you plan to see it?” (a future event), Ms. Larson does indeed look to this expected corresponding quadrant.

After Ms. Larson asks what may initially appear to be a clarification (“You’re asking *me* that?”), we note her eyebrows and upper eyelids significantly elevate.

When a question is asked rhetorically, sarcastically, or for purposes of time-stalling — eyebrows will elevate.

However, when a question is asked in a sincere context, the eyebrows will move downward.

After the reporter answers, “Yes”, Ms. Larson rotates her head to her right as she displays a momentary Fear response.

Her fear amplifies as she looks further to her right.

Then, very rapidly — Anger replaces her Fear. Note the momentary downward dynamic of Brie’s inner (medial) eyebrows, partial closing of her eyelids, and tension in her midface.

Next (0:15–0:17), although we can’t see it directly, it’s easy to infer Larson rubbing the tops (anterior surface) of both of her thighs with her hands as she says, “… know. I’m sorry, I don’t understand the …”,

As she then says, “or why me specifically”, Ms. Larson first pats, then for about 10 seconds, has prolonged contact her suprasternal notch/body of her sternum area with her right four fingers. This is one area commonly touched/self-massaged when we’re feeling anxiety.

On its long path, both the left and right vagus nerves courses through the neck. During moments of anxiety, (subconsciously) touching/massaging the neck and upper sternum (and branches of the Vagus nerve), we lower our heart rate and slow our respiration.

For this same reason we fiddle with necklaces, pull/loosen collars, and falsely adjust our neckties — when it’s not really needed. The real purpose is to diminish our anxiety by subconsciously lowering our pulse and respiration.

After she says, “… why me specifically?” (0:19) she displays a Loose Tongue Jut. This is deceptive. Ms. Larson DOES know why the journalist is asking her the question — but it doesn’t mean his question is contextual, proportional, or proper to the situation at hand.

Ms. Larson feels that the Journalist is manipulating her. She feels he’s trying to get her to wade into Johnny Depp’s and Amber Heard’s relationship (and to try to get her to endorse [and/or demonize] one over the other).

At 0:20, Brie Larson closes her eyes in an extended blink while she, again, displays another Hard Swallow (Swallowing will stimulate the production and release of saliva during a Dry Throat of Anxiety).

At the 0:28 mark, just as she removes her hand from her suprasternal notch/sternum — Ms. Larson displays a subtle, suppressed mouth smile — displaying a microexpression of Joy-Happiness — as she now knows how she’s going to answer his question to her advantage.

Did you notice the deep inhalation she also takes at this moment (also at 0:28 just as she smiles and immediately after she says, “understood”)?

Ms. Larson takes a much deeper breath at 0:33 (and opens her eyes very wide along with retracting her torso away from the reporter) just after the reporter says, “So I’m just curious …”

Please watch the video at regular and slower speeds as it’s impossible to catch this dynamic behavior in a still image.

This example highlights the classic Statement Analysis tell of, “I’m just curious…” — When a person says this, they’re virtually never “just curious” — they’re trying to maneuver you into a “gotcha” moment.

Just after this second, deeper inhalation (anxiety), Brie Larson looks away from the reporter (0:34) — visually and mentally/emotionally distancing herself from the reporter and his question.

As Brie Larson says (beginning at 0:36), “Um, well you’ll see I guess if I’ll see it …”, she again rubs the tops (anterior surface) of her thighs with both hands — repeating a display of this anxiety tell.

Her lip smacking during 0:36 (just before she says, “Um”) is one signal that Brie Larson is transitioning back to a higher confidence level.

During 0:38, after she says, “… um…”, Ms. Larson displays a mild feigned-pout/feigned-consideration expression (note her protruding lip and jaw with mildly flared nostrils) which telegraphs her strong feelings of dismissal.

As she gives the second part of her answer, “… and, um, I don’t know how I’ll feel about it if I do — yeah”, Ms. Larson displays an elevated Central (medial) Forehead Contraction (along with medial eyebrow elevation) together with a partial (insincere) mouth smile.

Simultaneously elevated CFC + partial Mouth Smile is an expression all human beings make (on occasion) when we’re feeling:

• Incredulity (Smug Incredulity)
• Contempt (one of several manifestations of contempt)
• Arrogance (one of multiple expressions of arrogance)

Brie Larson, in this particular example, was displaying high levels of Incredulity toward the reporter.

Everyone makes this expression from time to time (hopefully not too often) — but beware of anyone who displays this expression often (this Body Language Axiom is not applicable here since we see Ms. Larson exhibit this behavior only once).

Ms. Larson’s “Yeah” after a noticeable pause — as well as her rapid blinking (distancing herself/closing a metaphorical door on the query), and tight-mouth pseudo-smile all convey her feelings of pushback about attempted manipulation by being asked this question.

SUMMARY: In this video, Brie Larson is responding to a reporter whom she felt was trying to manipulate her into choosing sides between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.

We see Ms. Larson’s Body Language as she’s being caught off guard in a “gotcha” moment, displaying varying examples of anxiety, fear, some anger, incredulity, pushback, dismissal, and then reasserting her confidence.

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This post and others accompanying it, serve as a reference source for the art and science of Body Language/Nonverbal Communication. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the author. In an effort to be both practical and academic, many examples from/of varied cultures, politicians, professional athletes, legal cases, public figures, etc., are cited in order to teach and illustrate both the interpretation of others’ body language as well as the projection of one’s own nonverbal skills in many different contexts.