I will admit that this photo did catch my eye on the newsstand, but almost entirely because of the skirt. The photo and the pose have such lovely motion to them, such grace, and then we get to the beam of light hitting her face… it made me squint reactively. It’s all balletic fluidity, and then BOOM, Natalie looks like she is in the middle of an allergy attack — as if someone rubbed a cat all over her face and then ran off and shouted, “WE’RE CLEAR! DO NOT MOVE.” Profile pictures can be tough on covers, but I wonder if having her look up and to the right, almost joyfully, eyes closed, would have been the better artistic option than appearing to be in a losing battle with her sinuses.

The headline is also fairly dopey; it sounds like the title of a cabaret act she’ll do in a New York nightclub in thirty years. But the profile itself is a nice and very loving read, talking about how she’s found her voice via the Me Too movement, and making an interesting reference to how a lot of Hollywood women have only really gotten to know each other through Time’s Up, because co-starring in casts that skew so male can be isolating.

“I’ve been working for 25 years—I’ve never had friendships in my industry until now,” she tells me. “You’re usually the [only] girl in the movie. It’s made us come together. We’re actively gathering. Just the power of us getting to know other women in our own industry and sharing information that can help us be safer, more productive, more successful.” She seems genuinely galvanized from these rotating dinners or meetings that she calls “affinity groups,” with no more than 10 or so of her female peers, where stories and anecdotes are traded to all-too-knowing nods.

In the context of all that, the opening photo is pretty strange. Natalie looks glamorous in a filmy, sexy, floaty red gown… and also as if she’s being chased around the yard by a predator of some ilk, which is a bold choice when there’s a chunk of your article devoted to Harvey Weinstein and disgusting abuses of women in the industry. I’m sure it wasn’t shot with any knowledge at all of the subject matter of the story; on the day, it was probably just an image, and one of many, and possibly not even the point of that particular setup. But then it was chosen, and placed where it was, and I just can’t shake this air that she’s kicked off her shoes to run away from something. It’s curious at best. None of them are truly stellar, honestly. There are others that are more forceful, one where she looks sad… but then you scroll down to the video, which has a still of her as its cover image that’s clearly from the same day they shot the cover. And her face looks so great and alive, which only underscores how bad the cover is — and honestly, some of the other shots, too. It’s as if the photographic lighting just completely clashed with her features, which seems like it should not be possible. And yet.

Oh, and I’m going to assume the answer to, “How Kieran Culkin became our favorite Culkin,” is, “Kieran Culkin is the Culkin who currently has a TV show that people are watching.” We’ve already linked to the much-publicized Charles and Camilla love-up that’s also promoted on this cover, but I did NOT know about the Pope vs. Pope smackdown and so obviously I’m going to go fall into a Vatican gossip wormhole, if such a thing truly exists. I’ll let you know.

[Photo: Vanity Fair]