Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Top 10: Actresses That Need Better Parts

Don't you hate it when an actor or actress that you truly admire starts throwing their career away? There always seems to be a plethora of talented entertainers who pick project after project that does them no favors and has no artistic merit whatsoever. Here are a few actresses I happen to love and see enormous potential in, that rarely seem to land in the roles as great as their talents.

10. Mena Suvari
Most promising film: American Beauty

Remember this? Stellar lead performances from Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening hogged all of the attention back in 1999, but there was some phenomenal supporting work in the film. One that still stands out to me is Mena Suvari as Angela, Janie Burnham's friend who uses ambition and sex appeal to mask a seething center of insecurity. Her delivery is perfect throughout the entire film, and she manages to turn a bitchy character with a serious attitude problem into someone sympathetic and likable in the film's final act. Her performance is funny, infuriating and ultimately sad.

9. Rachel McAdams
Most promising film: Mean Girls

In one of the best high school movies ever, Rachel McAdams played the now legendary Regina George, the queen bee and most popular girl in school desperately trying to hang on to her social status. The voice of writer Tina Fey made this movie an instant comedy classic, and its strongest player was undoubtedly McAdams. Her timing and delivery were genius, and made her character a quotable and memorable screen villain for the ages. If she could shy away from romantic leads for a while, and maybe take on a gritty role where she's not required to look drop dead gorgeous, she has a shot.

8. Emmy Rossum
Most promising films: Mystic River, The Phantom of the Opera

The National Board of Review named Emmy Rossum their breakthrough actress of the year back in 2004, and I think they were on to something. She has some quality that makes her instantly likable. In Clint Eastwood's Mystic River she played Katie Markum, the ill-fated daughter of Sean Penn's Jimmy, and didn't need a lot of screen time to show us that Jimmy's loss was profound and unfair. In the coveted role of Christine Daae in The Phantom of the Opera, she was wonderful, even if you couldn't say the same for the film itself.

7. Keri Russell
Most promising film: Waitress

Keri Russell first started stealing hearts and impressing critics as the iconic title character in the WB's college drama, Felicity. But it was her role as an unhappily pregnant waitress with a talent for making pies and eyes for a new doctor in town that really made the world take notice. She gives a witty and endearing performance, and carries the quirky little indie with charm and grace. It's a tragedy that this film marks the end of writer-director Adrienne Shelley's career, but at least there is the joy in what will hopefully be a long and colorful filmography for Russell.

6. Kristen Stewart
Most promising films: Into the Wild, Adventureland

I know that Stewart has made loads of money and picked up quite a fan base with her involvement in the Twilight franchise, but I have to say it may be one of the worst decisions she could have possibly made if she wants to be taken seriously as an actress. She was one of the strongest supporting elements in Sean Penn's beautiful Into the Wild, and gave a perfect performance in this year's college comedy Adventureland. She was smart, funny, and desperately lonely and lost. Here's hoping she lands more important roles in the future.

5. Scarlett Johansson
Most promising films: Lost in Translation, Girl With a Pearl Earring

I can't quite figure out why things aren't going right for ScarJo. She obviously has talent (3 Golden Globe nominations) and good taste (frequent collaborations with Woody Allen), but yet her name just doesn't excite the kind of praise that one would expect by now. Personally I think Woody puts too much emphasis on her sexuality, because I know she has more to offer than a pretty face and killer curves. Her lonely, neglected new wife in Lost in Translation was a captivating character and I'm sure she has a few more in her.

4. Sarah Michelle Gellar
Most promising film: Okay, her strongest role was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and that success so far hasn't translated to films, but it could!

Call me crazy, but I think Sarah Michelle Gellar could be great. No, she hasn't made good choices where her film career is concerned, but she killed - no pun intended - on Buffy and has all the talent and beauty needed to be a major star. I'll probably take crap for this, but I actually thought she did an awesome job in the teen slasher movie I Know What You Did Last Summer (a guilty pleasure for me). She was the only convincing member of the cast and in the right part she could carry a film.

3. Katherine Heigl
Most promising film: Knocked Up

Katherine Heigl brought the funny in Judd Apatow's Knocked Up, in which she plays a career-minded woman who has to put her plans on hold after a drunken one-night stand leads to an unwanted pregnancy. Heigl is hilarious and holds her own among Apatow's close-knit comedy troupe. She's also a slam-dunk dramatic actress, and she has the Emmy to prove it. She's already landing lead roles left and right (27 Dresses, The Ugly Truth) but a part in a film from a director like Kimberly Peirce or Jane Campion would be a better fit for her range.

2. Kerry Washington
Most promising films: Save the Last Dance, Ray, The Last King of Scotland

Kerry Washington is one of those actresses who commands your attention and demands that you remember her. I saw Save the Last Dance as a teenager (in one of my less discerning moments) and quickly forgot about it, but I thought about Washington for a long time, and kept reminding myself to keep an eye out for her. She gets small roles in a number of great films (she's supported two of her leading men to Best Actor wins), but for some reason no one trusts her to headline a movie. It's a shame, because I'm positive she'll knock a lead performance out of the park as soon as she gets the chance.

1. Kate Hudson
Most promising film: Almost Famous

Kate Hudson is the most tragic example of a talented actress squandering her gifts in films that don't deserve her. Her breakthrough performance in Almost Famous as Penny Lane, the Stillwater groupie in love with the one man who doesn't want her, was phenomenal, and should have ensured a long career in respectable films. As Penny, she has wonderful moments that take the audience from laughter to tears and back again. A part in Rob Marshall's upcoming musical Nine seems like a step in the right direction.

These women all have something great to offer. If their agents would get to work and find them roles in important films, they could be incredible. Who would you like to see challenge themselves a bit more often?


Danny King said...

I think Evan Rachel Wood is an actress that has certainly challenged herself. With her roles in Thirteen and The Wrestler she proves to be a powerful and talented actress, I would just love to see her in a lead role -- to see her carry a film because I really believe she is that good.

I also loved Kristen Stewart in Adventureland and I would love to see her in some difficult roles. Her resume is solid right now, I just hate to see all her attention being focused on the Twilight films. She can do so much more.

Rae Kasey said...

Evan Rachel Wood kind of carried Across the Universe, which wasn't as good as it might have been, but not a complete disaster either.

Anonymous said...

Kristen Stewart was fantastic in Into the Wild. Great list friend, and chance we will get a male version next?

Marcy said...

Rachel McAdams is terrific in State of Play. It's not a romantic role at all. She goes head to head with Russell Crowe. Not an easy task.

I kind of miss Kirsten Dunst. She showed so much potential early on in her career and...I don't know what happened?

Although Amy Adams has two Oscar nominations, I'd like to see her tackle more challenging roles.

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