Hollywood hype often blurs the distinction between an actress who is a true asset to cinema and those who simply get by on good looks. Here is my ode to the under-appreciated actresses of our time and my shaking fist to the duly overrated.
1. Frances O'Connor
Madame Bovary (2000)
Her performances in the 2001 Steven Spielberg sic-fi A.I. Artificial Intelligence, the gut-wrenching mini-series adaption of the French novel Madame Bovary and the hauntingly perfect Australian film Blessed demonstrate the definitive trait of a real actress: diversity. Frances O'Connor does not have a type of film she specialises in: she is equally tantalising and innovative in every role she takes on.
2. Romola Garai
Daniel Deronda (2002)
Romola Garai was one of those actresses that crept up on me. By the end of last year I had unwittingly seen six films in which she was cast. I first became properly aware of her upon watching the BBC adaptation of Emma in which she was cast as the title role. All I can say is she was wholly responsible for my falling in love with the world of Jane Austen. Her performance in the chilling on-screen adaption of Daniel Deronda was no doubt my favourite: she facilitated an incredible character development. From Atonement to One Day to The Hour although Garai may not boast the versatility of one such as Cillian Murphy (with her never straying too far from period dramas) she is certainly a greatly undermined actress.
3. Kimberly Nixon
Aged only 28 Kimberly Nixon is no new-comer to the film industry, having been active for almost a decade now. Her early work in shallow chick-flicks Wild Child and Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging were neither ground-breaking nor were her roles large enough to distinguish any such merit. It was not until 2009 when she was cast in a main role in the independent film Cherrybomb did I begin to see any promise. She brought a surprising intensity and insight to what could easily have been played as a shallow, generic character. Then finally in the award-winning British drama Fresh Meat Nixon exhibited an uncanny capacity for comedy. Her neurotic, endearingly deranged character as a young college student has become my favourite television personality. Of course as in any drama series, there were emotional scenes in which Nixon wavered not, but shone through.
1. Gwyneth Paltrow
Shakespeare In Love (1998)
Gwyneth Paltrow no doubt has traditional beauty but this often acts as a disguise for a terrible performance. An actress showered with recognition and praise, Paltrow certainly deserves some of it but not nearly as much as she receives. I admit her performance in Shakespeare In Love demonstrated exemplary skills and experience. However her cringe-worthy representation of the title role in the 1996 adaption of Emma is another story. Her accent was commendable but thats about it.
2. Kate Hudson
Raising Helen (2004)
Always the picture of cracked perfection Kate Hudson is forever playing that girl: the girl who seems shallow and materialistic but is hiding all sorts of personal problems. Her range is astoundingly narrow, she plays convincingly only one persona: herself.
1. Shailene Woodley
The Descendants (2011)
Recently, Shailene Woodley has begun receiving much positive attention having been presented with both an abundance of awards (e.g. the Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival) and movie roles (e.g. Divergent, The Fault In Our Stars). It all began with a career-defining performance in the 2011 drama flick The Descendants alongside George Clooney. She has demonstrated herself as an incredibly apt emulator of real-life personalities, believability in her acting is comparable to that of Jennifer Lawrence. (See her in The Spectacular Now out now and in the much-anticipated dystopian film Divergent to be released in March)
2. Kate Winslet
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
I am continuously delighted by the many truly great performances by the lovely Kate Winslet. Little did we know when we were first introduced to her culturally significant role of Rose in Titanic what talent we were to see in the coming years.
Winslet showed us that she was no cinematic one-hit wonder. She went on to delivering stellar performances in the period-drama Quills, the eccentrically beautiful Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and who could forget her unblinkingly honest portrayal of a trapped 50s suburban house-wife in Revolutionary Road.
3. Emma Thompson
Sense and Sensibility (1995)
The highly acclaimed Emma Thompson has received her fair share of the Hollywood glory. She is one of the most appreciated British actresses of the times. Also a credited screenwriter (most notably for adapting the screenplay of Sense and Sensibility), Thompson has proven herself wholly involved and dedicated to the film industry. From the children's classic title role of Nanny McPhee, to the short but sweet role of headmistress in An Education she is one of the actresses of her generation who continues to deliver strong performances, again and again. (See her in her latest film Saving Mr Banks)