January 31, 2010

MOVIES: Best of 2009: Actress

The nominees:
  • Penelope Cruz, Broken Embraces -- if she ever becomes as good an actress in English as she is in Spanish, she'll dominate Hollywood for decades. Here, she's sexy and funny as a kept woman who wants desperately to be an actress. She particularly shines in a pair of takes from the movie-within-the-movie, one disastrous performance and one made brilliant with surprisingly subtle differences.
  • Zooey Deschanel, 500 Days of Summer -- yes, the character is a bit opaque, but that's the point. The movie is a romance told from his point of view, so we only know of Summer what Tom thinks he knows of her, and Deschanel doesn't miss a beat in capturing all of the ways his view of her changes as their romance grows and fizzles.
  • Carey Mulligan, An Education -- Mulligan, surrounded by a cast of better-known, more experienced actors, has to carry the movie, and she does; our attention and our hearts are with her from the first frame.
  • Gabourey Sidibe, Precious -- the movie itself is frustrating and annoying for lots of reasons, but Sidibe's performance deserves the praise it's been getting. It's hard to play a sullen character; you have to communicate the character's feelings to the audience despite the fact that she doesn't communicate anything to anyone, and Sidibe does that. As unchanging as that bleak face seems to be, Precious's every thought and emotion come through.

The winner:

  • Michelle Monaghan, Trucker -- Monaghan elevates the movie above its rather predictable "crusty adult redeemed by love of a child" story; most interesting and exciting is that the character doesn't change dramatically -- none of the crying or melting that we'd normally get at the end of the story -- but we can still see how the relationship changes.

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