Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Blow Out the Candles: Naomi Watts


Naomi Watts
Born September 28, 1968

Naomi Watts’ filmography is one of great variety. Since she wowed critics and audiences alike in her role in David Lynch’s psychological thriller, Mulholland Drive, she has appeared in several films, all very different from each other.

Mulholland Drive launched Watts’ career, bringing her out from under the radar and into the consciousness of filmmakers and moviegoers.
She’s a subtle actress, yet she possesses a powerful screen presence, holding her own next to heavyweight actors and consistently executing both quiet and bold performances in many genres of film.

No film showcases Watts’ range as an actress as in her breakthrough role in Mulholland Drive. In a way, Watts could identify with the character she plays in the film since one of the film’s various plot lines revolves around a young Hollywood starlet (played by Watts) trying to fulfill her dreams of movie stardom.
Before landing the role, Watts was trying to do just that in her own life.

Watts didn’t have it easy trying to forge a film career and an identity for herself in the movie industry. She was 31 when she got her first big break in Mulholland Drive, a relatively late start compared to her counterparts in the biz who had established themselves as film heavyweights in their twenties, long before Watts made an impression on David Lynch. But the struggle to make it is where the similarity between Watts and naïve, small-town girl, Betty Elms, whom she portrays in the film, ends.

Watts has managed to star in good movies while remaining out of the glaring spotlight and off the tabloid train. Even after two high-profile romances – a two-year long relationship with the late Heath Ledger and her current long-term union with actor, Liev Schreiber – Watts has avoided becoming the fodder for gossip, and doesn’t seem to set flashbulbs a-popping wherever she goes. She’s achieved critical acclaim as an actress and has brought a character focus to films that could simply have been special effects vehicles (The Ring and King Kong), and she’s made a mark on-screen without personal drama to raise her profile.

She followed her star-making turn in Mulholland Drive with an entirely different kind of film – a remake of the Japanese horror film The Ring. The film is a dark and suspenseful one about a video that brings certain death seven days after you watch it. Although the look of The Ring is good and certain scenes make your spine tingle, the storyline was, in my opinion, a bit absurd and the climax too drawn out. That said, Watts brings a degree of legitimacy to the movie as the female lead and saviour.

Watts played another splendid heroine in the blockbuster remake of King Kong. Although a tad long with some unnecessary scenes with monsters and such, the film is a slick, stylized and entertaining one. Watts delivers the film’s strongest performance by expressing a superb range of emotion in her interactions with Kong, instilling the outlandish premise with a sense of authenticity and believability.

The role that stands out most for me on Watts’ resume is her Academy Award nominated performance in 21 Grams. Watts’ performance as a recovering drug addict, whose stable, happy recovery is derailed by unimaginable tragedy and loss, is gripping and deeply moving. I remember how absorbed I became as I watched Watts’ character set off on a path of renewed substance abuse and revenge.

Watts may not be out there all the time like other actresses, gracing magazine covers every month or headlining entertainment shows, but her work earns her plenty of notice and recognition, and it’s nice to watch a performance by an actress without all of the other outside stuff getting in the way and colouring it.

What performances by Naomi Watts are your favourite? Let us know in the comments section.

5 comments:

  1. Andrew12:58 pm

    Major props to the Electrician. I didn't like the movie itself, but she did a great job in King Kong.

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  2. I remember looking her up on IMDB back in 2001 after I saw Mulholland Drive and being surprised to find out I had already seen her twice in Wide Sargasso Sea and Dangerous Beauty. These were very different from her roles in Mulholland Drive.

    I would also have to go with 21 Grams as her best movie. I'm not as big on Mulholland Drive as most people even though I liked it; I did like The Ring, but the genre itself isn't that big for me; I hated I Heart Huckabees; The Painted Veil was too predictable; Eastern Promises was really Viggo Mortensen's movie; The International was okay; and I thought King Kong could have EASILY had an hour to an hour and twenty minutes cut out of it.

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  3. Wow, there's a lot to be said. I love Naomi Watts. I can't find her giving a bad performance. Even in a bad movie. I love her in Mulholland Dr., 21 Grams, Eastern Promises. Yet, I also think she's a very underrated comedy actress as she wowed me in I Heart Huckabee's. I also loved her in King Kong because she was able to give her all in that film.

    And there's also a film that I'm sure not many people have heard of. It's called Persons Unknown with Joe Mantegna, Kelly Lynch, and Jon Faverau. It's this noir-like film where Watts plays a wheelchair-bound woman caught up in a drug heist that goes wrong as Mantegna tries to protect her and Kelly Lynch. It's a very underrated film that I recommend.

    Plus, it's the film that saw her in after discovering her in Tank Girl. She was the best thing in that movie.

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  4. I really liked her as Valerie Plame in 'Fair Game.'

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  5. @Andrew - Watts definitely gave the best performance in King Kong. And cool nickname with Electrician (playing off "Watts" and all.)

    @Chip Lary - She's got an impressive film repertoire for sure. I also did not like I Heart Huckabees. I know others who've liked it, but the appeal of that film was totally lost on me. I really enjoyed Eastern Promises.
    Watts stole the show in King Kong for me. I found her totally engaging in that film.

    @thevoid99 - I agree, I don't think she's given a bad performance. Le Divorce was dreadful, but not because of Naomi Watts. That film didn't give her much to work with.

    I went into I Heart Huckabees with big expectations because of the stellar cast, but I just didn't like it despite how much I wanted to. There were many great performances in the film, though, with Naomi Watts and Mark Wahlberg delivering great comedic performances, but that's about all I liked about it.

    I haven't heard of Persons Unknown. Thanks for highlighting that one. I'll have to check it out.

    @Rich - I haven't seen Fair Game yet, but a few people have recently mentioned that it's worth seeing.

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