Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Blow Out the Candles: Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet
Born October 5, 1975

Kate Winslet made a daring play after achieving huge commercial success with Titanic. Rather than follow-up a big mainstream hit with another big mainstream hit, she retreated into the indie film world by starring in a small indie film with limited marketing and a limited release – Hideous Kinky. Sure the film was already in the bag before Titanic took the world by storm, so technically it’s not the very next project Winslet sought out, but it was the first film featuring Kate Winslet that we got to see after she played Rose, and the move is very indicative of how Winslet’s career has played out.

I’ve always appreciated Winslet’s penchant for roles in smaller, independent films. She hasn’t rested on her laurels by grabbing every blockbuster script tossed her way. How could she? She hasn’t made that many blockbuster films. Winslet has appeared in period pieces, indie films, serious dramas and cable programs. She didn’t take all that Titanic afforded her – a major lead role, worldwide recognition and an Oscar nomination – and try for more of the same. Rather, she showed discernment and selectiveness in choosing what roles she’d take in other films, and it’s made for quite an eclectic filmography.

Winslet hasn’t been afraid to bare it all by showing a lot of skin and no inhibition in roles that have called for it. Her fearlessness has shown her eschew “safe,” pretty girl roles for those of more difficult, troubled, imperfect characters. For me, the role that showed Winslet stray furthest from pretty girl was as Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. In the role Winslet is feisty and eccentric and lovably insecure. She displays the nuances of the character with every new hair colour and with magical perfection, and is a great companion to Jim Carrey in the film. Clementine is the girlfriend that cannot be forgotten and Winslet’s performance is also unforgettable. For me, it’s one of her finest roles.

Winslet played an unhappy housewife in two different films - Little Children and Revolutionary Road. I liked Little Children more than I did Revolutionary Road, but Winslet's performance in both films is superb. Both characters are unhappily married women trapped in boring lives and looking for a way to escape.

After five Oscar nominations, Winslet finally won that elusive Oscar for her role in The Reader. Despite appreciating Winslet's powerful, raw performance as an illiterate concentration camp guard, I was hugely disappointed by the film. I thought the film spent too much time focusing on the affair between Hanna Schmitz and teenager Michael Berg, an affair that happened so suddenly and so soon after the movie's opening that it seemed inexplicably unmotivated and random. There wasn't even an intense and immediate attraction between the two characters to explain its abrupt occurrence. In the film, the affair almost seemed like an excuse to exploit Winslet's willingness to bare it all on film even though there was no real reason for nudity, in my opinion. I also felt like the movie devoted so little time to the most interesting, engaging and dramatic part - the war crimes trial stemming from Hanna's actions as a concentration camp guard at a Nazi prison camp - that I was left disappointed when that part of the film played out so briefly and quickly, sandwiched in between the boring affair and Hanna's life in prison.

In a strange case of odd foreshadowing and coincidence, another of Winslet’s small, yet hilarious and memorable roles was as an extra in the British sitcom Extras. In her guest role, Winslet portrayed an actress who hopes to finally win an Oscar by playing a nun sheltering Jews during the Holocaust. Ricky Gervais, the creator, writer and director of Extras, once joked that Winslet would have to make a Holocaust movie in order to win an Oscar. Gervais may have called it right by fluke, but several of Winslet’s roles before The Reader earned her Oscar nominations and could have earned her the golden statue, and it’s probably a safe bet that she’ll earn another statue in her career and she probably won’t have to do another Holocaust film to do it.

What are your favourite Kate Winslet performances? Let us know in the comments section.


  1. Happy Birthday to one of my favorite actresses!
    ... If you were disappointed by The Reader, try reading the book, which is much better than the film, though it will also make you understand the film better. I read the book before watching the film, so I didn't see all those flaws.
    I think that Kate Winslet's career stands in an interesting contrast to Leonardo diCaprio's, who made a bunch of blockbusters after Titanic, until he later on decided to focus on smaller ones, as well.
    However, the two are still my favorite on-screen couple in Hollywood.

  2. My favourites are: Titanic, Finding Neverland and The Reader

  3. dEmon2:38 pm

    Heavenly Creatures is still my favourite of all her movies - and technically it was her first role. She was clearly meant to lead the life she leads. ;p

  4. Great write-up on an excellent actress. Kate Winslet can always be counted on to give a good performance. She had a decent role in Contagion and two of her best are Hamlet and Little Children.

  5. Although I was disappointed with The Reader as well, I actually enjoyed the first half (the affair) and hated the second half (the WWII trial). Still cannot believe that film was nominated for best picture.

    Also, I have to agree with dEmon, Heavenly Creatures is my favourite film of hers. Eternal Sunshine would be second and Little Children would round out the top three.

  6. I too, had issues with The Reader which I thought was too heavy-handed though I loved Kate Winslet's performance in the film.

    I plan to do a top 10 list of my favorite Kate Winslet performances probably next week as I'm going to make as my contribution to the LAMB acting school. She's just awesome. I wish she would do more comedies like her part in Extras.

  7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is my favorite performance of hers. And yea, I use to have a huge crush on her after Titanic ah.

    Happy b-day Kate!

  8. @Mette - I will have to pick up the book. Thanks for the recommendation. I find that books are often better than the film adaptations anyway. Leo and Kate are a pretty cool onscreen couple, although I was a bit disappointed by their last union in Reservation Road. I hope the pair up again soon.

    @Squasher88 - I was a huge fan of Titanic when it first came out. Finding Neverland is another good Winslet film.

    @dEmon - Heavenly Creatures is one I haven't seen. I'll have to check it out.

    @Ty - I'm glad you enjoyed the write-up, thanks! I agree - she's reliably good and she always mixes it up whether it be in different film genres or on TV series (i.e. Mildred Pierce.) I also enjoyed her as Ophelia in Hamlet and Little Children is, I think, among her best films.

    @CS - I'm also baffled by The Reader's Best Picture nom. The film was just disjointed with what felt like 3 different parts that didn't work well together. But Winslet's performance was very strong.

    A second endorsement for Heavenly Creatures makes me watch it even more. I don't suppose you've got a copy....

    @thevoid99 - As a film, The Reader had issues indeed, one of which wasn't its lead actress. Agreed - Winslet gave a great performance.

    Winslet's a great subject for a top ten piece. I look forward to seeing your list.

    She's definitely done more drama, but she can obviously do comedy really well, so I'd also like to see her in a funny role in the future.

    @Castor - Eternal Sunshine is a great film - it's a wonderfully unique, off-the-wall romantic comedy and Winslet is great alongside Jim Carrey who also delivers a superb performance. I may have to give that another viewing very soon!

  9. Winning an Oscar isn't a bad thing, but I can't help but feel sorry for Kate and for everyone concerned with The Reader especially when I NEVER think of it as a Holocaust film it's so much more dense than that. Kate's eclectic, not so much in the sense of the different roles she plays, but in the different people she works with. And, what's more, I love that she seems to love acting and everything that comes with it - interviews, awards, premieres - that always makes fans pleased.

  10. @Andrew: Encore Entertainment - I expected so much more from The Reader. I thought Winslet was great in the film, but the film itself wasn't great.

    Agreed - Kate switches things up consistently whether it be in different genres of film or by working alongside so many different actors, and she's lent her talents to not only movies, but to TV and miniseries. I also get a genuine sense from her that she truly loves making movies and all of the extra publicity stuff that goes along with it. She certainly comes across as a very bright, witty and funny lady in interviews.


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