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.