Friday, December 02, 2011

What Happened To…?

Minnie Driver

When Minnie Driver appeared in Circle of Friends in 1995, she showed so much promise as a young unknown actress. She was luminous as the unconventionally pretty girl in a story about first love and enduring friendship. Driver portrayed Benny with a naturalness and honesty that made the character endearing, touching and funny, and that role opened many doors for Driver who followed it up with several other noteworthy appearances in the late ‘90s.

She was a tour de force then and seemed poised to become the next “it girl” thanks to a captivating screen presence and proven versatility as an actress. She shone in Circle of Friends, tickled our funny bones in Grosse Pointe Blank, held her own in the male-centric thriller Sleepers alongside Hollywood heavyweights Brad Pitt, Dustin Hoffman and Robert DeNiro, and earned an Oscar nomination for her supporting role in Good Will Hunting.

After that strong string of good films, Driver’s filmography suffered from a string of mediocre films like Hard Rain and Return to Me. Rather than continue the upswing, her film choices took a nosedive and her movies failed to become commercial successes. She turned to television for a time with a guest starring role in Will and Grace and a full-time stint on the short-lived TV series The Riches.

Driver’s got skills that go way beyond acting. She’s a talented songstress too. She’s got a lot going for her, but she kind of faded to the background as other actresses of her generation began to emerge (Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale). Many of the strong lead roles for women in film went to them and Driver was more often seen in straight-to-DVD releases or in modestly commercial vehicles. Driver deserves some good scripts and another chance to shine and hopefully she’ll land a plum role before “The Kates” soon.

Career Highlights: Circle of Friends (1995); GoldenEye (1995); Sleepers (1996); Grosse Pointe Blank (1997); Good Will Hunting (1997); An Ideal Husband (1999); Owning Mahoney (2003); The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

Low Points: Hard Rain (1998); The Governess (1998); Return to Me (2000); Beautiful (2000); Slow Burn (2000); High Heels and Low Lifes (2001); Hope Springs (2003); Ripple Effect (2007)

Last Seen on the Big Screen: Barney’s Version (2010)

Where will you see her next?: Goats (2011)


  1. I really enjoyed Hard Rain but I fully recognise that it is mediocre... it's just my kind of mediocre!

  2. @Pete - Right, it wasn't totally awful. Mediocre is an appropriate way to describe. And, hey, we've all got our own kind of mediocre.

  3. I have to say that she was a fabulous Jewish Princess in Barney's Version (a film which I think I like more in retrospect; I must see it again). Not a massive part, but played with gusto and conviction.

  4. I never liked her much but I agree with Multiplex Slut about her in Barney's Version. It was a short role but she was enjoyable in it. I'm very disappointed that that film was overshadowed by many of the bigger awards films released around the same time. It's a very good film.

  5. It was my understanding that in the 2000s she was trying very hard to start a music career and was only taking movie roles to finance that. She's toured the U.S. at least once because she came to a city near where I live and it's not a big enough place to get the acts that only hit the major cities.

    The Governess - that's the one where she accidentally figures out how to develop pictures, right? I kind of liked that one.

    My favorite movie of hers is the first one I ever saw her in - Circle of Friends.

  6. @Multiplex Slut - She was good in Barney's Version. I agree - it's been awhile and I think I should give it another viewing again soon.

    @Ryan - She showed promise in her breakthrough role in Circle of Friends and I thought she held her own in the male-centric Good Will Hunting, but she didn't follow those strong roles up with anything noteworthy and so, to me, she kind of became known for making lackluster, mediocre films. But in Barney's Version, she showed some of that early magic again.

    Agreed - Barney's Version kind of fell under the radar and didn't get the attention it deserved. I thought Paul Giamatti as great in the film as well.

    @Chip Lary - You're right - she released an album in 2001, and also a few films, most of which weren't mainstream.

    Circle of Friends is also my favourite of Driver's films.


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