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The Best of Amy Adams

ENCHANTED, Amy Adams, 2007. ©Buena Vista Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

Amy Adams is one of the best actors working today without an Oscar despite being nominated six times. Adams has gone from playing naive small-town Americans to legendary comic book characters to the star of one of the best films of the last decades where she played a linguist trying to communicate with aliens. Here are some of her most noteworthy performances.

Enchanted

I’m sure for many people this was their introduction to Amy Adams, certainly, this was when I first heard of her. I didn’t watch it at the time but years later saw it. I did not really enjoy the movie as it wasn’t my kind of thing but Amy Adams is perfect in the role of Giselle, “Disney” princess come to life. Giselle is optimistic, considerate and kind, in fact to a dangerous level in 21st Century New York. She breaks into song and summons the rats, pigeons and more of the city to help her clean. Giselle is merely waiting for Prince Edward to come and save her and believing he is her true love pretty much because he asked to marry her but her experiences help her discover her own confidence and agency.

Arrival

AMy Adams - Arrival
Amy Adams in Arrival // Credit: Paramount Pictures

One of the best films of the last decade Arrival is a masterpiece and central to that is Adams’ performance. Adams plays Louise Banks, a renowned linguist, and when alien spaceships appear across the planet she is recruited to communicate with them. For a film that shares a similar setup to Independence Day it may be hard to convey the heartbreaking emotional impact of this film but it is devastating, the film dealing with love and loss and even the nature of time and how that affects how we experience the world. How Adams wasn’t nominated for an Oscar is a mystery and I’d have said she should have won.

American Hustle

My favourite David O’Russell film (incidentally one of the few director-film title combinations that rhymes, as pointed out by Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo) and another Oscar nomination for Adams playing Syndey Prosser, a con-artist and expert at manipulation. Prosser joins Irving Rosenfeld on a string of cons until the FBI catches up to them. In a film where most of the characters are trying to outwit the others, Prosser has to constantly manage her relationships – her loyalty to Irving, her worry about what FBI agent Richie DeMaso will do and what will the rest of her life look like when this is all over.

Lois Lane

Adams’ has played Lois Lane in three DC movies (four if you count the Snyder Cut as a separate film) and has acquitted herself well in a difficult role in any Superman movie. Lane is a determined, strong and capable woman who is constantly getting saved by Superman, as more characters were brought in she was at even greater risk of being overshadowed by more and more superheroes but she continues to play a pivotal role and channel Lane’s innate resilience.

King Of The Hill

Adams starred in the critically acclaimed tv show Sharp Objects but in my personal opinion far more importantly appeared in several episodes of animated classic King of the Hill.

The Master

In a film that already contains two great performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in the leading roles Adams’ gives a third. There is a lot going on in The Master – Hoffman plays a charismatic cult leader, Lancaster Dodd, Phoenix a newcomer who quickly embraces the cult, and Adams plays the wife of the cult leader, Peggy. Working out the motivations of Lancaster and Peggy is very difficult, with Peggy even more inscrutable than Lancaster. Is she another victim of Hoffman? Is she a true believer? Is she Hoffman’s full partner in this cult. Peggy sometimes has a stoic emotionless to what is going on interspersed with fierce critiques of others.

Junebug

Amy Adams - Junebug
Amy Adams as the rather intense but friendly Ashley in Junebug// Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Even before Adams’ found massive fame with Enchanted she had already received an Oscar nomination for her role of Ashley in Junebug. Art gallery owner, Madeline travels from Chicago to North Carolina to meet an artist and uses this as an opportunity to meet her new husband George’s family for the first time. Adams’ plays Ashley, the wife of George’s younger brother. Ashley is immediately bowled over with the sophisticated and metropolitan Madeline, who to her seems to lead a life of impossible excitement. Ashley peppers Madeline with questions and talks almost non-stop, eager for knowledge of this life. When Ashley immediately overshares about her own life, explaining she has lived in this town all her life and asks Madeline where she was born, to which she replies Japan Ashley reels with the shock of this information. The collision of small-town America and the big city is perfectly played out between Ashley and Madeline. The story moves forward dealing with genuine heartbreak and tragedy with Adams continuing to be brilliant.

Amy Adams is one of the most versatile and compelling actors in the world and is bound to have many great roles ahead of her.

Also Read: My Favourite Actor: Octavia Spencer

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Posted by
Richard Norton

Gentleman, podcaster and pop culture nerd, I love talking and writing about pretty much all pop culture.