Away We Go (2009)
When the group ends up at a bar that encourages clothed audience pole dancing, Munch takes to the stage and delivers a melancholic dance of pure devastation. While she dances, Tom explains to Burt than Munch has just suffered her fifth miscarriage, and will likely never be able to give birth. Lynskey’s work in this film is given a heavy assist by Messina (another actor I need to feature in this column), but it’s her face that kills me.
The Informant! (2009)
Ginger is the type of character that the audience wants to shake and scream in an effort to open her eyes. But she’s blinded. She’s blinded by her husband’s wealth, his kindness, his deceit, and watching her discover the truth proves to be one of the film’s most heart wrenching moments.
Up in the Air (2009)
Two moments of Lynskey’s work as Julie speak to me. I love the genuine tenderness Julie has toward Clooney’s elusive character, Ryan, when they are reunited at Julie’s rehearsal dinner. Ryan appears thrilled to see her, of which Julie’s warm embrace speaks similarly. Secondly is the scene when Ryan asks Julie if she’d like him to walk her down the aisle. The look on Lynskey’s face just destroys me. She wants to say yes, but has promised the duty to someone else. She wants to cry, but fights to stay strong. She wants to lash out, but acknowledges that it’s a kind gesture. Although this all happens in five seconds, it stays with me much longer.
Win Win (2011)
She’s a woman motivated by greed, clouded by the timid charm Lynskey has long since perfected. What makes this performance such a difficult one is that, by the end, director Tom McCarthy wants you to sympathize with Cindy. He wants you to understand and see it from her side. In lesser hands, that’d be near impossible, but with Lynskey’s remorseful face guiding the way, sympathize do we ever.
Hello I Must Be Going (2012)
This is a formula we’ve seen plenty of times, but I don’t recall having as much fun with it as I did here. Melanie Lynskey has been acting steadily for nearly 20 years, but damn if Hello I Must Be Going doesn’t feature a true breakthrough performance.
The Best of the Best
Heavenly Creatures (1994)
In 1950s New Zealand, Pauline forged an obsessive friendship with Juliet Hulme, which resulted in the two of them planning and executing the murder of Pauline’s mother. Now, much like Lynskey’s portrayal of a woman rediscovering life via a younger man in Hello I Must Be Going, the Evil Child role is something we’ve all seen before. The beauty (and profound dread) of Lynskey’s work in Heavenly Creatures is rooted in how deceptive Pauline is. Masked almost unrecognizably by youth (Lynskey was 16 years old when the movie was filmed), the actress plays the doomed Pauline as a young woman with no outs. In her warped world, the only way to keep the dream alive is to do something awful. We shouldn’t want to follow her, but are compelled to all the same.
“It’s a three-act story with a tragic end,” Pauline describes of her desire to commit matricide.
Yeah, you can say that again.
Other Notable Roles
Coyote Ugly (2000)
Sweet Home Alabama (2003)
The Shield (2003)
Two and a Half Men (2003-present)
Shattered Glass (2003)
Flags of our Fathers (2006)
Leaves of Grass (2009)
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)