Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Top 10 Female Performances in Wes Anderson Films

Yesterday, I looked at the best male performances in Wes Anderson’s films, and today I examine the woman who so elegantly captured the essence of Wes’ world. Feel free to share your favorites!

10. Meryl Streep in Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
as Felicity Fox


She’s sweet, but she can put her foot down. She’s loyal, but aware her husband isn’t perfect. Streep conveys it all as Felicity Fox, selling her in the most convincing way possible. Seriously, is there anything this woman can’t do?

9. Lumi Cavazos in Bottle Rocket (1996)
as Inez

Oh how I adore Inez from Bottle Rocket. Cavazos communicated so much as Inez by saying so little. Despite her lack of command of the English language, you could feel the love between her and Luke Wilson.

­­
8. Irene Gorovaia in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
as Young Margot Tenenbaum

Think about it this way: Irene Gorovaia wasn’t playing a young Gwyneth Paltrow, and Gwyneth Paltrow wasn’t playing an old Irene Gorovaia. They were both playing Margot Tenenbaum and they both, in my mind, deserve equal credit.

7. Tilda Swinton in Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
as Social Services

Who better than Tilda Swinton to provide a film with some third act rejuvenation? Showing up late in Moonrise Kingdom as a character amusingly known as Social Services, Swinton is a staunchly authoritative wench trapped in a joyously youthful film. And I can’t get enough of it.

6. Olivia Williams in Rushmore (1998)
as Rosemary Cross

I’m so enchanted by Rosemary’s naïveté. She’s clearly a smart, educated woman, but her knack for attracting confused man childs makes for many of Rushmore’s most spirited moments. If Rosemary was to be Herman and Max’s “Rushmore,” then I can think of no finer, more naturalistic actress to play her.

5. Anjelica Huston in The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
as Sister Patricia Whitman

What I like most about Sister Patricia Whitman is that she isn’t what we expect. By the time we finally meet her, perhaps the last thing we anticipate is a disheveled nun with short gray hair and a fiery attitude. But that’s Anjelica Huston, always defying our expectations. And then, just like that… she’s gone.

4. Kara Hayward in Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
as Suzy Bishop

The moment Kara Hayward showed up in Moonrise Kingdom, I knew the girl had it. She was playing a child so different to how most actors play them: spiteful, sarcastic, charming; basically, you couldn’t not love her. I’m eagerly waiting to see what Hayward does next. 

3. Gwyneth Paltrow in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
as Margot Tenenbaum

Margot Tenenbaum was a risk for Gwyneth Paltrow. And that’s partly what makes this performance so interesting. Paltrow was a recent Oscar winner, a newly-appointed It girl for the late ‘90s. So when she showed up as the melancholic, chain smoking, mascara-heavy Margot Tenenbaum, you had to take notice. No other character from Paltrow’s filmography comes close to resembling Margot. She stands on her own, wooden finger and all.

2. Anjelica Huston in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
as Etheline Tenenbaum

If you want a master class in acting, watch the scene in The Royal Tenenbaums when Gene Hackman’s Royal begs his wife, Etheline, to let him back into their home. She refuses, then he admits he’s dying. She weeps and pities him, then he admits he was lying. She rages and fights back, then he admits that he actually is dying (even though he isn’t). It’s a wonderfully layered exchange that Anderson holds in a few shots. When you have two actors this good, there shouldn’t be a need to cut away.

1. Natalie Portman in Hotel Chevalier (2007)
as The ex-girlfriend

She’s confident and sexy, rough and mean. I simply love everything about her – from the way she aggressively kisses her ex-boyfriend when they’re left alone, to the very sight of her anonymously bruised body. In some way, this character feels like we’re meeting Portman’s Alice from Closer three years after we left her. She’s brash, confident, and says things like, “If we fuck, I’m going to feel like shit tomorrow.” So really, what’s not to love? 


34 comments:

  1. I haven't seen some of the films (nor the short) that comprise part of this list. I agree on Hayward in Moonrise Kingdom. Swinton as well. It's easily my favorite Anderson film.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh really? DIdn't know that. He clearly had a ball making it. Full of splendid performances, that one.

      Delete
  2. Good list here, man. I really dig Natalie in Hotel Chevalier, she's got this wildcat air about her, a Natalie we don't get to see often enough. I also really liked Swinton as Social Services, the urgency and authoritative tone she delivers in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks man. Natalie really can be a wildcat (great word btw) when need be. I just love that side of her.

      Delete
  3. I love you... Natalie's performance in Hotel Chevalier was fucking great. Not to mention that ASS!!!!! MMMMM...

    My 2nd choice would be Kara Hayward in Moonrise Kingdom with Sara Tanaka as Margaret Yang inRushmore at 3rd.

    4. Etheline Tenenbaum
    5. Felicity Fox.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha, great picks. And yes, Natalie is very... inspiring in that film.

      Delete
  4. As good as Huston is in The Royal Tenenbaums, Bill Murray's Rollie is my favorite character. My absolute favorite moment of his is his visit to the private detective when he finds out all about Margot's infidelity. His response after all of that is a sad little, "She smokes."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha, that's a great moment right there. Ol' Bill fits so well in the world(s) of Wes Anderson.

      Delete
  5. I'm not a fan of Anderson and I've never seen Hotel Chevalier but your line about Closer's Alice really makes me want to see this one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh I think you'd love her in that short. Plus, it's only 13 minutes, so if you end up hating it, at least it didn't waste a lot of your time!

      Delete
  6. Great list. My favorite female character by far are the Margot Tenenbaums - both Paltrow and Gorovaia owned the character.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I love that you appreciate BOTH of their performances in that film. Very essential work from the two of them.

      Delete
  7. Like Alice 3 years later... damn, I wish I had thought of that. So true.

    I never really associate Wes Anderson films with women but it's nice to actually see you point out some great performances in them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That Alice thing kind of clicked for me a few weeks ago. But it does seem to fit, doesn't it?

      The lack of important female characters (at least compared to the number of male ones) in Anderson's films is a very curious thing. I think I've listed some fine examples above, but they are sadly few and far between.

      Delete
  8. Margot Tenenbaum is probably my favourite Wes Anderson character and both Paltrow and Irene Gorovaia are to thank for that. I also really love Williams and Hayward.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought you'd like the double Margot love! I remember you tweeting pics of yourself as adult Margot a while back. Hilarious.

      Delete
  9. I love that Portman is #1. I just watched Darjeeling again on Sunday night, Hotel Chevalier and all. She's such a sexy bitch in that short. I kind of like the "Sweet Lime" girl from Darjeeling as well, but that might just be because she's fresh in my mind. Great list!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love Sweet Lime girl as well. She's got a little fire to her that I appreciate. But Natalie, man... so good.

      Delete
  10. I love that you gave the top spot to Portman in Hotel Chevalier. Good choice!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I really do love her in that film. She got so much across in such a short period of time.

      Delete
  11. If all Wes ever had to work with was Anjelica, it would be enough! Meryl's work along with that of Tilda, Gwyneth and Natalie--all stellar. The performances he has been able to present from some of the younger actresses are amazing. He keeps you looking forward to the next one every time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh me too! Anjelica, above all others, really seems born for Anderson's world. She fits so well into the role he creates for her.

      Delete
  12. I'm not the biggest Gwyneth Paltrow fan but she killed it as Margot! And I've never seen Anjelica as vulnerable as she was in Tenenbaums. Irene needs to come back and hopefully Kara doesn't follow her trajectory. Natalie's character is also one of my fave from Wes Anderson (though such an odd and awesome choice for #1). I loved her in that brief scene in The Darjeeling when she's in a bathrobe on the train. So awesome.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not Gwyneth's biggest fan either, but yep, there's no arguing that she killed that performance. So glad you dig Natalie for #1!

      Delete
  13. Great list. So many solid performances to choose from. I'm glad you made the list, as I don't think I could put these in order... although I do love Anjelica Huston in Darjeeling Limited quite a bit. Also, I loved Cate Blanchett in The Life Aquatic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks man. It was definitely hard to rank these performances, no doubt. Huston is so perfect in that film. Such a splendid cameo.

      Delete
  14. This and the Top 10 Male Performances and the Music Moments from Wes Anderson's films are amazing posts. Loved them all, and all the performances you've highlighted. Couldn't agree more with those. I'm also eager to see what Kara Hayward does next, she really caught my attention on Moonrise Kingdom, I love Anjelica and Gwyneth's performances and loved what you said about Natalie Portman's character and Closer, I also loved her there, great film.

    And from the male performances loved what you said about Gene Hackman. He's one of my favorite actors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for checking out all of the lists! I'm very eager to see what Hayward does next as well. I hope she sticks with acting, because she's really got something.

      Hackman... what a talent. Really wish he'd come back.

      Delete
  15. Awesome list man! My top 5 might be the same, but I still need to revisit The Royal Tenenbaums. I might do that this weekend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Ah, I love that movie so much.

      Delete
  16. Damn, you're good!!! Natalie kills it in this role and she also reminded me of Alice in "Closer" there. Quite an interesting choice for #1. I'd put Tilda Swinton's work in "Moonrise Kingdom" as my absolute #1. She's nothing short of astonishing in a scene-stealing turn and she encompasses the whole marvelous weirdness of Wes Anderson's cinematic universe. She really nailed it, in the same breathtaking way she always does.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha, thanks man! Swinton was definitely my favorite part of Moonrise. Everything you said about her work is spot on. She inhabited Anderson's weird world brilliantly.

      Delete
  17. Terrific picks and a great idea for a top 10, Alex. Anderson gets such unique performances from his actors and there's some great roles, particularly for women, as this top 10 highlights.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Dan! The women in his films never get quite the praise that the men do, so I had a ball putting this little list together. Really appreciate you reading and commenting.

      Delete