Amy Adams is one of our most versatile actresses. She can go from playing a sweet Disney princess in Enchanted, to a neurotic art dealer feeling the emptiness of her lonely mansion in Nocturnal Animals with absolute ease. Interestingly, once her career started to take off with her supporting role in the Sundance wonder Junebug, for which she landed an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, Adams started with a string of good girl roles. After Junebug came Enchanted and then her astute portrayal of a shy Bronx nun in Doubt, which landed her a second Best Supporting Actress nomination.
Then it was The Fighter, which started to change things for her. Her portrayal of Charlene, a Boston bartender coming to grips with the regrets she has made over her life, is gut wrenchingly honest with how she masks her sea of regret with an abrasive exterior. Her performance earned her yet another Supporting Actress nomination. Since then, Amy Adams showed that she can play not just sunny and charming but cunning, sexy, and neurotic, further demonstrating her ability to reinvent herself with every role she plays.
Here is a look at some of her tremendous work:
Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby (2006)
In my opinion, Talladega Nights is one of the more overlooked performances of her career. Understandably, star Will Ferrell heaped most of the acclaim because he was the bigger star at the time and he’s the main lead. Yet, Amy Adams still manages to match the esteemed comedian tit for tat as Susan, a shy assistant who is always silenced by those around her but then starts to come out of her shell.
Adams has proven her ability to play both light and dark personalities and she has a key scene where she encompasses both types. In a motivational, culminating speech that her character gives to Ricky Bobby, Adams continuously switches from feelings of euphoria to being tough-as-nails. After her character has constantly been hushed up and pushed around, she sympathetically gets Ricky to get back on his feet while angrily breaking free of her own shyness.
The Master (2012)
Peggy Dodd is the darkest character that Amy Adams has ever played on film. She is someone who would do anything to accomplish her personal goals, even if it means pushing or manipulating those around her – even giving her cult leader husband Lancaster (Philip Seymour Hoffman) a handjob.
The genius of Adams’ performance is that she is mostly in the background so it seems like she isn’t doing a whole lot. But with every death stare or look of approval she gives, she makes you wonder if she’s the master of the title. The Master may focus on the conflict between the sleazy Lancaster and Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), the man he takes under his wing, but I’m more curious as to what makes Peggy tick.
After demonstrating her ability to be tough as nails in films like The Fighter and The Master, Amy Adams gets to play a character that is more relaxed in Her. As Amy, whose pessimism towards love proves to be a sharp contrast to her good friend Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), Adams is neurotic yet incredibly profound. I could identify with Amy’s disbelief in love.
We’ve all been there at some point in our lives. We’ve felt as if love is pointless because it can kick us to the ground or because it can be very obsessive and even strip us of our emotional liberty. Amy herself even says love is a form of “socially acceptable insanity.”
While Scarlett Johansson understandably dominated the film’s Supporting Actress buzz for her three-dimensional voice work as the OS named Samantha who slowly learns what it means to love, I personally was more drawn to Amy Adams’ work and her all-too-real demonstration of wanting to avoid love’s complications.
American Hustle (2013)
American Hustle is a bit of a mess. Its story is all over the place. Some of the actors felt like they were in a different movie from everyone else. But the one actress who still escapes the whole tsunami unscathed is Amy Adams as sexual con artist Sydney Prosser who poses as fake British heiress Lady Edith Greensly. Adams is aces as a woman who appears all feminine with her non-neckline dresses and golden cat necklace yet she is still a woman who feels as if she’s “one of the guys.”
While one aspect of her complex portrayal may be attributed to the costume designer, credit largely goes to Amy Adams for how she continuously weaves in and out of being both Sydney and Edith, engaging in a web of deceit before she ends up conning herself. Even if the film isn’t perfect or groundbreaking, it still rightfully earned Adams her fifth Oscar nomination and her first for Best Actress. Honestly, she makes me wish that the film was entirely about her character because whether she acts tough while wearing hair curlers or lets out a passionate scream while in a bathroom stall, she is captivating in every single frame in which she appears.
Arrival is a science fiction film about the power of communication infused with powerful soul and the film’s soul comes entirely from Amy Adams’ leading performance. Even though Arrival did manage a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards, it is a travesty that Amy Adams could not get nominated for Best Actress because her performance IS the movie. You take her out of it, the movie falls apart.
As a linguist effectively trying to communicate with alien invaders, Adams embodies the fears, curiosity, and skepticism that audience members feel once the aliens first arrive through the use of just her eyes. She also encompasses our subtle desperation for proper communication between both species.
In spite of the film being a genre piece, Adams infuses it with layered naturalism and interestingly gives her most grounded portrayal to date. Adams takes character traits that she has demonstrated in her previous performances: frail, tough, neurotic, and gleaming, and encompasses them into one singular portrayal that in my mind, is the best performance of her career thus far.
What Lies Ahead for Amy Adams
On the horizon, Amy Adams will reprise her role as Lois Lane in the upcoming blockbuster Justice League. But as the DC Cinematic Universe gets a hold of her, she still makes time for intriguing projects like the TV series adaptation of the Gillian Flynn novel Sharp Objects, which’ll likely garner her some Emmy buzz given her industry stature and the potential quality of the series itself.
She will also star in the sequel to Enchanted known as Disenchanted ,which has yet to start filming, and is in talks to reteam with Talladega Nights helmer Adam McKay for an untitled biopic about Dick Cheney where, if a deal is finalized, she will play Cheney’s wife, Lynne.
Which Amy Adams performance is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!