Today is Amy Adams' 41st birthday. While I try to remain objective to all performers, there are few that I have publicly rooted for as much as her to eventually win an Oscar. With an impressive track record of 5 nominations, she seems overdue for something at this point. It also helps that I consider her to be one of the most charismatic and enjoyable actresses currently working. With an impressive career that features an array of great performances ranging from princess movies to dark dramas, she embodies what a great actress should be. So to honor her birthday, I have decided to highlight my personal top 10 favorite performances of hers that reflect why she is so great.
1. The Master (2012)
Was there any doubt that the film that inspired this blog would be anywhere but in first place? It's for good reason, too. While there are definitely more iconic Amy Adams roles, there is something brilliant about her nuanced performance. Even as everyone praised Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, the secret weapon was always Adams as the quiet wife who is more unnerving the more that you get to know her. She is almost void of emotion entirely and while that can be mistaken for a bad performance, it actually emphasizes what's so great about her character. She lures you in and doesn't let go. You don't want to annoy her, but that's only because you don't even know what she's thinking right now.
|Left to right: Adams and Mark Wahlberg|
2. The Fighter (2010)
It was the start of David O. Russell's comeback with a family drama that is so full of life and some great performances. Among them is the heavily accented Adams as a bartender who falls for a boxer. She may be tough and unwilling to take on unnecessary grief, but she is far more complicated than her tough exterior will let on. She is a compelling character that shows one of her more gritty and fleshed out characters to date. She's also a lot funnier than you'd think, easily trading constant jabs with Wahlberg as he deals with his dysfunctional family. It's romantic and tragic in measures that Russell hasn't really explored before or since.
|Left to right: Adams and Leonardo DiCaprio|
3. Catch Me if You Can (2002)
The earliest film on this list and one that also shows her earliest signs of potential. While the film is probably one of Leonardo DiCaprio and Steven Spielberg's best, Adams makes the most of what is essentially a cameo as a nurse with a very clingy attitude. The film itself is a fun and inventive take on the cat and mouse genre the likes of which have been attempted to be imitated (see: Ocean's Eleven) but never matched. It could just be that Spielberg knew how to add madcap humor without ruining the tone. I think it is also that he just knew how to cast the film, and boy did he do a great job with this one.
4. Enchanted (2008)
No matter what she does. No matter how many great roles she does, she will always be the princess from Enchanted. That is far from an insult because honestly, think of how amazing Adams was in the role. It was some sort of inspired casting that plucked her from a certain obscurity and saw her skewer Disney's rich history in ways so great that Shrek failed to achieve. It may be a commentary on the company's long and storied history, but it is also an excuse to create one of the most fascinating and subversive princess movies of the past decade. She also sings. Did I mention that? She gives everything to this role, and a big bottle of adrenaline. If ou don't at least admire her dedication, then you probably don't like her to begin with.
|Left to right: Adams and Tom Hanks|
5. Charlie Wilson's War (2007)
Well, look who's back alongside Tom Hanks in a slightly bigger role. And guess what, they brought writer Aaron Sorkin and director Mike Nichols along with them. One of the director's strengths has always been in impeccable casting and performances. While this may not be the greatest Sorkin script, it is a great ensemble that gets by on mixing a very unique political story with plenty of humor and energy. It was the director's last film before his passing, and it is one that shows him going with the best of intentions and further evidence that Adams was a star in the making, even with Enchanted not that far off from making her a household name.
6. Her (2013)
If you really need to know what Adams is best at, consider that a lot of these roles have been in supporting roles. While she is effective on occasion as the lead, she does have a pretty good knack for making limited screen time into a memorable experience. There probably isn't a better example than her second film with Joaquin Phoenix in which director Spike Jonze explores artificial intelligence and romance. She plays a neighbor character who basically appears sporadically and for only minutes at a time. Still, she is a charming figure that adds to the wonderful, bizarre world that Jonze has built and is an invaluable resource to the film's overall quality.
7. American Hustle (2013)
Adams returns to David O. Russell in an ensemble film that may be way too hodgepodge to be as great as the critics claimed, but it was ripe with entertaining moments. Among the highlights is Adams, whose wavering accent and constant wardrobe selections highlighted a beauty and confidence in her character that made her mysterious. While it is far from her best, it does reflect her ability to be the middle person in a cast, keeping the glue together while every other performer gets to let loose and play silly. While she has her share of memorable moments, she is best remembered as the brains behind the operation of this con artist movie, and she does a really good job of selling us this lie.
8. Big Eyes (2014)
The critics were pretty divided about this film and Adams even admitted at the Golden Globes that she had no idea why she won for this role. For what it's worth, it is a fascinating look into what could have been from director Tim Burton. It is his best since Sweeney Todd, but that's not saying much. It is beautiful and surreal, a love letter to Margaret Keane that is a little rough at points. However, the only real conflict comes in a reliably hammy Christoph Waltz performance, which bogs the dramatic tension on display in Adams otherwise nuanced and charismatic performance. It's a study of art and commerce that is itself an interesting commentary on Burton's career. Is it his best? Not really. But Adams gets to prove why she is one of the best by keeping the production together.
9. Sunshine Cleaning (2009)
You can argue that this film is at best adequate. However, I find the dynamic of Adams and Emily Blunt to be rather charming. It follows the journey of two sisters who clean up crime scenes in order to pay for their child's schooling. It is a film with a lot of inventive moments and witty remarks to spare. If anything, it reflects a side of Adams that isn't often seen nowadays. It's her funny side that really shines here and suggests a career that could have seen her go into more broad comedy than compelling drama. While you still see them here and there, this is probably as close as we'll get to her indie comedy career - and that's not all that bad.
10. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)
I'll admit that there are probably a few of you wondering where certain films are. Sadly, I cannot say that I have seen all of her great work (Doubt and Junebug specifically). However, I do think that this rather average take on the screwball comedy works because of one reason: Adams. Besides looking like a perfect fit for a retro model, this is her chances to do fast paced absurdity as situations collapse on top of her and she gives charm to every last manic moment. I don't love this film and it is sometimes underwhelming. However, I do think that it does reflect why Adams should start getting involved with a few screwball comedies. She is one of the few who can really make them work without stretching too much.