Work of actresses ran gamut from undervalued to overrated

Gazette film critic Dan Dinicola weighs the finest female performances of 2007

Fair is fair. Equal time must be given to the finest film performances by women in 2007 movies. Their efforts do not explode with the fury and intensity of men’s work on screen. Nor do we have instances of an actress excelling in more than one role, as was the case with actors such as Philip Seymour Hoffman, Denzel Washington and Tommy Lee Jones.

No need or basis here to discuss the advent or continuation of a trend, although when it comes to women, I have already noted the large number of female screenwriters who have penned terrific scripts and directed superb films in the past year — including Diablo Cody (“Juno”), Tamara Jenkins (“The Savages”), and Nancy Oliver, who wrote the delightful “Lars and the Real Girl.” As I have also mentioned, there is a danger in pigeonholing artistic achievements in gender categories, since that onerous process often detracts from the more significant reality that quality is a sexless commodity when it comes to rendering or presenting nuances of the human condition.

So here we go. The finest female performances of 2007:

Julie Christie is Oscar-bound for her depiction of an Alzheimer’s patient in “Away From Her.”

Marion Cotillard gives a breathtaking performance as Edith Piaf in “La Vie en Rose.”

In the title role in “Juno,” Ellen Page displays an intelligence and sensitivity beyond her years. It is heartening to note the comedy’s extraordinary box office success.

Amy Adams has come into her own with “Enchanted.”

It’s impossible to mention the best of any recent year without including Laura Linney, who excelled as Hoffman’s sister in “The Savages.”

These women appear to be the front-runners in the Oscar race, followed by Cate Blanchett in “I’m Not There,” Helena Bonham Carter in “Sweeney Todd,” and Keri Russell in “Waitress.”

As a supporting actress it is so far all Amy Ryan, who played the selfish mother in “Gone Baby Gone.” Her performance leaped off the screen — but, in a much subtler way, so did Catherine Keener’s character in “Into the Wild.” Perhaps the most slighted marvelous acting job in a supporting role was turned in by Tilda Swinton, who played the unscrupulous attorney in “Michael Clayton.”

In her brief time on screen, Vanessa Redgrave turned in “Atonement’s” most noteworthy performance, far more poignant than that of the overheralded Keira Knightley in the same film. In another performance by a teen, “Atonement’s” Saoirse Ronan shone.

Perhaps because “Knocked Up” was billed as a teen or slacker comedy, not enough attention was paid to the performances of Katherine Heigl and Leslie Mann. Also unjustly ignored was Naomi Watts in “Eastern Promises.”

Contrast that omission to the bloated attention to Angelina Jolie for her role and devoted attention to the character of Marianne Pearl, widow of the slain journalist Daniel Pearl, in “A Mighty Heart.” From this corner, the latter is a tangential result of entertainment editors’ hunger for any news relating to Angelina and Brad. (If I had to choose one Emperor’s New Clothes film of 2007, “A Mighty Heart” was it.

Now, let’s move on to a new year, knowing that with awards season upon us, we will be forced to dwell on the past for the next two months, plenty of time for you to catch some of 2007’s best, either on DVD or in the theater.

Categories: Life and Arts

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