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Dissecting Actress Vera Farmiga!

Mar. 4, 2014by: Jake Dee
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ACTRESS VERA FARMIGA!

Damn, how good of an actor is Vera Farmiga? Seriously, who'd ever have thought the sexy blue-eyed stunner would become, if not an outright new generational scream queen of sorts, at least a formidable horror mainstay? I sure as hell didn't! After-all, Vera has essayed every genre under the sun, from intense drama (DOWN TO THE BONE, UP IN THE AIR) to period romance (IN TRANZIT, A HEAVENLY VINTAGE), from action-thriller (THE DEPARTED, RUNNING SCARED, SOURCE CODE), to farcical-comedy (GOATS, AT MIDDLETON) and of course, all things horror (JOSHUA, QUID PRO QUO, ORPHAN, THE CONJURING and others). Hell, she's even done a western (DUST) and directed her own faith-based feature (HIGHER GROUND). Chick knows no limits! However, it's Vera's current gig on A&E's Bates Motel, which reopened its creaky doors just last night, that has our eyes consistently fixed on the gorgeous talent. What do you say...perfect time to Dissect the lovely Ms. Vera Farmiga. Let's go!

BEST WORK

Buy THE CONJURING here

As far as genre material goes, THE CONJURING certainly stands out to my eye as a crown jewel in Vera's quiver. First off, it's a tremendously effective horror yarn, starting on the page. But when you have actors of Vera's caliber - not to mention Patrick Wilson, Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston - the material becomes instantly elevated to a place beyond mere gross-out schlock and jump-scare terror. It becomes a real film about real people (supposedly inspired by real life couple Ed and Lorraine Warren) whose lives we can invest in, believe, and ultimately root for. And it's because of that quality in Vera and the others that made me enjoy THE CONJURING even more than INSIDIOUS parts 1 &2. Nothing against Rose Byrne, but she's no Farmiga. She hasn't the presence, the vulnerability or the conviction to make us wholeheartdly believe the way Vera so effortlessly does.

If you've yet to see the flick, THE CONJURING is a splendid horror attempt, mainly because it's more interested in its well drawn characters than its threadbare plot. Supposedly based on a true series of harrowing events, the story takes place in 1971, at a rural Rhode Island farmhouse. When the newly arrived Perron family suddenly starts to witness inexplicable phenomena in their new abode every morning at 3:07 AM, they decide to hire Ed and Lorraine Warren - a pair of married paranormal investigators - to vet and suss the situation. Cue the f*cking craziness! As things continue to terrifyingly go bump in the night, we soon learn of all kinds of evil energy and Satanic menace are the likely cause. But again, that's hardly something we've never seen before. What makes this particular strand so unique then is the grounded, realistic performances of its actors - Vera in particular - which makes us identify with the characters in a way that allows us feel like we're actually part of the story, not merely watching it unfold. We put ourselves in the characters' shoes, which can only be done with via first-rate acting. Vera and her co-stars certainly qualify here!

WORST WORK

Buy THE HARD EASY here

The ultimate compliment we can blandish Vera with is that, with nearly 50 screen credits to date, she's rarely, if ever, given a bad performance. At least, I've never seen her give one. Have you? Tough to single one out, isn't it. Well then, if that's the case, we must choose a not-so-good film project that, while perfectly fine in her role, Vera may want to leave off her IMDB page when going to future auditions. To my mind friends, that film just might have to be the ludicrous 2006 action-crime-caper THE HARD EASY.

I mean, with a generic 3:00 AM Cinemax title like THE HARD EASY (it's always HARD something right - HARD CASH, HARD RAIN, HARD DEATH) - a flick that stars David Boreanaz and Henry Thomas mind you - you're already behind the 8-ball. Hell, not even the great Bruce Dern and batshit Gary Busey could save this sucker from painful mediocrity. In the film - about a jewel heist being exacted by two competing (yet unsuspecting) crews - Vera plays Dr. Charlie Brooks, a mere plot foil that feels more one-dimensional than anything she's played before. In total it's a silly film with a silly tone, and given what Vera was allowed to play with, it grossly pales to what she's capable of. Still, for what she is afforded to play with, Vera acquits herself well and actually gives the film a more fun, fresh and sexy quality than it deserves. Good thing she got to shake this one off the same year by giving a searing turn in a much, much better crime picture - Marty Scorsese's THE DEPARTED.

TRADEMARKS

Buy ORPHAN here

Beyond the obvious - the radiant physicality, the piercing blue orbs and classic European beauty (she is a Ukrainian descendant after-all) - I want to say Vera's trademark is her range and diversity. As discussed in the opener, here's a talent who knows no limits when it comes to her craft - leading role, supporting turn, big-budget, indie, comedy, drama, it doesn't matter - Vera is capable of making every character she plays believable. And if you want to see what I believe is her finest film performance, go watch the 2004 flick DOWN TO THE BONE to see an absolute gut-wrenching turn. In that flick Vera completely strips all sense of vanity and innate beauty and delivers an incredibly powerful performance of a mother and estranged wife desperate to kick a secret cocaine habit during a harsh upstate New York winter. No joke, this and UP IN THE AIR are easily Vera's finest non-genre performances. Go seem them both if you've not already!

HIDDEN GEM

Buy JOSHUA here

For everyone who appreciated the instant credibility Vera and Peter Sarsgaard brought to the fun little kiddy horror flick ORPHAN, than I really suggest you scope the same qualities Vera and Sam Rockwell brought to the 2007 thriller JOSHUA. In fact, I'm convinced it was Vera's turn in JOSHUA that won her the role in ORPHAN two years later. Seriously. It's the quality of acting that Vera, Sam and others like Celia Weston, Michael McKean and Dallas Roberts that instantly elevates what would otherwise be an easily overlooked piece of horror pabulum.  And that's the sign of a great actor: the ability to elevate the material and make those around you better.

Directed by George Ratliff, from a script he co-wrote with David Gilbert, JOSHUA has a pretty simple setup. When newborn baby Lily is welcomed by the idyllic Cairn family, things seem blessed at first. That is, until 9 year old brother Joshua starts to lash out at the presence of his baby sister. His jealousy turns into sinister rage and soon, not a single Cairn family member is safe from the kid's blood-parched wrath. Sure, it has signs of THE GOOD SON, as did ORPHAN, but because of the supreme acting talent supporting the menacing child - Vera in particular - the movie works far better than it should. In the end it's actually a pretty slick little creepy-kid thriller that sneaks up on you leaves a lingering haunt. 

NEXT PROJECT

Buy Bates Motel Season 1 here

While checked-in at the Bates Motel for the foreseeable future, Vera has a couple of new projects worthy of mentioning. The first of course would have to be THE CONJURING 2: THE ENFIELD POLTERGEIST, which is still in the early phases of pre-production. While the plot is still undisclosed at this point, we do know the flick will be written by Carey and Chad Hayes, the same sibling-duo who penned the first flick. We also know the anticipated horror sequel has already been tagged with an October 23rd, 2015 release date, and will also star Patrick Wilson in the reprised role of Ed Warren (Vera his wife Lorraine). Perhaps the biggest question though is, will James Wan return to the director's chair, or with the ongoing drama of FAST & FURIOUS 7, will he have enough time, energy and morale to helm both flicks? Also, didn't Wan claim a few months ago he was done directing horror flicks? Somehow I seriously doubt that!

The second flick of Farmiga's worth keeping an eye on is something called THE JUDGE, an A-list picture slated for an October 14, 2014 release. Before we get to the supporting cast, peep the premise:

A successful lawyer returns to his hometown for his mother's funeral only to discover that his estranged father, the town's judge, is suspected of murder.

Aside from Vera, the murder-mystery drama stars Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Melisa Leo, Vincent D'Onofrio, Billy Bob Thornton, Leighton Meester and David Krumholtz. Seems like a no-brainer-must-see to me!

OVERALL

Buy THE DEPARTED here

Despite running the gamut of genres and subgenres on such varied platforms as TV, film, theater - Vera Farmiga has become gracefully grounded in our realm of the macabre. And we love her for that! Ever since giving her tour-de-force turn in DOWN TO THE BONE in 2004, Farmiga has continued to give tough, gritty, yet realistically vulnerable performances in stuff like THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, THE DEPARTED, JOSHUA, QUID PRO QUO, ORPHAN, SOURCE CODE, THE CONJURING, and of course, most recently in Bates Motel...which offers her the chance to play a deeply complex character in a long-form medium. Whether her career has organically migrated into this territory or if it was a deliberate personal decision, it doesn't really change the fact that we should all feel extremely lucky that Vera continually embraces the horror/thriller genre. Beauty aside, her mere presence of talent instantly makes every project, in our out of genre, that much better!

Extra Tidbit: In your opinion, what's Vera's finest performance to date?

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+1
2:05PM on 03/04/2014

Really enjoyed this article

and I'm ordering Joshua as soon as I finish posting. She's fantastic. I've only seen her in 4 movies so far though. Love her in all of them, but I think my favorite role has to be Norma Bates. I love Norma and the fact that we get to see much more of her than a movie allows gives us a more thorough character development. To me, she is Norma Bates and she's who I'll picture as Norman's mother with my next viewing of Psycho (not sure that's necessarily a good thing, considering).
and I'm ordering Joshua as soon as I finish posting. She's fantastic. I've only seen her in 4 movies so far though. Love her in all of them, but I think my favorite role has to be Norma Bates. I love Norma and the fact that we get to see much more of her than a movie allows gives us a more thorough character development. To me, she is Norma Bates and she's who I'll picture as Norman's mother with my next viewing of Psycho (not sure that's necessarily a good thing, considering).
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1:26PM on 03/04/2014

Source Code and the Departed

Vera is such an amazing actress and phenomenal in BATES MOTEL. It was the Departed where I first loved watching her and then in Source Code she turned in a great performance despite being relegated to a chair for most of the picture.
Vera is such an amazing actress and phenomenal in BATES MOTEL. It was the Departed where I first loved watching her and then in Source Code she turned in a great performance despite being relegated to a chair for most of the picture.
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