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The Good, The Bad and The Badass: Naomi Watts

03.16.2015
Last week, we took at look at the long, spectacular career of Harrison Ford. This week, we turn our attention to an actress who's too often underrated but has seemingly never given a bad performance...
Naomi Watts

Naomi Watts is without a doubt one of the classiest, most reliable, and unselfish performers out there. The thing about Watts is that regardless of the part she's playing, she's always excellent. The size of the role doesn't matter. She's like Julianne Moore in that even in throwaway parts – such as the comically awry DIANA or the godawful MOVIE 43 – she'll give it her all (the Razzie gang were way off-base nominating her for 'worst actress' due to those movies – she was fine in both). When people are smart enough to cast her in something that actually gives her some substance, there are few out there that are any better.

A good example of this is BIRDMAN. While Michael Keaton, Edward Norton and Emma Stone walked away with all the awards and buzz, Watts – in a much quieter way – went toe-to-toe with them, in a part that absolutely grounded the film yet went mostly unrecognized around awards time (I'd argue her more-hyped part in ST. VINCENT was far less successful). Since bursting onto the scene with MULHOLLAND DRIVE, Watts has consistently delivered stunning work, with two richly deserved Oscar nominations under her belt (21 GRAMS & THE IMPOSSIBLE), a handful of blockbuster hits on her resume (THE RING, KING KONG) and acclaimed performances in nearly every genre, with her even dipping her toe into teen fantasy this week with INSURGENT. She's prolific, reliable, drop-dead gorgeous, and like a fine wine, only gets better with age.

Her Best Film

This one is a close-tie between MULHOLLAND DRIVE and THE IMPOSSIBLE, but I'm going to give the edge to the latter. Her Oscar-nomination was richly deserved, and for my money she should have won. It's a harrowing turn, with Watts having been put through the wringer both emotionally and physically. Once disaster strikes, her character is faced with a nightmare scenario in that not only has she been perhaps mortally wounded, but she has to essentially deny the severity of her wounds for the sake of her own survival, as well as her son's. It's a stunning film that – amazingly – never really caught on in North America (where it only grossed about $20 million domestically) but was a massive blockbuster everywhere else.

Her Most Underrated Film

One movie of Watts' that never got a good release was Rodrigo Garcia's MOTHER AND CHILD. Watts has a tough-role in this, being a woman who struggles with her own self-destructive nature (which includes seducing married men out of spite) when she learns she's pregnant. It's an incredibly uncompromising film, with standout work by Watts, Annette Bening, and Samuel L. Jackson in a atypical, highly restrained part.

Her Most Overrated Film

A few years ago, I made a dig at Peter Jackson's KING KONG in one of my columns, and I was absolutely destroyed by talkbackers. Funny, I always thought of this movie as a failure, but it seems like there are an awful lot of people out there that think it's amazing. Maybe it's the fact that the original 1933 KING KONG is one of my favorite movies, but Jackson's film always struck me as bloated and often dull. That said, Watts is absolutely terrific in it, giving the part a ton of warmth, while looking very striking in the character's vintage 1930's style gowns. So while the movie is (in my opinion) overrated, the same cannot be said for her performance.

Her Most Memorable Scene

Amazingly, MULHOLLAND DRIVE started out as a failed TV pilot, and my theory is that David Lynch was compelled to finish it based largely on how great Watts is as the optimistic young L.A transplant, who starts a torrid affair with Laura Harring's enigmatic amnesiac. Watts' acting is incredible, especially in the now famous audition scene where she turns a half-assed script for a cheesy movie-of-the-week (opposite Chad Everett) into a tour-de-force performance that blows everyone's socks off.

Her Five Best Films


5. THE RING
4. EASTERN PROMISES
3. 21 GRAMS
2. MULHOLLAND DRIVE
1. THE IMPOSSIBLE

 

Up Next

Naomi Watts has a lot of stuff coming up, including INSURGENT, as well as the Noah Baumbach comedy WHILE WE'RE YOUNG (which I reviewed at TIFF), and a potentially award caliber turn in Jean-Marc Vallee's DEMOLITION.

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

Source: JoBlo.com

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5:15AM on 03/17/2015
I agree with your argument on King Kong, I found it very boring with mediocre CGI at best.
I agree with your argument on King Kong, I found it very boring with mediocre CGI at best.
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4:42PM on 03/16/2015
While King Kong is a might overrated (I enjoyed it the first time, but after rewatching the '33 movie it does pale in comparison), I'm glad you agree that she was terrific in it. My one gripe about the classic film was Fay Wray's underwritten Ann Darrow. All she does is scream. So while Jack Black was completely wrong for Carl Denham, Watts (and Jackson) righted an old wrong by making Ann feel compassion for the great ape.
While King Kong is a might overrated (I enjoyed it the first time, but after rewatching the '33 movie it does pale in comparison), I'm glad you agree that she was terrific in it. My one gripe about the classic film was Fay Wray's underwritten Ann Darrow. All she does is scream. So while Jack Black was completely wrong for Carl Denham, Watts (and Jackson) righted an old wrong by making Ann feel compassion for the great ape.
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12:59PM on 03/16/2015

Amazing Actress

She had another great performance in "You will meet a tall dark stranger".
She had another great performance in "You will meet a tall dark stranger".
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12:36PM on 03/16/2015
Amazing and stunning actress. I first fell in love while watching TANK GIRL!
Amazing and stunning actress. I first fell in love while watching TANK GIRL!
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12:13PM on 03/16/2015
I have seen Naomi Watts in many films, but I loved her in King Kong. She owned that role the way no other actress could. Seriously, I can't think of a single actress in the world I would prefer in that role. To each their own, I say, but King Kong is one of my favorite films. Loved the casting, the pace, the effects, the cinematography, the story. Most of all I loved Naomi.
I have seen Naomi Watts in many films, but I loved her in King Kong. She owned that role the way no other actress could. Seriously, I can't think of a single actress in the world I would prefer in that role. To each their own, I say, but King Kong is one of my favorite films. Loved the casting, the pace, the effects, the cinematography, the story. Most of all I loved Naomi.
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12:10PM on 03/16/2015
I absolutely loved her in Birdman. Small role, yea, but brilliant and hilarious.
I absolutely loved her in Birdman. Small role, yea, but brilliant and hilarious.
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11:18AM on 03/16/2015

FUNNY GAMES

How can you not mention FUNNY GAMES... a punch to the gut that movie was. Great acting on her part.
How can you not mention FUNNY GAMES... a punch to the gut that movie was. Great acting on her part.
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11:38AM on 03/16/2015
You're right. That's another one to add to my already substantial list.
You're right. That's another one to add to my already substantial list.
11:17AM on 03/16/2015
Funny Games is definitely up there as one of her most underrated performances,
Funny Games is definitely up there as one of her most underrated performances,
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7:19AM on 03/16/2015

You are right

King Kong suuuuuuuuuuucked
King Kong suuuuuuuuuuucked
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2:42AM on 03/16/2015
Naomi is one of my favorite actresses. She always gives it her all and has very few bad performances even when the film isn't very good. There are many possibilities for the most underrated performance for such a subtle and unselfish actress: Ellie Parker, The Painted Veil, Eastern Promises, Fair Game, Dream House, Funny Games, Sunlight Jr., I Heart Huckabees - the list just goes on and on. On top of that she still looks amazing at 46 years old. Naomi is just awesome.
Naomi is one of my favorite actresses. She always gives it her all and has very few bad performances even when the film isn't very good. There are many possibilities for the most underrated performance for such a subtle and unselfish actress: Ellie Parker, The Painted Veil, Eastern Promises, Fair Game, Dream House, Funny Games, Sunlight Jr., I Heart Huckabees - the list just goes on and on. On top of that she still looks amazing at 46 years old. Naomi is just awesome.
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2:35AM on 03/16/2015

What, no love for Watts in Tank Girl?

I've been a big fan since 21 Grams and The Ring too. But NOT The Ring Two. Check her out in the wonderful indie Ellie Parker and she has a great supporting role in J. Edgar.
I've been a big fan since 21 Grams and The Ring too. But NOT The Ring Two. Check her out in the wonderful indie Ellie Parker and she has a great supporting role in J. Edgar.
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2:16AM on 03/16/2015
She's a really great actress. I'd also say her best movie is The Impossible. She's quite great in Diana too. She gave Diana heart and soul, unlike another famous biopic Grace of Monaco (starring Nicole Kidman) which wasn't good.
She's a really great actress. I'd also say her best movie is The Impossible. She's quite great in Diana too. She gave Diana heart and soul, unlike another famous biopic Grace of Monaco (starring Nicole Kidman) which wasn't good.
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2:11AM on 03/16/2015
Most Overrated Film: The Ring, by a country mile.
Most Overrated Film: The Ring, by a country mile.
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1:00AM on 03/16/2015

A subtle actress who never gives a bad performance

She tends to give more understated roles which don't get her as much acclaim as her flashier costars. I would have put EASTERN PROMISES in as her most underrated performance: Viggo Mortensen may have gotten the attention, but she anchored that film in such a way as to allow Mortensen, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Vincent Cassel the space to shine. A great performance that never got its due.

Bonus points for not following her friend Nicole Kidman into the Botox booth. Liev Schreiber is a lucky
She tends to give more understated roles which don't get her as much acclaim as her flashier costars. I would have put EASTERN PROMISES in as her most underrated performance: Viggo Mortensen may have gotten the attention, but she anchored that film in such a way as to allow Mortensen, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Vincent Cassel the space to shine. A great performance that never got its due.

Bonus points for not following her friend Nicole Kidman into the Botox booth. Liev Schreiber is a lucky man.
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1:00AM on 03/16/2015

A subtle actress who never gives a bad performance

She tends to give more understated roles which don't get her as much acclaim as her flashier costars. I would have put EASTERN PROMISES in as her most underrated performance: Viggo Mortensen may have gotten the attention, but she anchored that film in such a way as to allow Mortensen, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Vincent Cassel the space to shine. A great performance that never got its due.

Bonus points for not following her friend Nicole Kidman into the Botox booth. Liev Schreiber is a lucky
She tends to give more understated roles which don't get her as much acclaim as her flashier costars. I would have put EASTERN PROMISES in as her most underrated performance: Viggo Mortensen may have gotten the attention, but she anchored that film in such a way as to allow Mortensen, Armin Mueller-Stahl and Vincent Cassel the space to shine. A great performance that never got its due.

Bonus points for not following her friend Nicole Kidman into the Botox booth. Liev Schreiber is a lucky man.
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