The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Charlize Theron
I still remember the first time I ever laid eyes on Charlize Theron. It was in the little-remembered crime caper 2 DAYS IN THE VALLEY. I was about fifteen when it came out and to say the drop-dead gorgeous, green-eyed, statuesque Theron made an impression on the teen-aged me is an understatement to be sure. I was smitten. The movie – which was not bad as far as those mid-nineties Quentin Tarantino clones went – was one I watched quite a few times during my high school years, but pretty much only for Theron. Over the next few years, she made a name for herself around Hollywood thanks to roles in movies like THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE, THE YARDS and even the much-maligned REINDEER GAMES. Her part in the John Irving adaptation THE CIDER HOUSE RULES helped put her on the A-list, as did her warm, lovable part in the Keanu Reeves romantic drama SWEET NOVEMBER. Still, Theron never really got her due as an actress, maybe due to her extreme good looks which often saw her cast in more generic “love interest” style roles in movies like THE ITALIAN JOB.
It took the 2003 drama MONSTER, for which Theron underwent a stunning physical transformation, before people really started to notice her incredible acting ability. It netted her a well-deserved Oscar and from then on Theron was acknowledged as one of the great actresses of her generation. Follow-up movies like Niki Caro's excellent NORTH COUNTRY proved MONSTER was no fluke but Theron – perhaps not wanting to focus solely on hardcore drama – made sure to mix things up, playing a hilarious (and very un-P.C) arc on Arrested Development as Jason Bateman's mentally-challenged love interest Rita. She also took on more action-oriented roles in movies like AEON FLUX and HANCOCK. Of course, the best was yet to come...
Which brings us to MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. So much has been written about FURY ROAD on this site that it's tough to add anything new to the conversation, but suffice to say Theron has never been better. It's a shame the Oscar voters tend to overlook genre films as Theron is certainly worthy of serious consideration for a Best Actress Oscar for her work here. While Tom Hardy plays the titular character, as great as he is FURY ROAD is Theron's movie. As the one-armed Imperator Furiosa, Theron owns ever scene. While not her first action-outing, the problem with something like AEON FLUX was that they fetishized her too much which made the character tough to take seriously as a full-on heroine. There are no such problems with FURY ROAD. Expertly mixing vulnerability with a furious intensity, Furiosa puts Theron on equal footing with the truly great action heroines, such as Sigourney Weaver's Ripley or Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor. She's just so damn good, and hopefully George Miller's FURY ROAD follow-up happens as we need more Furiosa. If Warner Bros is smart they'll give Theron the Oscar campaign she deserves.
I've always thought Theron had a great flair for comedy, and YOUNG ADULT is great proof of that. For some reason, audiences and critics were very cold to this Jason Reitman/Diablo Cody comedy, but it's a great little movie that deserves a lot more appreciation. Maybe it's the fact that Theron is playing a character that's defiantly unlikable that made it such a tough sell, but Theron conveyed some genuine pathos in the part (particularly in her climatic scenes opposite Patton Oswalt) that went right over the heads of the critics who slammed it. Fact is, if it had been a man playing the part no one would have thought the character was unlikable. They would have simply labeled him as “quirky.”
I actually liked SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN but does it really deserve a big-budget prequel? Didn't the first movie pretty much cover everything as far as Chris Hemsworth's Huntsman and Theron's evil queen went? I guess it made enough money that a follow-up seems like a good bet, and indeed with Theron riding a career high after FURY ROAD it does. Still, SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN seems like something that should have been left as a one-off as it certainly wasn't good enough to launch a franchise. Theron was fine but the Ravenna part was pretty one-note. She was a straightforward baddie and unless the prequel turns her into a kind of MALEFICENT-style anti-hero I'm not sure there's much of a point to there being a follow-up.
FURY ROAD is full of memorable scenes, but as the movie is still playing theatrically we can't really feature any of the climactic moments (there's also the spoiler aspect for those of you who haven't seen it – although if youre reading JoBlo.com I have a hunch you have). Here's a taste of how bad-ass of a heroine she is, with Theron's Furiosa going mano-a-mano with the hulking Tom Hardy and easily holding her own.
In addition to THE HUNTSMAN, Theron's also got DARK PLACES out this week (although our own Eric Walkuski wasn't too keen on it) as well as Sean Penn's drama THE LAST FACE which sees her cast opposite Javier Bardem. And of course, God willing, there's going to be another MAD MAX. Fingers crossed!