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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Winona Ryder

08.15.2016
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Last week, we took a look at the career of legendary badass Jeff Bridges. This week’s badass is a super underrated one who’s finally on the cusp of a major comeback…
Winona Ryder
stranger things winona ryder

One of the many great things about “Stranger Things” dominating the pop culture conversation this summer is that the Netflix show has, finally allowed star Winona Ryder to make a much deserved comeback. One could say that, in the early nineties, Ryder was the Jennifer Lawrence of her time. Back then, she was the actress big-time directors like Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese jockeyed to cast in order to get their passion projects financed, as she was seen as something of a box-office lock.

the age of innocence daniel day lewis winona ryder

One of the defining personalities of “gen-x”, Ryder first made the rounds as a child actress in movies like 1986’s LUCAS (opposite Corey Haim and Charlie Sheen) before really breaking-out in 1988 with her part as Lydia, the goth girl in Tim Burton’s BEETLEJUICE. The next year she had a lead role in the cult classic HEATHERS, before getting raves as Jerry Lee Lewis’s teenaged-bride in the Dennis Quaid-starrer, GREAT BALLS OF FIRE. It was probably her role in Burton’s EDWARD SCISSORHANDS that made Ryder such a huge part of the zeitgeist, with her off-screen relationship with co-star Johnny Depp establishing the two as the kind-of “hipper-than-hip” couple of the moment, with Depp famously getting a “Winona Forever” tattoo, which was changed to “Wino Forever” following their break-up.

bram stoker's dracula winona ryder

Throughout the nineties, Ryder was a major star, with well-received turns in Coppola’s BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, Scorsese’s THE AGE OF INNOCENCE, LITTLE WOMEN, THE CRUCIBLE, Woody Allen’s CELEBRITY and GIRL, INTERRUPTED. Sadly, her personal life became a fixture of the tabloids, especially after a bizarre shoplifting episode, and her career cooled to a puzzling degree, even if her performances were always good.

winona ryder edward scissorhands

In recent years, Ryder has been reestablishing herself as a character actress in movies like THE ICEMAN and STAR TREK (reduced to playing Spock's mom at only thirty-eight), but it’s her part as the terrified mom, Joyce Byers, in “Stranger Things” that has put her back on the map in a huge way. While only one of the many great things about that show, the role has, without a doubt, given her a substantial part to chew-on, with her conveying both a mother’s love and her absolute horror at the insane, paranormal activities she’s witnessing. Ryder is an essential ingredient to that show’s success and I can’t imagine a season two without her.

Her Best Work
winona ryder reality bites

A few weeks ago I profiled Ethan Hawke for this column, and I argued that his part as Trent in Ben Stiller’s REALITY BITES was probably his most iconic. The same goes for Ryder, although her Lelaina is probably less your prototypical “gen-x” slacker. The movie is arguably the definitive film about college grads struggling to succeed in a world that doesn’t especially value their artistic ambitions, and movies like the recent GET A JOB still try to ape its success. Ryder is terrific as the likable heroine, who, in addition to toiling in a variety of menial jobs, also has to choose between Hawke and Ben Stiller’s yuppie MTV exec, who tempts her with success – something which goes hand-in-hand with selling-out. Ryder’s smart, tough-cookie character became a heroine to many a Gen-x girl, and her nineties fashions stand as an iconic staple of the time.

Her Most Overrated Film
winona ryder alien ressurection

I absolutely hate Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s ALIEN: RESURRECTION. As a teen, I thought it was an OK addition to the saga, but having revisited it a few years ago I saw it for the absolutely dumpster fire that it is. While Sigourney Weaver makes the movie almost worth checking-out, Ryder is terribly miscast as Call, a tough android in the Bishop-mode, a note Ryder didn’t seem to get in her weird performance, which goes from being over-emotional to almost zombie-like at times. It’s hard to really pin the blame of Ryder though, as the movie’s such a mess I don’t think anyone could have salvaged it (although Ron Perlman has a few good bits).

Her Most Underrated Work
winona ryder heathers

When I was researching this column, I was surprised to see that Michael Lehman’s HEATHERS was actually a huge box-office flop upon its initial release. It was such a cult hit during Ryder’s salad days in the nineties that I assumed it was a smash. Suffice to say, it wasn’t. If “Stranger Things” does anything, hopefully it’ll encourage younger, teen viewers to check out Ryder’s filmography and see HEATHERS, which stands as one of the best high-school movies ever. An acidly satiric take on popularity, it’s so profoundly dark that I doubt any studio would ever have the guts to try it now, with Christian Slater’s roguish murderer, J.D, being presented as such an attractive character, while Ryder’s Veronica winds-up being a thoroughly complex, anti-heroine, and the type of part I couldn’t really see any contemporary teen actress really having the skill to pull-off like she did.

Her Best Scene

Any time I go to a wedding, Harry Belefonte’s “Shake Senora” is played, and you can blame Burton’s BEETLEJUICE, as well as Winona’s famous dance number set to that song, for it still being such a huge part of the pop culture. Arguably, this was the moment Ryder became a star.

Her Five Best Films

5. BEETLEJUICE
4. BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA
3. REALITY BITES
2. EDWARD SCISSORHANDS
1. HEATHERS

 

Up Next

Ryder’s IMDB page doesn’t really list anything major coming-up, but I assume that she’ll be popping-up a lot over the next few months, with the biggest potential role being in season two of “Stranger Things” which, God willing, will show-up sometime in 2017.

Source: JoBlo.com

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10:41PM on 08/15/2016
So, wait... Her most overrated performance is in a movie no one liked when it came out and no one likes now and no one has talked about for 15 years and no one even remembers she was in while her most underrated performance is in a movie that people love and talk about all the time and is one of her most famous roles? Yeah... That makes sense.
So, wait... Her most overrated performance is in a movie no one liked when it came out and no one likes now and no one has talked about for 15 years and no one even remembers she was in while her most underrated performance is in a movie that people love and talk about all the time and is one of her most famous roles? Yeah... That makes sense.
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7:57PM on 08/15/2016
I always thought of her as the "cool actress" which was a shame when she was gone for a while. All said, seeing her again in Star Trek XI, Black Swan and Snowman made my day (even went to see Mr Deeds in theater just for her). Stranger Things was just icing on the cake.
I always thought of her as the "cool actress" which was a shame when she was gone for a while. All said, seeing her again in Star Trek XI, Black Swan and Snowman made my day (even went to see Mr Deeds in theater just for her). Stranger Things was just icing on the cake.
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7:39PM on 08/15/2016
She terrific in Stranger Things.
She terrific in Stranger Things.
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4:04PM on 08/15/2016
Good to see her back in the positive end of press exposure. Back in the day, she was the celeb all the guys crushed on.
Good to see her back in the positive end of press exposure. Back in the day, she was the celeb all the guys crushed on.
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12:50PM on 08/15/2016
Great to see her have a resurgence of late, especially thanks to Stranger Things, but I would also highly recommend everyone watch David Simon's HBO mini-series from last year Show Me a Hero, which starred Oscar Isaac, if you haven't already. Winona plays an important recurring character and she really nails it. Great acting all-around, but also a very timely topic in an election year.
Great to see her have a resurgence of late, especially thanks to Stranger Things, but I would also highly recommend everyone watch David Simon's HBO mini-series from last year Show Me a Hero, which starred Oscar Isaac, if you haven't already. Winona plays an important recurring character and she really nails it. Great acting all-around, but also a very timely topic in an election year.
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11:51AM on 08/15/2016
Wow, I don't know that I've ever been to a wedding and heard Harry Belafonte. As a HUGE Beetlejuice fan I'm actually jealous. I love Winona Ryder. Her early career was so quintessentially '90s. It says something that I'd actually have to think about what I'd include in a favorite list of her movies (she's outshone by Daniel Day-Lewis and Joan Allen, but I really liked The Crucible). Her work in Stranger Things was, like everything else in that show, just perfect to the tone being set.
Wow, I don't know that I've ever been to a wedding and heard Harry Belafonte. As a HUGE Beetlejuice fan I'm actually jealous. I love Winona Ryder. Her early career was so quintessentially '90s. It says something that I'd actually have to think about what I'd include in a favorite list of her movies (she's outshone by Daniel Day-Lewis and Joan Allen, but I really liked The Crucible). Her work in Stranger Things was, like everything else in that show, just perfect to the tone being set.
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