The Whole is More than the Sum of the Parts
Date of Assessment: October 22, 2010
Positive Buzzwords: Beauty, talent, persistence
Negative Buzzwords: Nepotism, unsettling, Shyamalan
The Case: This week's subject reveals herself as a puzzling illustration of an actress that, theoretically speaking, should have experienced a greater degree of career success than has actually occurred to date. Of course, one expects good (if not necessarily great) things for the daughter of Ron Howard (whose own quality ebbs and flows), but Bryce Dallas Howard hasn't merely shown a willingness to ride upon her father's proverbial ginger-tinted coattails.
In terms of nepotism and for the sake of argument, let's compare (at least in a cursory respect) Bryce to Gwyneth Paltrow. Both actresses have enjoyed success in their own rights yet were undeniably able to place their stiletto heels in the door jam (without losing those tootsies) because of their famous Hollywood director fathers, but that's where the similarity ends. If one wishes to compare the offbeat, slightly unsettling appeal of Bryce with the more conventionally appealing Gwyneth in a temporal sense, Bryce runs far behind in Hollywood starlet terms. Then again, pausing to finish a college degree, do some time on Broadway, and dabble with Steppenwolf means that Bryce bubbled under the radar for some time before forging onto a full-fledged movie career. In simpler terms, Bryce has paid her dues to a greater degree than someone like Rumer Willis, Kate Hudson, Charlie Sheen, or any of the other myriad Hollywood progeny that run around flaunting their own unjustified and ill-gotten gains.
Then again, it's a bit strange that Bryce's comparatively sparse film credits don't give us much in the way of discussion. It's been about seven years since Bryce made her first credited movie appearance; by this same measure of time, Gwyneth had already appeared in twice as many films and had just captured that coveted Oscar for Shakespeare in Love. In contrast, Bryce's ascent has been slower and steadier, which perhaps accounts for a stronger sense of disappointment after she unpredictably changed paths and uncharacteristically embraced a mountain of commercialized crap. While Bryce continues to demonstrate versatility within roles, it's rather uncanny how she manages to latch onto the tail end of franchises -- Spiderman 3, Terminator Salvation, and Twilight: Eclipse -- and enjoy the monetary fruits that were already established long before her arrival. In addition, Bryce remains a hot button and subject of heated debate within the Twihard camp; her assumption of the Victoria role (taking over after Rachelle Lafevre, who previously appeared in Twilight and New Moon, received the boot) has left Bryce standing on the receiving end of some irrationally perverse hatred. Somehow, those who have followed her career expect her to choose better roles rather than go for the almighty dollar, but can we really blame her for doing so?
Bryce was largely unknown when M. Night Shyamalan cast her as the blind Ivy Walker in The Village; her performance as an innocent yet surprisingly willful young woman remains the sole shining component within the entire soul-sucking movie. From there, she gave a critically-acclaimed turn in Lars von Trier's Manderlay before puzzling the lot of us in Lady in the Water and going largely unappreciated in The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond. As mentioned above, more standard mainstream fare awaited to pad Bryce's wallet but largely waste her talent. Overall, her career hasn't turned out too shabbily, for an unnamed number or actresses would die at a chance for such roles, but there's still a lingering sense that she could do much better. On a more promising note, Bryce has a few movies in post-production that feature her teaming with several big names like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Anna Kendrick (Live with It) as well as Emma Stone and Sissy Spacek (The Help). Now, she just might earn back some street cred in Clint Eastwood's Hereafter alongside Matt Damon, but this weekend's box-office shall tell that tale.
Prognosis: Ultimately, Bryce Dallas Howard's future success in Hollywood seems certain. Her acting resumé might not gleam with the same overrated luster of Gwyneth Paltrow, but therein lies the key difference. With Gwyneth, one gets the feeling that the success isn't altogether deserved. With Bryce, one wonders why she hasn't been more successful, which is a good sign or, at least, an indication that we'd like to see more of her onscreen.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.