Assessing Naomi Watts: Blank Slate or Newly Bland Actress?
Date of Assessment: September 28, 2011
Positive Buzzwords: Versatile, natural, blank slate
Negative Buzzwords: Bland, studio drivel
The Case: Whenever I think of Naomi Watts, I am thankful for the fact that she has resisted the temptation to transform herself into an expressionless Botox monster like her good friend Nicole Kidman. Like Kidman, Watts got her start with a hefty dose of Australian television and movie work before she eventually made a tentative venture into Hollywood territory in the mid-1990s. Now it's difficult to remember, but Naomi Watts made a very unappreciated turn as the sidekick in Tank Girl, which is where I first discovered her. Yes, that movie was absolute crap, but there was something appealing about Naomi, who spent the next five years or so attempting to find the elusive breakthrough role. Fortunately, brilliant weirdo David Lynch cast her in Mulholland Dr., where Watts gave a stunning dual turn as two different characters that belonged to differing realities; this layered and complex performance gave her the critical and audience acclaim to move onto mainstream work. Subsequently, Naomi's success has not only depended on financially successful movies but also the fact that she's remained unafraid to sign up for both B-movies, horror movies, and almost any combination between the two.
Unfortunately, there was a little sidestep along the way in the form of a Kate Hudson romcom, Le divorce, but everyone makes mistakes, right?
Since I'm a horror movie junkie, Watts holds a special place in my heart for starring in the pretty terrible Children of the Corn: The Gathering and still going on to make it as an A-list actress. In fact, part of the reason for her rise to the top of the salary circuit was her convincing take in another horror movie, this time as an investigative journalist in Gore Verbinski's remake of The Ring. This movie went on to gross $129 million domestically and $249 million globally, which translated into instant bankability (and a fairly decent sequel, The Ring Two) for Watts.
Since then, Watts has spread herself all over the genre map with audience favorites like I Heart Huckabees, King Kong, Eastern Promises, Stay, The Painted Veil, and The Assassination of Richard Nixon. The critics love her too -- she won Sundance acclaim in Ellie Parker and received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her role in 21 Grams. Still, continued career success as an actress is never guaranteed, and Naomi's past four releases have faltered somewhat with the disastrous Woody Allen movie, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, and a couple of of underperforming films -- The International and Fair Game -- that make one wonder exactly what type of bland garbage that Watts' agent is sending her way.
Prognosis: For the moment, Naomi Watts' career currently resides in a tenuous position that depends heavily on the potential success or failure of her upcoming roster. Soon, she'll appear in Dream House (which looks very laughable and probably won't fare well at the box office), and she will also be seen in the upcoming J. Edgar as well as The Impossible, Movie 43, The Bleeder, and While We're Young. She also has five more titles in development, including a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 thriller, The Birds, but some of these projects could disappear if her box-office appeal wanes. At this point, things could go either way for Watts, but I'm rooting for her. Hollywood needs all of the talented, Botox-free actresses it can get.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at Celebitchy.
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