Saturday, January 8, 2011

Supporting Actress Blog-a-thon, Class of 2010: Anne Hathaway in Valentine's Day

StinkyLulu, like Cher, is coming out of retirement for one last round of what could be called the Farewell Tour. Or, in his case, another installment of his popular annual Supporting Actress Blog-a-thon honoring the year's best actressing at the edges. This is one tradition I like to partake in every year, if only so I can talk about an undervalued performance that moved me in some way over the course of the year. In the past, I've discussed La Tisdale, La Tisdale again and Olivia Williams. This year, however, we're gonna tackle...

Anne Hathaway as Liz in Valentine's Day

The film, a multi-character romantic comedy following a multitude of couples in various stages of relationships on the most romantic day of the year, is not Nashville and director Garry Marshall is not Robert Altman, so there's not much in the way of a true "performance" in Hathaway's work here. Not that this should be taken as a slight against her or her work in the film. Sometimes, films only need an actor to give a radiant, charismatic star turn in order to be successful and Hathaway delivers just that in Valentine's Day as Topher Grace's new girlfriend with a naughty secret job.

Anne Hathaway's star persona has been built on two very different personalities. The first is the down home, realistic, everyday girl that we saw in films like Princess Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada. The second personality is the girl with a sarcastic, dark edge who combats other characters with a biting wit and deadpan delivery. Rachel Getting Married is, obviously, her best work in this realm of her persona, but this year's Love & Other Drugs and the underseen Havoc also provide wonderful insights into this aspect of Hathaway's persona. With these two tenets of her star persona already firmly entrenched in people's minds, Valentine's Day, in its own highly commercial way, offers a way of combining them into one performance.

When we first meet Hathaway's Liz, she's taking Polaroids of her new beau (Topher Grace) the morning after a wild sexual tryst. As is normal in romcoms of this nature, the two are a bit overly cutesy and romantic for my liking, but what the scene does best is show Hathaway as the naturally charming and beautiful woman she is. She doesn't need a gimmick in this opening scene to immediately grab the audience's attention; her realness is all that's necessary.

One look at the clock, however, sends Liz scurrying out of the apartment like a bat out of hell. Topher thinks it's something he has done but really it's for a completely unrelated reason: she's moonlighting as a phone sex operator and doesn't want him to find out about it. During these hilarious, uninterrupted monologues where she portrays both a hot and bothered Southern belle and a Russian dominatrix, Hathaway quickly taps into the darker, edgier side of her persona. The humor that results from these moments--and, trust me, I was practically howling each time she came on screen--is due to the fact that you don't expect the sweet-as-pie Liz to tell a client on the phone, in a thick Russian accent, "I'm going to spank your dirty, pig boy ass." Hathaway's multiple personas work extremely well on their own, but when combined they provide some of the only genuine laughs in an otherwise mediocre film.

In her final scene, after Topher Grace has discovered her secret and breaks up with her, we see him crawling back with a cutesy, only-in-the-movies apology. This being a Garry Marshall romantic comedy, Hathaway's Liz automatically takes him back. As clichéd as the whole moment is, it works solely because the two of them clearly work together. They are both simple, real people and in an increasingly tacky and over-the-top Los Angeles, people like them are harder to find. And if this isn't the face of a woman truly in love, I don't know what is:

Hathaway isn't really giving the sort of performance that wins Oscars in Valentine's Day, but it's a fine example of the Star Turn and one of the highlights of this mixed bag of a film. If anything, Anne Hathaway's performance here is proof that there is more to this woman than meets the eye. She's continuously showing us different facets of her persona and mixing them in such a way to different, interesting results. Little ole Annie is a class act and a talent that I'm sure will be continuing to intrigue us in the future.

For more supporting actress goodness, check out the Blog-a-thon Headquarters over at Stinkylulu's bog.


Anonymous said...

She really was the best of the cast, that's for sure. It was really a mixed bag, with only about four or five performances really ringing true for me (and she, of course, was one of them). Hathaway is easily a terrific comedienne, whether in over-the-top slapstick strokes like here or dramatically-undertoned nuances like in "Rachel Getting Married". Her accents here were some of the funniest bits in this film.

Tyler said...

Pretty sure Ashton Kutcher stole that entire movie - for me anyway.

I also remember I went to see this ON Valentine's Day with Ellen. I was wearing my new metallic shoes and Ellen curled her hair.

Anonymous said...

Such a beautiful pictures i like it...

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laurent sander said...

Beautiful pictures of anne hatthway. I like her acting in the movie and I also like her acting in mostly every movies, she totally nailed her role in the movie and managed to bring attention for her performances.
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