July 18, 2012
Maybe now Katie Holmes can be an actress again
It's been many years since Katie Holmes was primarily known as a TV and movie actress, and her marriage to and masterfully-orchestrated extrication from Tom Cruise, Inc. are probably going to be the subject of most of the attention she gets for the next few months. But one of these days, Katie Holmes will emerge from the cloister she's more or less lived in for the last six years, and will be talked about because of stuff she does that isn't related to her ex.
Katie Holmes isn't the most talented actress out there, and she sometimes falls short of spectacular. But back in the late 90's, when she was a TV actress first making her way into movies, she had a run of roles in some of my favorite movies from that period. The movies weren't necessarily great because of Katie Holmes, but she was respected enough to get the attention of really good directors, and held her own against many excellent famous actors. Michelle Williams is the major talent to emerge from "Dawson's Creek", but Katie Holmes did OK, too.
Let's take a look at some of her career highlights:
- The Ice Storm. Ang Lee's movie from 1997 about sad rich families in the 70's. She plays Libbets, Tobey Maguire's unrequited high school love interest. Her most memorable moment is at the end of a booze-and-pharmaceuticals party in her parents' apartment, when she states, "I'm so wasted," and passes out in Tobey Maguire's lap.
- Go, Doug Liman's 1999 movie about the LA rave scene and nice kids in over their heads in drug deals gone bad, it's like the fun, light, inconsequential version of Pulp Fiction. Katie Holmes is a grocery checkout girl who unwittingly ends up serving as collateral with hot and menacing drug dealer Timothy Olyphant while her friend Sarah Polley goes out to sell a lot of fake ecstasy. Memorable moment: an enthusiastic make-out session with Olyphant on a staircase.
- Wonder Boys from 2000 (photo above), directed by Curtis Hanson, adapted from Michael Chabon's book about a washed-up, shambling writer at a small college (Michael Douglas) and his exploits with his students (Katie Holmes, together again with Tobey McGuire, their scenes together are good), flamboyant agent (Robert Downey, Jr) and mistress (Frances McDormand). A wonderful, strange little movie.
- The Gift, Sam Raimi's excellent (and undervalued) Southern Gothic supernatural thriller about Cate Blanchett, a psychic single mother, trying to help solve a missing person case. There's all kinds of grisly stuff in here as Blanchett's visions get more scary and violent, and I'll admit this movie scared the bejesus out of me when I first saw it. Katie Holmes plays the first role that was a real departure for her: she's a rich, entitled, bitchy little Georgia princess, all sweetness and propriety on the outside, with a raunchy, slutty side that we in the audience get to lap up. Here's a clip of her first scene. Plus: brief topless shot!
About The Gift: it's a worthwhile movie (has Sam Raimi ever made a bad movie?) but uneven. The setting is the kind of overgrown, swampy Southern backwater that's both beautiful and decrepit, and the whole movie is kind of like that. Some performances are great, like Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, and even Greg Kinnear as the likeable guidance counselor who Katie Holmes the princess is inexplicably engaged to. Hilary Swank and Katie Holmes are both good as women living on opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum.
Then there's Keanu Reeves. He plays a redneck villain, who is presented as so evil and sociopathic that he not only beats his wife and threatens everybody he doesn't like with violence, but he also claims to kill cats for no reason other than that he is evil. Keanu Reeves doesn't possess any of the menace or scariness to pull this off, so he mostly just glowers and rasps his way through lines like, "Messing with the devil's gonna get you burned." It's bad, but everything besides Keanu and his dead cat holds up.
But back to Katie. She starred in Pieces of April in 2003, a small movie that defines indie quirk, and the first Chris Nolan Batman, but her movie career since then has been slow and unremarkable, probably because it was so tightly controlled by Cruise, Inc. Now that she's on her own, she's going to star in a modern retelling of The Seagull with a great cast (Allison Janney, Jean Reno, Cherry Jones.) If casting agents can pretend the last seven years never happened, hopefully she can get some movies with great directors again. She'll never be the best actress around, but she's good, and at a time when Kristen Stewart is our highest paid actress, I'm happy to have her back.
UPDATE: Katie just got cast as the star of Theresa Rebeck's new play, Dead Accounts, which will be on Broadway in the fall. Go, Holmes!
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