A very very interesting article and such an interesting choices!
She’s played everyone from Elizabeth I to Bob Dylan: is there anything the luminous Australian actress can’t do?
10. Bandits (2001)
In no other context will we get to watch Blanchett madly chop vegetables while dancing her face off to “Holding out for a Hero”; get in a car blubbing and sing along pathetically to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” on the stereo; and then run over Billy Bob Thornton. And all this in her first five minutes!
Barry Levinson’s heist-comedy-come-love-triangle was a fast fade, culturally speaking, but it used Blanchett well as a desperate housewife dragged into criminality by Thornton and Bruce Willis, two escaped convicts who have no idea what she’s capable of. It’s no surprise that when Blanchett mucks in for this boysy sort of exercise – a rare event – she manages to walk off with the whole film in her clutch purse.
9. Veronica Guerin (2003)
In one of her more controversial, critically divisive leading roles, Blanchett played the crusading Dublin crime reporter murdered by drug lords in 1996. She’s always come in for stick about the accent, which isn’t perfect, and the film’s wild lack of moderation can be laid straight at the door of Joel Schumacher, practically flinging armfuls of used syringes into every frame to establish he’s doing gritty.
But there’s a real feminist potency to Blanchett’s acting here, which blazes and burns its way through an otherwise routine biopic. She makes Guerin single-minded, reckless and a right handful – a pill to deal with, not some unassailable martyr figure.
8. The Aviator (2004)
“Cate Blanchett plays Katharine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese’s forthcoming Howard Hughes biopic” were words that must have had the Academy’s engraving team twitching as soon as they were uttered, and lo: Best Supporting Actress was hers.
The script doesn’t ask her to do much more than saunter through the movie, dropping mischievous asides about the male libido as she twirls a golf club, bickering with her family at lunch, and then ripping a plaster off the Hughes relationship. She nails Hepburn’s fluting charm and horsey disdain to a tee, without ever making it look like particularly hard work.
7. Elizabeth (1998)
Blanchett’s Virgin Queen was her first fully-fledged star turn, and she must have been just pipped to that Oscar by Shakespeare in Love’s Gwyneth Paltrow. Her command of self-presentation in the role – by turns pleading and imperious, stricken and iron-lady-ish – is hard to beat.
At times – when dealing with Vincent Cassel’s cross-dressing Duc d’Anjou, say – she seems modern and amused only because the script wants her to be, perhaps uninvested in how the “historical” Elizabeth, a more daunting idea of a person, might have comported herself. Still, it’s a smart and fine-shaded interpretation, hoisting Shekhar Kapur’s frequently overblown film to can’t-miss status almost single-handedly.
6. Truth (2015)
As Mary Mapes, the producer whose 60 Minutes segment about George W Bush’s military service threatened to destroy the reputation of CBS News in 2004, Blanchett returns to Veronica Guerin territory: a driven media career woman overtaken by the enemies she’s making with her current story.
This time, it’s professional disgrace, not physical violence, looming before her: it’s disappointment in herself that looms over Mapes like a black cloud, and Blanchett’s vigorous screen authority makes her fight for her reputation hugely compelling.
5. Oscar and Lucinda (1997)
“And introducing Cate Blanchett,” intoned Voiceover Man in the trailer for this underregarded Australian epic of the heart, a tale of two card-playing obsessives adapted from Peter Carey’s Booker-winning novel. Blanchett wasn’t a total unknown: she’d played Oleanna opposite Geoffrey Rush on the Sydney stage in 1992, done some Australian television, and taken the supporting role of a PoW in Bruce Beresford’s Paradise Road (1997).
But director Gillian Armstrong will always take the credit for identifying her luminous potential as a leading lady, and betting the house on it. Blanchett as ingénue, opposite a never-more-spirited Ralph Fiennes, was thrilling to watch when it first opened: going back to this flushed and tender romance is even more tempting now.
4. Blue Jasmine (2013)
Not since Annie Hall had Woody Allen given one of his leading ladies this plum a part: Blanchett tucks into it like a starving pauper confronted with an all-you-can-eat buffet. Jasmine French, the deluded socialite driven from luxury when her husband’s dodgy dealings are exposed, is tragicomic, vain, moving and ridiculous, often all at the same time.
Despite the Oscar, you wouldn’t necessarily call it Blanchett’s subtlest work – it’s Great Big Acting, is what it is, a showcased turn which still galvanises its film unstoppably and made itWoody’s best in about two decades. She finds plenty of contrast between the oblivious dreaminess of the flashbacks, the snobbish horror of her new circumstances, and that cruel swoon of hope when Peter Sarsgaard’s character turns up. For most actors, this belter of a performance would be a unanimous career best, so trust Blanchett to have given us three even better ones.
3. I’m Not There (2007)
Of all the faces of Bob Dylan paraded before us in Todd Haynes’s group-session-portrait of the artist, Blanchett’s was the one which captured everyone’s imagination the most vividly. This wasn’t just because of the cross-gender gimmick: she was the Dylan-est Dylan on screen, somehow both the most specific and least knowable, and precisely specific because of her unknowability.
Her wary stand-offs with Bruce Greenwood’s BBC interviewer are the absolute heart of the film, and it almost felt as if Blanchett on Dylan was a variation on Blanchett satirising Blanchett, given her famous refusal to suffer fools gladly in interviews.
2. The Talented Mr Ripley (1999)
Anthony Minghella gave a lot to cinema, but if you were to choose one small, elegantly wrapped gift above all others, it might be the role he created for Blanchett in the ensemble of his finest movie. It takes a real understanding of Patricia Highsmith’s universe to come up with a Meredith Logue – the textile heiress Matt Damon’s Ripley meets on his trip to Italy, whom he toys with, seduces and tricks to evade suspicion.
Blanchett was Oscar-worthy in the part: she’s both exacting and brilliant company, drawing Meredith as a la-di-dah society gal who talks too much when she’s nervous, casts deep-alto shade on other characters (“eeeeverybody knows Freddie Miiiles”) and falls much too quickly and ruinously for Ripley’s devious charisma. In an immensely sad film, Meredith is one of the saddest things, carrying off her disappointment with a show of lightness we know is just saving face.
1. Carol (2015)
The essence of Blanchett is found in the flickering minutiae – the quick look, the half-smile, an exact, quizzical tilt of the head, the stress on a particular word. By all these yardsticks, Carol Aird, the unhappy socialite embarking on an affair with a younger woman in Todd Haynes’s exquisite 1950s romance, might be called the quintessence of her craft: a performance built up from tiny moments, calibrated with more immaculate precision than ever before.
Her choice to play the film’s marital battle wearily, with a kind of defeated patience, cuts beautifully against expectation. Carol Aird saves her flagrant whims, her wit, and her little victories for strictly private consumption. In public she is, and knows she is, a tired charade, like a stage actor who’s played the same dutiful-wife role for years on end, and is all too obviously going through the motions.