Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Happy Birthday, Joan Allen! My Three Favorite Performances.

Joan Allen is one of my all-time favorites, and I feel like she should be in every single movie that comes out.  One of the reasons I love her is that she's beautiful, but she doesn't look like a movie star.  She's tall and has that long, graceful neck.  The intensity that registers on her face (or anger or happiness or anxiousness) is enough to make you stop dead in your tracks.  She turns 58 today.  

Allen has been nominated for the Academy Award three times, but only for Lead Actress once (she was also nominated for Supporting Actress for Nixon and The Crucible, respectively).  In 2000, she starred in The Contender (one of my favorite films from that year) as Laine Hanson, a woman hand-picked to replace the vice president after he suddenly dies.  Her confirmation is challenged by Gary Oldman's Shelley Runyon who uncovers Hanson's past flings and uses them against her.  

I've talked about The Contender before, so I shan't talk more on it.  It's a great thriller, and Allen is wonderful in the role.  Oldman and Jeff Bridges (as the president) are also great.  

Not only does The Upside of Anger feature a great performance from Allen, it might be one of the few times that I could stand Kevin Costner.  Allen plays Terry Ann Wolfmeyer, a sharp-witted mother who has to deal with her husband's unexpected disappearance.  She has four teenage daughters, and her husband's absence only enhances thins the veil of contempt she has for other people.  Costner plays Terry's next door neighbor, Denny, a former baseball great turned radio personality.  They start as drinking buddies, but it turns into something more, and they have good chemistry.  

I was going to put up more clips, but you should just go out and find it.  Her performance is so great, and she's gorgeous in it as well.  

My favorite Joan Allen performance has to be in Gary Ross' Pleasantville.  I love this movie--it's easily one of my top five favorites.  

Allen plays Betty Parker, the June Cleaver-esque mom on the black-and-white Americana show, Pleasantville.  When Toby Maguire and Reese Witherspoon get sucked into the television, they become Pleasantville residents, and they turn everything upside down.  Colors emerge, and Betty in particular has an awakening.  When Witherspoon's Jennifer informs her TV mother that she can have some fun without her husband (a stubborn William H. Macy), Betty quite literally sets a tree on fire with her eye-opening sexual experiences.  

My favorite scene, though, is when Betty is terrified that color has bloomed on her entire body.  She's afraid her husband will reject her, and Maguire paints her face black and white again.  It's a tender, sweet scene, and Betty's fear reaches through the screen.  I wasn't an avid fan of the Oscars by that point, but it appears that Allen just missed out on a nomination.  She was awarded Best Supporting Actress by the Boston Society of Film Critics and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.  

Allen has also been a part of the Bourne franchise as a CIA Director, but she needs another juicy big-screen part!  I had no idea that she was on The Killing, and she will be seen next in the Stephen King penned thriller A Good Marriage opposite Anthony LaPaglia.  

Happy Birthday Joan!!!


  1. I still haven't seen Upside of Anger. After all these years.

  2. Come on, man! She's great in it!