The Three Stages of Amy Adams
Is Amy Adams one of the most accomplished actress of our generation?
Several years ago Amy Adams found herself co-starring with the legendary Meryl Streep in two consecutive features, Doubt and Julie & Julia. In hindsight the intersection of their careers may have a symbolic significance, as Adams may well have the strongest claim to being the Meryl Streep of her generation. She may not have the iconic presence of Streep, at least not yet, but her filmography makes a compelling case.
With forty features in the last seventeen years, Adams' longevity and prolific output are astounding in a crowded field of talented contemporaries who've had fewer roles over shorter spans. This video essay sorts through her extensive filmography, identifying three goals that her characters typically have. These goals in turn represent different stages of the actualization of her screen persona: the three stages of Amy Adams.
What is stunning throughout her career is her versatility, having played dozens of different character types, calling for a vast range of abilities—from performing cheerleading routines in her screen debut Drop Dead Gorgeous to communicating with aliens in her latest, Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival; from playing a warm Disney princess in Enchanted to a chilly art dealer in her other new film Nocturnal Animals.
Adams' freshly minted performances this fall place her as a clear favorite for awards season, partly because they position her as a true leading woman with a fully mature screen presence. Despite having already received five Oscar nominations, those accolades were mostly for playing a supporting role, both literally and figuratively. In Junebug, Doubt, The Fighter, and The Master, Adams played women who were anxious to find acceptance, either by upholding a social ideal (family in Junebug, the church in Doubt), or by helping a man in need (The Fighter, The Master).
Even her Best Actress-nominated turn in American Hustle wasn't a true leading role, given that she shared the screen with three other A-list actors. But in the arc of her career, that role was pivotal in re-establshing her screen persona as someone who wouldn't settle for playing second fiddle or standing by her man. Instead she portrays a woman in the process of re-inventing herself in order to overcome her insecurities and find what's real to her.
Adams' two new films position her no longer as an extraordinary subordinate, but as someone who is clearly the smartest person in the film, someone to look up to. 2016 may well be her coronation as the reigning monarch of Hollywood.