Summer Superlatives ’09: Best Performances by a Female Actor

The summer’s best female roles tended to come from the best actresses. Sad as it is, most summer films don’t create great roles for women, so the women that really shine in this season tend to be the best in the business. Though the majority of my top five are younger actresses, the top two belong to proven veterans, though that’s not to say the others won’t win their fair share of acclaim in the future.

The rankings of the best performances by an actor award (the men will come later) have been chosen on overall quality of performances, regardless of genre, and how critically praised they were/their vitality to the film. The latter was especially the case here as I didn’t see most of these films. Just being honest, but you could very well agree with me.



5. Amy Adams – “Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian”

Most critics were pretty rough on this big-budget family formula flick sequel, but they were sure to reserve their praises for Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart. Though it’s expected that Hilary Swank will outdo Adams when she stars as Earhart in “Amelia” this fall, there’s no doubt that Amy’s the better child’s fantasy version. Considering how believably fantastical Adams was in “Enchanted,” Earhart must have come as a breeze to her. When I finally get around to this film on DVD, I have nothing but those expectations for Adams. She’s awesome.


 4. Diane Kruger – “Inglourious Basterds”

To be honest, I didn’t think much of Kruger in either “National Treasure” movies, so I didn’t have high expectations for her in “Basterds.” I should have. Tarantino doesn’t just cast any blonde girl – just ask Uma Thurman or Darryl Hannah. As a result, Kruger left a lasting impression that definitely snuck up on me as I was sorting through actresses to rank. As German movie star-turned spy Bridget von Hammersmark, Kruger had an energy and a gravity to her that we didn’t get to see when she was playing Americans (she was born in Germany). She was charming but also dramatic in the few pivotal scenes where her character is under duress. She really had the deceptive thing nailed down and she deserves kudos. Hopefully if she lands more American roles, she can live up to this performance.



3. Zooey Deschanel – “(500) Days of Summer”


Deschanel is a fine actress and her big blue eyes were perfect for playing the heart-breaking Summer in this … summer’s indie hit. Free-spirited, funny, natural, sincere, blunt – all these things can describe both Deschanel’s style and performance as a girl who doesn’t have a concept of love despite her attraction to Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character. She’s always been the recipient of praise for her work, which has usually been comedy second to a leading man, but this role really places her as the kind of actress she is and draws on all her talents.



2. Rachel Weisz – “The Brothers Bloom”

Another indie film I didn’t get to see that I’m really bummed about, “The Brothers Bloom” got a good amount of positive feedback, and though there was disagreement between some critics, there was unanimous applause for Weisz. Through much of her career, Weisz has sort of dabbled, never really fitting into one genre mold. I’ve seen her as more the dramatic type, but she’s been in romantic comedies before and she got to be a fancy-free heiress in “Bloom.” I won’t offer much more opinion being in my not-having-proof situation, but having seen most of her other work, there’s little doubt this seasoned actress of many colors made “Bloom” more than just another con comedy.



1. Meryl Streep – “Julie & Julia”


Is there anything that Streep isn’t amazing at? The record holder for Oscar nominations is the most unanimously praised person working in Hollywood and she does it all, from drama to comedy, which playing Julia Child definitely falls into. Only Streep could make a summer movie out of this sort of Holiday time/February premise. You never see movies like this come out in August, but that’s how money Streep is. She’s the fine wine of acting, only getting better – and more in demand – with age. In surveying people who’ve seen “Julie & Julia,” it was pretty clear that Streep’s scenes were the ones that kept the movie interesting.


Honorable Mentions: Marion Cotillard (“Public Enemies”), Leslie Mann (“Funny People”), Melanie Laurent (“Inglourious Basterds”),  Sandra Bullock (“The Proposal”).


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