After watching Anne Hathaway dominate the Supporting Actress category at the major award ceremonies this year, winning a BAFTA, Golden Globe and Oscar for her performance as Fantine in Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables, I took a virtual trip into archives of her previous performances and compiled my top picks. You’ll notice Les Mis isn’t included – despite the undeniable visceral power of Hathaway’s rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’, the following are performances in which she racked up a lot more screen time, was able to craft characters never or less often performed, show a more diverse range of emotion, and even perform spoken lines.
The Princess Diaries (2001) Gary Marshall
It’s hard to believe that Hathaway’s breakout performance as diarist Mia Thermopolis, the lovably gawky anti-heroine of Meg Cabot’s uproariously funny and addictive The Princess Diaries novels, is now over ten years old. Aged just 19, Hathaway proved she could hold her own alongside the great Julie Andrews, who gives a witty turn as Mia’s grandmother, the queen of Genovia. Although hardly a big award contender like some of Hathaway’s later films, The Princess Diaries is a welcome addition to the high school genre; it includes the stock characters we know and love (the best friend, the inappropriate crush, the bitchy nemesis), but adds an original streak as Mia’s world is shaken up by the revelation that she is heir to the throne of a fictional European country, Genovia.
Hathaway’s Mia is endearing; she hits the sad notes more than capably, as well as providing laughs via a clutsy form of comedy regrettably missing throughout much of her later career. The sequel, The Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement (2004), may be a case of the less said the better, but I’d argue its weakness as a film is due to deviation from Cabot’s source material rather than any fault of Hathaway’s – she still manages a likable turn despite inferior storytelling.
The Devil Wears Prada (2006) David Frankel
In this box-office hit based on Lauren Weisberger’s novel of the same name Hathaway plays Andy Sachs, a struggling but ambitious wannabe-writer who settles for a job millions are dying for – as she’s frequently told – second assistant to Vogue Editor-in-Chief Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep). Once again, Hathaway proves her salt against one of the best actresses alive today.
In fact, the performances are consistently impressive, especially Stanley Tucci’s Art Director and Emily Blunt’s snarky First Assistant. Although hardly convincing casting for an overweight and frumpy character, Hathaway’s magnetism arouses the audience’s empathy early on and easily maintains it amongst her shallower counterparts in the world of international fashion. The script, however, is far from shallow, packing in a couple of twists as well as great monologues and enough fashion jargon to please any long-term Vogue aficionados. Hathaway’s performance grounds the film, but it’s hardly the only reason for watching it.
Rachel Getting Married (2008) Jonathan Demme
Hathaway’s appearance as Kym, the substance-abusing sister of the titular Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt), earned her a host of awards and nominations, but this time she was unable to snag the much-coveted Oscar or Golden Globe. As you might expect, Rachel Getting Married is centred around Rachel getting married, an event for which Kym returns home to her estranged family. However, the film is held together by the exploration of rifts in the family; the secrets, lies and unhealed wounds. Once again Hathaway puts her doe-eyes to good use, this time delivering a towering performance running the gamut from angry desperation to poised calm. Hathaway and DeWitt create a remarkably vivid and convincing portrayal of sisters living through old and new rivalries.
Love and Other Drugs (2010) Edward Zwick
Although it is perhaps easily dismissed as yet another rom-com where the characters attempt to replace rom- with only sex and ultimately fail (in the vein of No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits), Hathaway helps make this film both more touching and memorable. Playing opposite Jake Gyllenhaal’s eternal-slacker-turned-successful-pharmaceutical-rep Jamie Randall, Hathaway appears here as Maggie Murdoch, a 26 year-old artist living with Stage One Parkinson’s disease. Somehow Zwick manages to balance gross-out comedy (mainly provided by Jamie’s brother, played by Josh Zad) with sensitive and thoughtful treatment of a serious issue, conveying how living with Parkinson’s affects the lives not just of those diagnosed, but also those of anyone they choose to let into their lives. The strength of Hathaway’s performance is testament to the fact that there is a lot more at stake here than in similar, shallower films. The sadder, more emotionally charged scenes in Love and Other Drugs now appear anticipatory of the much-discussed Les Misérables performance. But, as we’ve seen, there’s much more to Hathaway than Fantine.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Christopher Nolan
For me, the best surprise of the finale to Nolan’s stupendous Batman Trilogy was Hathaway’s appearance as Selina Kyle (I dare not write Catwoman). Hathaway is a great addition to the already incredible cast returning from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, including Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman. As Selina, Hathaway is once again impressively diverse; an important skill in the playing of such a multi-faceted character. Selina’s allegiances are not clear, even to herself, for much of the film, yet the audience does see various sides to her; her introduction as the deceptively-scared-maid-turned-jewellery-thief serves as early indication of Selina’s impenetrability. Not to downplay her acting ability, but Hathaway was given a gift with this character – she has the most kick-ass moves and all the best lines. I’d appreciate a Nolan-directed spin-off putting Selina Kyle centre-stage.
And the rest…
Hathaway’s performance as Emma Morley in Lone Scherfig’s 2011 adaptation of David Nicholl’s phenomenally successful novel One Day drew frequent criticism of her inconsistent accent, which aims for Yorkshire but only sometimes hits. However, she did create a believable construction of Em across the story’s lengthy time span.
As well as the stagnant sequel to The Princess Diaries, Hathaway took on leading roles in the forgettable comedy Get Smart (opposite Steve Carell), and atrocious rom-com Bride Wars. However, she’s proved her ability with less-than-great material, for example her scene-stealing appearance as Liz, a woman who makes her rent by conducting a phone-sex service, is by far one of the most enjoyable and memorable performances in ensemble film Valentine’s Day, and shows Hathaway is not bad at all accents.
Anne Hathaway is slated to appear in the upcoming Don Jon, the directorial debut of her The Dark Knight Rises co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt.