Amy Adams is at the peak of her dramatic powers. She is currently starring in two of this year’s most talked-about motion pictures. And with awards season on the horizon, she is already an early front-runner for this year’s Academy Award for Best Actress.
Although arguably the most consistent actress of her generation, Adams has only become a veritable household name during the last three years. She captured the industry’s imagination in 2005’s Junebug and established herself as a force to be reckoned with in Doubt (2008). However, it was only after her second collaboration with David O. Russell in 2013’s American Hustle that the world came to fully understand the quiet, scene-stealing ferocity of her artistry.
Her performance in American Hustle as Sydney Prosser was a comprehensive résumé of everything a director could ever require from their lead actress. Sydney is a character of unprecedented complexity. She is spirited, ruthless and exudes a raw sexual magnetism, whilst simultaneously naïve, erratic and hampered by a profound insecurity. This performance was, retrospectively, the most astoundingly mature and accomplished of the year. As much as I adore Cate Blanchett, I think the AMPAS certainly missed a trick.
This year, Adams marches into awards season on the arms of two of the year’s most hotly anticipated and acclaimed films. In Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals, she plays a deeply depressed and disillusioned gallery owner whose ex-husband dedicates his disturbingly violent novel to her. Although it is Adams’s performance in Arrival, Denis Villeneuve’s cerebral sci-fi saga, that has generated more enthusiasm. She plays a similarly dejected, isolated professor of linguistics who is enlisted to decode the language of an alien species. Having already garnered Critics Choice, Golden Globe and SAG nominations, surely BAFTA and Oscar nods are on the horizon. And, who knows? Maybe it’ll be sixth time lucky for this perennial Oscar hopeful.
So, why has it taken so long for Ms Adams to break through into the public consciousness? Why is she still only referred to as an Academy Award nominee? And why aren’t more people talking about her? Well, the short answer is: people are talking about her. Within the industry itself and amongst dedicated film enthusiasts, her genius is well-established and deeply revered. But, outside this sphere, she’s a face that you know but struggle to put a name to.
I would guess that this is because she isn’t your typical ‘movie star’. Watching or reading any interview, it is obvious that her life’s main priority is her daughter, Aviana. Although not necessarily religious in the orthodox sense, Adams claims that her religious upbringing “instilled” in her a “value system” that she still holds true. The concepts of “doing unto others”, of love and of what she refers to as “being a light” are the cornerstones of her being.
As admirable as this is, it’s not the kind of stuff that’s going to fill the gossip columns. As a result, the extreme vulgarity of the typical Hollywood lifestyle has almost completely passed her by. Her personal life isn’t as emblazoned and exploited as those of many similarly placed actresses. She has forgone any gratuitous attention and relieved herself and her family of the scrutiny and misuse that extensive self-promotion would yield.
But, should this be seen as a negative? Of course not. Amy Adams isn’t the international brand to which such charm and beauty could have easily given life. Instead, she remains a multi-million-dollar mark of excellence, whose name directors fight to have stamped above the title of their newest films. She represents quality in its purest, most uncorrupted form. When you pay to see something with her name on it, you may be assured that at least one aspect of this film will be, at the very least, outstanding.
As for the Academy Award, this year’s race is one of the most competitive in recent memory. Natalie Portman, Emma Stone and Annette Bening are her fellow frontrunners and are complemented by roles that are obvious Oscar fodder. Of course, we don’t need the image of her holding a tiny golden man to confirm her brilliance. But, these are awards of merit; and no one is more meritorious than Amy Adams. She will get her golden envelope moment, I’m sure. But, I’d like to be alive to see it.