There’s more to Amy Adams than plunging necklines. The American Hustle actress, fresh off of a Golden Globe win for Best Actress in a Motion Picture — Comedy or Musical and an Oscar nomination, has established herself as one of the best actors of her generation regardless of gender. What the younger actresses coming up through the ranks will hopefully pay attention to, however, is the manner in which she’s crafted a career full of interesting choices.
Adams isn’t a fearless actor just because she’s willing to plunge the depths of her emotions to portray a character. What truly makes her fearless is that she’s just as engaged while singing with animated squirrels as she is when playing a conflicted young nun.
Considering the number of young actors who are painfully aware of being under the microscope at all times, be that from their own social media presence or everyone else’s, Adams’ approach should serve as a reminder about how to make each performance count. Every actor is instructed to fully commit to a part, but far too often it’s obvious when performers feel that they’re doing something beneath them. Film is such an intimate medium it really is hard to mail-in a performance without the camera picking up on it.
Adams’ career has seemingly been a balancing act between heavy and light. After toiling in smaller roles in both film and television, her breakout performance in the indie film Junebug was followed by more mainstream notice in, of all things, a Will Ferrell movie (Talladega Nights). The year that she fully leapt into movie stardom in Disney’s Enchanted, she also appeared in the awards-friendly Charlie Wilson’s War.
During a stretch in 2010-11, Adams hit the big screen with Leap Year, a frothy romantic comedy, followed by her Oscar-nominated role as a Boston tough girl in The Fighter, and then moved on to dancing and singing with Kermit and Miss Piggy in The Muppets. At no point in any of those films did Adams feel out of place or seem self-conscious about what she was doing. She gave each role exactly what it called for and was seemingly unworried about how it would be received.
Like Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock just before her, Meryl Streep before them, and a litany of other actors and actresses, Adams has embraced a varied slate of roles with equal abandon. Movie audiences can only hope that the group coming on Adams’ heels — including her American Hustle costar Jennifer Lawrence — is paying attention and will strive to follow a similar path.