Natalie Portman’s newest movie is called The Other Woman, where she plays a gal who has an affair with her married boss and ends up stealing him away from his wife. She’s also crazy mean to his kid after she has a baby who dies. There’s tons of screaming, crying, telling her stepson to shut up and aimless walks around New York City on cloudy days. What’s amazing is seeing Portman -- who’s one of the most adored actresses of our time and can currently be seen smiling, pregnant, and having her laughter turned into an internet meme – abandon her trademark joy to play a character we’re supposed to despise. In any case, this movie has Portman doing something we almost never see her do, and it got us thinking of how many other times the actors we cherish have played hateful characters.
Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada
This one might be the most obvious example of a great actor playing an awful character. For most of The Devil Wears Prada, we saw our beloved Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly simply slaughter Anne Hathaway’s Andy on a daily basis (remember Miranda made Andy obtain an unpublished copy of the latest Harry Potter manuscript for her twins and charter a plane for her so she could get out of Florida even though a tornado was just about to touch down?). However, there was one scene where Miranda rightfully schools Andy for having the audacity to broadcast her lack of fashion knowledge in front of the magazine’s editor in chief. Here, the bombardment of information temporarily puts us on the side of this movie’s villain, and that’s not a place we thought we’d ever be after witnessing so much abuse towards the rest of her staff.
Paul Rudd was bad in Dinner for Schmucks, but he wasn’t the worst part of this movie. Unfortunately for the arguably more talented Steve Carell, he was just the most terrible thing ever. His character’s insufferable traits were supposed to be balanced out by everything that was charming about him (like he’s total adherence to directions and his kind eyes and his sentimentality towards all of earth’s creatures). But none of those things were enough to make us not want to just murder him by stuffing a Turducken down his throat.
Sarah Jessica Parker in Failure To Launch
I choose to believe Sarah Jessica Parker is talented. However, she has to be very careful about the roles she takes on because her acting style isn’t very versatile, and the times where she believes she can pull something off are usually the times that she shouldn't even try. She is not someone who can completely transform themselves for a role (like Christian Bale and the aforementioned Meryl Streep). However, she’s watchable and at times, quite enjoyable, which leads to the assumption that we care (somewhat) about her. That being said, her character of Paula in Failure to Launch was utterly deplorable because she earned a profit for feigning an attraction to Tripp (Matthew McConaughey) in hopes of giving him reason to finally move out of his parent’s house. Tripp’s parents are behind the whole thing of course, but the fact that Paula purposely misled Tripp so she could turn a profit makes for a surprisingly revolting character…regardless of whether or not she falls in love with Tripp in the end.
Sandra Bullock in Crash
Sandra Bullock is likely to make you think of happy movies you watch when you can't eat solid foods, like Ms. Congeniality, The Proposal, and The Blind Side. That's because more recently, troubles in her personal life have re-shifted her priorities and made her actively go after characters that had positive motivations. However, before this change took place, she appeared in Crash as Brendan Fraser's incredibly racist wife whose demented beliefs result in a gun getting pointed at her head, which she uses as proof that the stereotypes she has about others are rational.
Denzel Washington in Training Day
Denzel is definitely is unafraid of taking on unlikeable characters, but perhaps the most memorable times he’s done this was when he played is Detective Alonzo Harris in Training Day. Over the course of one day, Alonzo treats his rookie cop, Jake, like shit under the guise that he’s showing him what it’s like to be a real cop and showing him how the narcotics bureau of the LAPD is really quite different than any other division. The day proves to be quite painful for Jake, as I’m sure you know… but Jake should have been able to figure what he was in for the minute he met Alonzo reading his paper at the diner in the morning.
Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley
Yes! Even our most prized Bostonian father of four little ladies has played a jackass in his career! You’ll recall that in The Talented Mr. Ripley, Matt Damon played Tom Ripley, who used his mimicking skills to impersonate the people around him as a means of taking their money and getting revenge on them after they mistreated him. But it’s a lot creepier than some simple identity theft: Ripley’s talents help him cover up several murders, and while his actions are obviously rooted in obsession, misery, and self-loathing, they’re tremendously colored with sadness and deep despair. And so even though it’s almost difficult to classify Ripley as a hateful character because of his deep emotional issues, they’re pretty clearly not very charming either.