There are actors who always appear in the same type of movies. Are they typecast? Or do they just love one particular kind of cinema? There are the American Sweethearts, such as Julia Roberts and Jennifer Aniston, who time and again play the protagonist in romantic comedies. Then there are those who only appear in quirky Indie movies. Yes Michael Cera, I am talking to you, you awkward, geekie hero. Seth Rogen is the king of Stoner Comedy and Arnold “I’ll be back” Schwarzenegger the eternal bundle of muscle in action movies.
The wonderful Michelle Williams, who is the topic of this blog post, can be added to the list of stars that keep popping up in certain kinds of movies. In her case, these movies are notably sad. Try to think of movies she acted in. I bet you can see the pattern of depressing, yet excellent, pictures she starred in. The blond actress became famous while playing bad-girl Jen Lindley on the nineties-nillies series Dawson’s Creek. It’s as if Dawson’s cry face inspired Michelle’s entire career. And life unfortunately.
Let’s take a quick look at the bumpy road of Michelle’s life
– Michelle was home-tutored by her father because she was bullied at school.
– She has compared herself to her Dawson’s Creek character Jen because they both had to grow up too fast.
– Her ex-husband, Heath Ledger, died of an overdose in 2008 (leaving their daughter Matilda fatherless.)
– She and her daughter were haunted by paparazzi after the heartbreaking event of Heath’s death.
– Michelle has a history of being shy and self-conscious (not exactly handy in Hollywood, where everyone expects you to be extraverted.)
– With a dead ex-husband and two more sad break-ups (she dated Spike Jonze and Jason Segel), you could say that her love life isn’t exactly a bed of roses.
But before I make it seem as if Michelle Williams is the saddest girl in the world, I want to add that she is a great actress who can take care of herself and her daughter just fine. There appears to be a new boyfriend in the picture as well. Williams is currently dating the artist Dustin Yellin (source 1). And besides, she doesn’t let the men in her life define her. In an interview with Vogue in 2011 she said, “I’m not lonely, and I think that has a lot to do with what’s on my bedside table rather than what’s in my bed” (source 2). Well said, my dear!
Let’s zoom in on five depressing, yet excellent, Michelle Williams movies:
My week with Marilyn (Marilyn Monroe) – Director Simon Curtis
Michelle Williams transformed herself into the most beautifully tragic icon of all times for this feature (we don’t know if Jesus was beautiful you guys, I can just hear you thinking “Are your placing Marilyn before Jesus? Are you insane?”). This movie follows the aspiring filmmaker Colin Clark in his first real job in the film business on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl. He documents the tension between director Sir Laurence Olivier and his star Marilyn Monroe, the marital problems the Hollywood icon is having with Arthur Miller and her general difficulties with a life in the spotlight. For this role, Michelle Williams was rightly awarded the Golden Globe for Best Actress and was nominated for the Academy Awards and the British Academy Film Awards for Best Actress.
Wendy and Lucy (Wendy Carrol) – Director Kelly Reichardt
This movie, by the Indie Auteur Kelly Reichardt, tells the tale of a young woman, Wendy (Michelle Williams), who is on a quest for financial stability. She is hoping to find this in Alaska, so we follow her and her dog Lucy on their road trip to a potentially lucrative job. The trip doesn’t go as planned, though. The car breaks down and Wendy is arrested for shoplifting. During her custody her only friend, Lucy, disappears. It’s a story of poverty and misfortunes in a contemporary America. Wendy and Lucy was made on a tight budget that is visible in the aesthetics and results in a minimalist kind of realism. I’m guessing this kind of movie isn’t for everyone, but it sure shows how good an actress Michelle Williams is. She supposedly looked too pretty and fresh to fit the part, so she went without make-up, didn’t wash her hair and restrained from shaving her legs and cleaning her nails during the shooting of this film
Tip: Another depressing Reichardt movie with Michelle is Meek’s Cutoff. This Western movie takes us on an ill-fated adventure through the dessert. Being lost and dehydrated is no fun, poor settlers.
Shutter Island (Dolores Chanal) – Director Martin Scorsese
The complex film noir Shutter Island, set in 1954, follows the U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) who is investigating the disappearance of a patient who escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane. Michelle only plays a minor role in this psychological drama, but what a role it is. Her portrayal of Dolores Chanal, the wife of the protagonist who was supposedly killed in a fire set by an arsonist, is literally haunting. We get to know Dolores as a character through Teddy’s dreams and flashbacks in which we can see her burning until nothing but ashes remain. But as it turns out, the Marshal is himself a psychiatric patient who killed his manic depressive wife after she drowned their children. As you can tell, this movie isn’t only depressing, but disturbing enough to keep you awake at night.
Blue Valentine (Cindy Heller) – Director Derek Cianfrance
The film centers on the evolution of the love between a married couple, portrayed by dreamboat Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. We follow them over a span of years by cross-cutting between time periods which communicate with the highs and lows of their marriage. The director shifts between the couple’s playful courtship and the downfall of their marriage. Keep your Kleenex close and feel your heart break after being stomped on repeatedly. This was probably the most heartbreaking film about the failure of love I’ve ever seen. Kudos to Ryan and Michelle for their raw and realistic portrayal of Dean and Cindy.
Brokeback Mountain (Alma Beers-Del Mar) – Director Ang Lee
Brokeback Mountain is the haunting story of a secretive, taboo relationship between two handsome cowboys in the `60s. Michelle plays the wife of one of the cowboys, Ennis del Mar, who is portrayed by Heath Ledger. Imagine how you would feel if your husband is in love with someone else, but cannot pursue his relationship because homosexuality isn’t accepted. Depressed? My thoughts exactly. Poor Alma. And poor Ennis and Jack, of course.