Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.
One of our greatest actresses, Julianne Moore has been working tirelessly since her small screen debut on soap opera The Edge of Night and her later more prominent run on As the World Turns as well as her big screen premiere in a small role in one segment of the Tales from the Darkside movie. The role that initially brought her the most attention was her supporting turn as porn matriarch Amber Waves in Boogie Nights, scoring her first Oscar nomination. From then on, she showed up in a number of celebrated roles over the years. I want to look at five of them. Children of Men didn’t give her much to do, so the film I’ve frequently covered gets shelved on this list with five other titles, largely seldom covered, in its place.
The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992)
Before Julianne Moore became a household name, one of her earliest credits was in this 1992 Curtis Hanson thriller. Moore plays the friend of Annabella Sciorra’s lead character. The film stars Rebecca De Mornay in one of her best performances as a vengeance seeking woman hoping to destroy the life of the woman who outed her rapist husband and whom she believes is responsible for her miscarriage.
This labyrinthine psychological thriller was a superb film with stellar performances from the entire cast. The myriad twists and turns make for an engaging and terrifying picture. Moore’s performance is crucial to certain scenes, but being a supporting performer in the film, she blends into her surroundings until her horrifying death.
Boogie Nights (1997)
In 1997, Paul Thomas Anderson graduated to the big leagues with this terrific achievement. Digging into the backroom struggles that play out in the porn industry, Anderson’s film is a wonderfully acted ensemble that oozes style. Moore plays Amber Waves, a long-standing prominent member of the porn industry who takes Mark Wahlberg’s neophyte under her wing and helps him find his footing while he’s emerging as the net big thing.
Moore and Burt Reynolds received much deserved Oscar nominations alongside one for Anderson’s screenplay. It went home empty-handed, though Moore and Reynolds both should have won their categories. While the film may not seem like it has something for everyone, it does. By humanizing the porn industry rather than treating it as a cesspool of corrupted morals, Anderson and company craft an entertaining, engaging, and though-provoking drama.
Moore re-teamed with Anderson for his third feature, Magnolia, a film in which disparate character stories intertwine in a meditation on chance and happenstance. Another superb cast plays evocatively with a complex plot that slowly burns through its reveals exposing the venality and frustrations of humankind.
Moore once again plays support, but this time she didn’t pull out an Oscar nomination for her work. While I wouldn’t give her the win, I would definitely have cited her superlative performance as one of the best of the year. Tom Cruise, however, is the film’s true powerhouse, delivering a charismatic and crushing performance as a motivational speaker who has often longed for his father’s affection. He most certainly should have won the only Oscar I think he would have ever deserved. The film itself earned three Oscar nominations for Cruise, an original song, and Anderson’s screenplay. His film, again, went home empty-handed.
Far From Heaven (2002)
Perhaps Moore’s greatest performance to date, Far From Heaven casts her in the role of devoted wife in this 1950s-set Sirkian melodrama that explores suburban malaise, miscegenation, and homosexuality in convincing and compelling ways.
Director Todd Haynes was only nominated for his screenplay, though the film richly deserved significantly more than the four nominations it did receive. Moore should have won the Oscar for Best Actress as should have Edward Lachman for his cinematography, Haynes for his script, and Elmer Bernstein for his score. The film should have earned a Best Picture and Directing nomination and should have won as it was easily one of the year’s best films, certainly better than the ultimate winner, Chicago.
The Kids Are All Right (2010)
Lisa Cholodenko’s comedy-drama was one of the first mainstream films to feature a same-sex couple as parents. Moore and Annette Bening play those parents while Josh Hutcherson and Mia Wasikowska play their teenage children. When their son decides to seek out his biological father, his sister helps him get the information together and they discover the sperm donor played by Mark Ruffalo. While everyone in the family seems suitably impressed with him as he invades their lives as Bening begins questioning their adulation of the man at the same time as Moore begins a sudden affair with him.
The entire cast is excellent and should have been recognized for their performances even though Bening and Ruffalo were the only ones cited by the Academy. It was nominated for a total of four Academy Awards, going home empty-handed for its two nominated performances as well as Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. While victories weren’t warranted in any of those categories, Moore and Hutcherson should have at least earned nominations alongside Bening and Ruffalo.