Chat-worthy Thespian: Kate Winslet & my top five roles she’s played

Welcome to another edition of Chat-worthy thespian! This is part of The LAMB’s Acting School featuring the great Kate Winslet. Interestingly enough, the last actress I featured in this series was another great Cate with a ‘C’ that is Cate Blanchett.

Kate Elizabeth Winslet was born the same year as yours truly, and just recently celebrated her 36th birthday on October 5th. The English actress was born into a family of thespians — parents Roger Winslet and Sally Bridges-Winslet were both stage actors, maternal grandparents ran the Reading Repertory Theatre, and uncle Robert Bridges was a fixture in London’s West End theatre district (per IMDb), so Kate seems destined to make it in show business.

I first saw Kate in Sense & Sensibility, which still remains one of my top five favorite films of all time. Though I have not seen her debut role in Heavenly Creatures (will have to do that soon!), I have saw her in eight feature films since and was always impressed by her strong performance. No matter what role she tackles, whether in a period drama or contemporary rom-com, she always turns in a memorable and exceptional performance. Her classic beauty and sheer talent never ceases to amaze me, more so because there is such an effortlessness to her acting that makes you forget she’s playing a part. As of January 2009, she is the youngest actress to garner six Oscar nominations, and her career is far from slowing down. This year she added her collection of acting trophies by winning an Emmy for her role in Mildred Pierce.

Some girls do have it all… not only is Kate massively talented, she is also supremely beautiful. Even in less-than-glamorous roles (i.e. The Reader, Little Children), her transcendent beauty still shines through. And she’s got curves!! I love the fact that she is not rail-thin like most of of Hollywood starlets and she’s proud of her body. I think her voluptuous figure is A+ perfect, I mean she’s a REAL woman. Though her weight has fluctuated through the years, she is never going to be a stick.

I think her career is just going to get better and better. I’m looking forward to see her in Roman Polanski’s dramedy Carnage with fellow Oscar nominees/winners Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz, and John C. Reilly.

Now here’s a look at my top five favorite roles of Kate Winslet:

  1. Marianne – Sense & Sensibility
    Well if you know me at all, there is no way this one wasn’t going to be on the list. I so adore this film and Kate’s sublime performance as Marianne Dashwood is one of the many reasons why. Even at a young age of 20, she showed such an extraordinary maturity for her part. She was convincingly giddy in love with Willoughby, her passionate Juliet-like character is such a perfect contrast to the sensible Elinor. Most of the memorable roles in this movie are of Marianne’s… from the moment she captured Brandon’s heart to her severe heartbreak when Willoughby revealed his true colors. Oh, not to mention those fabulous rain-scenes involving Marianne and her two hunky suitors 😀
  2. Rose – Titanic
    I have to admit that the reason I saw this James Cameron epic twice in the theater was because of Leo DiCaprio (hey, I was in my early 20s!). But after I re-watched it later, it’s Kate’s performance that still wowed me. I feel that though Leo might’ve brought in the business, it’s Kate who anchored the film as the feisty, sensual aristocrat. Her hollow stare as she dined with her mother was heart-wrenching as you knew she felt so trapped in her family’s decision to have her marry a rich man. She truly came alive when she meets Jack, and it’s one of those doomed-romances one can’t help but root for.
  3. Sylvia – Finding Neverland
    This is such an enchanting film and the first time I saw Kate Winslet played a mother… a widow with four children! Sylvia and her four young sons strike up a friendship with J. M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) when they met at Kensington Garden. Barrie became a surrogate father to Sylvia’s kids (especially Peter, performed brilliantly by Freddie Highmore) which in turn inspire him to write the famous Peter Pan tale. Winslet skillfully mixes joy & pathos as the sickly mother, which truly brings the humanity in this heart-warming story that some fairy tales do come true.
  4. Ophelia – Hamlet
    I’ve just recently seen this one, and as I said in my review, Kate’s portrayal of Ophelia is nothing short of phenomenal. Yes even amongst acting greats like Julie Christie, Derek Jacobi, etc., her performance was such a scene-stealer. There’s not many actresses out there who could give such a fearless, all-out performance like Kate. I remember being in awe of her acting as I was watching this film, absolutely brilliant! Whether it’s physical or emotional nakedness, she’s always willing to go the distance. She really was robbed of an Oscar or BAFTA for this performance.
  5. Iris – The Holiday
    Ok so the film itself perhaps isn’t in the same league as the other four, but I LOVE Kate’s lighthearted performance as Iris, an English girl who swaps house with an an LA-based trailer maker, Amanda. The scene of her geeking out in Amanda’s mansion is adorable to watch, such a contrast to her usually-gloomy characters. Though still more stunning than most women I know in real life, Kate was convincing as a self-deprecating ‘every woman’ who’s unlucky in love. Her scenes with Jack Black is sweet and funny, but it’s her friendship with her 90-year-old neighbor Arthur, once a celebrated Hollywood screenwriter, that gives the film its heart.

Honorable Mentions:

  • The Reader
    This is Kate’s first Oscar win and I think she deserves it. It’s a non-glamorous role and perhaps one of the most complex characters she’s tackled. Hanna Scmidt isn’t exactly sympathetic but despite her heinous crimes, I can’t completely abhor her.
  • Romance & Cigarettes
    I saw this at TIFF back in 2005 and director John Turturro who introduced the film actually called this a ‘dirty little movie.’ It’s a bawdy musical with a great ensemble cast that include James Gandolfini, Christopher Walken, and Susan Sarandon. But again Kate steals the show as a fiery red-head hussy, showing off her knack for comedy as well as her fearlessness in playing against type. This quirky film is not for everyone, but worth a watch just for Kate’s performance alone. Watch for her slutty song & dance number, definitely unlike anything I’ve seen her in.
  • Finding Neverland [added 10/13)
    I hadn’t seen this when I first made my list but I really enjoyed Kate’s performance as the lovely but tragic widow Sylvia Davies. It’s perhaps the first time I saw her play a mother in film and she certainly is believable in her relationship with her four young sons. She also has a sweet chemistry with Johnny Depp who’s astounding as Sir James Matthew Barrie. It just further proves how versatile Winslet it, as she’s able to tackle practically any role.

So what are your thoughts of this talented star? Please do share your own favorite Kate Winslet roles.

54 thoughts on “Chat-worthy Thespian: Kate Winslet & my top five roles she’s played

  1. Great piece Ruth. She is one of the better aspects of the film The Holiday, an otherwise rather unbalanced film.

    Another personal fave – Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

    A fine (but perhaps lesser known) supporting role in Enigma, a WWII drama about Bletchley Park and the spy work that was done there using the Enigma machine.

    1. Well you picked a good topic for me as she’s my favorite actress.
      So here’s my ftop 5.

      1) Juliet Hulme in Heavenly Creatures. One of Peter Jackson’s best and quite a departure from the gory, over the top horror he had done up ’til then. Melanie Lynskey also got her start in this gem playing Kate’s young lover.

      2) Clementine Kruczynski in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Her most playful role. Probably my favorite.

      3) Ruth Barron in Holy Smoke! To see her go toe to toe with Keitel is something to behold in Jane Campion’s little seen film.

      4) Sarah Pierce in Little Children. Kate just playing an average, plane jane mom. Quite a stretch when you look like she does.

      5) Rose DeWitt Bukater in Titanic. While Cameron is known for his technical prowess… his screenplays have never been big on bringing 3 dimensional characters to life. Kate and Leo were great together in this and really gave the film heart.

      She also did a great turn on Ricky Gervais’ Extras as spoofing herself as an Oscar hungry actress.

      Here’s a must see for fans out there:

      1. Yeah she was good in Holy Smoke too, although I did not take to that film that way it was intended. I just saw it because of Kate.

        Ooh and I almost forgot about her guest turn in Extras – classic 🙂

      2. Hi Dave! How’s your blog going man?

        I haven’t seen four movies on your list. If I had, my list would probably look quite different. As I said to Iba, I really need to rent ‘Eternal Sunshine’ again.

        I’m curious about Heavenly Creatures, Melanie Lynskey is such an underrated actress. I mean she should be in more films instead of in a show with Charlie Sheen!

        I have no love for Gervais but I’ll check out the vid because of Kate 🙂

        1. Working on the blog. First time so I’m figuring out the formatting and such. My first post will be my 25 desert island movies so it’s taken me some time. I figured I’d let people get a sense of my taste in movies… or lack there of. Later this week probably.

          I know… Melanie wasting away in Two And A Half Men, Right? She did a really interesting guest spot on The Shield years ago that would probably shock you.

          I love Ricky but then again I like British comedy a lot. It all started with Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, Benny Hill and The Young Ones. I then moved on to shows like Spaced, Little Britian, The It Crowd, Father Ted, Black Books, The Office, Extras, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Man To Man With Dean Learner, Alan Partridge, etc…

    2. Hi Iba, I quite enjoyed The Holiday but I’d have liked it more if they had someone else other than Cameron Diaz!

      I really need to see ‘Eternal Sunshine.’ We rented it but I had an appt so my hubby watched it without me.

      Oh yeah, I saw Enigma, that’s a good one but Kate didn’t have a big role in that one.

  2. I think the fact that none of your Top 5 made my own Top 5 reveals just how consistently fantastic an actress she is. Granted, I haven’t seen Sense and Sensibility, Hamlet or The Holiday – but I also included her role as Juliet Hulme in Heavenly Creatures, her pair of fine performances in 2008 (The Reader and Revolutionary Road) and Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Interesting choices Ruth. She’s one of my favourites.

    1. Hi Andy, yeah you’re right about Kate. Her consistently great performance would appeal to a lot of different people. I’m hoping to see a lot more of her films that I’ve missed. I think if you love Kate, you should check out S&S and Hamlet, she was so tremendous in both which are completely different roles.

  3. Happy Monday Ruth!!

    I really must get involved more over at The Lamb. I am shockingly bad blogger

    Great piece my friend. Kate is a great great actress and so talented and different in every film I have seen her in.

    I am seeing carnage in a couple of weeks so will report back on what it is like for you!!


    1. You should join The LAMB, matey, it took me a while to join but it was well worth it.

      Oooh you’re seeing Carnage for Brighton Film Fest, right? Good for you. Looking forward to your coverage!

  4. I really like Kate, I saw her most recently in Contagion and she brought such relatability to the role, as she does to all of her roles. She made a spoiled brat likeable in Titanic and she’s pretty as a picture in Sense and Sensibility though I would suggest that she and Alan Rickman are not perticularly believable as a couple. He could be her dad! Good post.

    1. I missed Contagion in the theater, but hopefully it’ll play in the cheap theater in a few weeks. Hey, take that back about Alan Rickman… I LOOOOVE Brandon. Yes he’s much older than the cad Willoughby but his love for her is pure and honorable. That’s one of my fave Alan Rickman roles.

    1. Well it’s all relative. I think she’s still curvy compared to most rail-thin actresses in Hollywood. As I said, though she’s much thinner these days, she’ll never been a stick figure… hopefully.

  5. the roles of her life are the ones in THE READER and HEAVENLY CREATURES and HAMLET. IRIS and THE QUILL were also amazing roles. But my absolute favourite is her role in LITTLE CHILDREN. It is offending that she doesn’t have more Oscars, the same goes for Blanchett. Deeply offending.

    1. Hear, hear, Dezzy. I think both Kate and Cate should get more awards than they have now. I’d love to see both of them be in the same movie, as sisters perhaps?

  6. Squeals with delight at your number 1. I’m now wondering if Marianne IS my number, it’s so close and Kate is so lovely because I could straight up list ten performances of hers I love (like her oft forgotten work in Iris or Quills for example). She’s amazing. The end.

    1. Yay! I love that we both share the love of S&S… there are so many things I love about that film. I just might dedicate a post for it one of these days.

  7. Nice list. My personal favorites are her roles in Eternal Sunshine, Sense and Sensibility, and Heavenly Creatures. Hamlet and Finding Neverland are also good choices.

  8. Great post Ruth 🙂
    I think she is a good actrees…unfortunately her choice of movies is not my kind of movie. From your list I have only watched Titanic. But I want to watch Finding Neverland

  9. PrairieGirl

    Very nice post about Kate. I don’t know much of her work, but before heading out yesterday, The Holiday came on TV, so I had to stop and watch the beginning to see Rufus (of course), and for some reason her performance really stood out for me this time, even though I was watching it for Roof. I love her in that role.

  10. Ted S.

    I have to admit besides Titanic, I haven’t seen many of her work. I do think she’s very talented actress and quite lovely, just that her films doesn’t really peak my interest. Although I thought she and Leo was great in Revolutionary Road, pretty depressing movie but both of them definitely showed their acting talents.

    Years ago after Titanic became a huge hit, Peter Jackson actually tried to get her to be lead actress on his King Kong remake but studio executives didn’t want to cast her because they thought she doesn’t have the typical Hollywood actress body, which means they thought she was too heavy for the role. This was when Peter Jackson was still an unknown to many people, so he didn’t have the power to fight with executives yet. He went and did The Lord of Rings instead.

    1. Yeah she does seem to gravitate towards desolate, gloomy roles. That’s why I had to include The Holiday as I like that she smiles a lot in that movie. I haven’t seen Revolutionary Road but it really doesn’t interest me.

      Seriously, too heavy as Ann Darrow?? I mean she’s supposed to be an actress in the 30s!! That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. I actually thought Naomi Watts is too skinny, but she does have a nice chemistry with well, King Kong 🙂

  11. I kept looking for Kate’s role in Eternal Sunshine to make your list, but it ever came. It is my favorite role of her’s. I found ‘The Holiday’ tough to watch because of how sappy it was so it never connected with me. Great list though.

  12. I did an Austen Actress Birthday writeup including clips at the Jane Austen Centre Online Forum in case anyone wants a look

    S&S and titanic are my favourites but I still say and some may not like me for it but I found that DiCaprio was too young looking in comparison to Kate in the film or maybe it is just me. If they were to do the film now they would look closer and more normal in age as I assume they were supposed to be in the film

    1. Hey awesome! I think Kate & Jane Austen are a great combo, right? 🙂

      Oh yeah, I agree w/ you that Leo didn’t look as mature as Kate in Titanic, but perhaps that’s intentional? In any case, she’s just perfect as Rose.

  13. Great post, Ruth. Kate is one of my favourite actresses. She really is a brilliant actress and embodies every character she plays – I think she always gives 110%.

    Out of your top 5 the only one I haven’t seen is Hamlet. I’ll add it to my rental list. Finding Neverland is a really lovely film – I’m glad it got a mention 🙂 I haven’t seen Heavenly Creatures, either. I’ve added it to my rental list along with all of Peter Jackson’s films as I want to see what his non-LOTR work is like 😀

    1. Thanks Claire. Yes she is lovely and you’re right she always gave her all. I’d love to hear what you think of Hamlet once you’ve seen it!

  14. She plays a version of herself in Ricky Gervais’ comedy series Extras which is very funny. She obviously has a great sense of humour. Nice list Ruth.

      1. Good stuff. I like Hollywood stars who are able to make fun of themselves. Kate is great…and what a wonderful picture that is to start this post! 🙂

  15. At first I really liked her Revolutionary Road and thought she should’ve won for that, but then I rewatched The Reader again and now I understand how good she tackles that complex character plus the accent helps too.

    I think her 7th nomination will come for her role in Jason Reitman’s Labor Day due in 2013. *way too long*

    1. I haven’t seen RR so I can’t say, but her complex role in The Reader really was tremendous.

      Oh she’s in a Jason Reitman movie?? I gotta see that one!

  16. Your list is incomplete until you see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind!! 😛 That said, I’ve only seen two movies on this list (Titanic and the terrible The Holiday)

  17. This is a great tribute, Ruth!! She is a very gorgeous and formidable actress!

    I am SO happy that her performance in Hamlet is on your list. It honestly deserves it! Definitely my favorite of hers.

    Have you seen The LIfe of David Gale?? Also another pretty good performance!

    1. Thanks T! Well since I had just seen Hamlet recently, her performance is still fresh in my mind. It’s a phenomenal performance even amongst such acting legend.

      I haven’t seen that one, that’s the one w/ Kevin Spacey right?

  18. She seems perfectly fit for old-age drama. I agree, she’s beautiful inside and out. I notice you didn’t put Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, I think It’s my favorite role of her. I too like her being Iris in The Holiday, as you know 🙂

    1. I should’ve put a disclaimer that I have not seen ‘Eternal Sunshine.’ But there are good ones here I think people ought to check out too 🙂

  19. I love Kate Winslet. I think she brings a relatable vulnerability and strength to any character that she plays. Here’s my top 5 roles:

    1 – Clementine in The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    2 – Mildred Pierce in Mildred Pierce
    3 – Sarah in Little Children
    4 – Rose in Titanic
    5 – Hanna in The Reader

    My honorable mentions would be Sense & Sensibility, Heavenly Creatures, The Holiday, and Finding Neverland. I have seen her in Romance & Cigarettes and I thought she was hilarious in that role. I don’t know if I have willpower to watch Hamlet for her though.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Sherry. Alas I haven’t seen 3 from your list. As I’ve said several times, once I see ‘Eternal Sunshine’ my list might be different, but then again maybe not. Glad you have seen Romance & Cigarettes! What do you mean you don’t have the willpower to watch Hamlet?? ‘Cause it’s too long or you don’t like Shakespeare?

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