Seven Favorite Cate Blanchett’s Performances

I began jotting this list right after I saw Hanna a few weeks ago, but since May 14th, is her 42nd birthday, it’s fitting to publish this today in her honor.

Catherine Élise Blanchett, the Melbourne-born actress seemed to be destined for greatness right from the time she graduated from Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art at 23. In just about a year, she had already won Sydney Theatre Critic’s Circle Theatre award for Best Newcomer in Kafka Dances. The first time I saw her must have been in Elizabeth, and immediately I was in awe of her transcendent acting ability and striking screen presence. The film might not have been a masterpiece, but her performance was pretty darn close. The only thing more astonishing than her performance is how The Academy didn’t give her most-deserved Oscar that year.

I have since watched over a dozen films of hers and not a single one of her performances has been disappointing. Even in bad movies — not that she’s been in many of them — she remains a delight to watch on screen. Yes, even Irina Spalko in the ill-conceived Indy 5 doesn’t diminish my admiration of this great actress. Cate is one of those rare artist who’s got the perfect combination of beauty and brains… she is luminous and stylish on the red carpet, but yet she’s not afraid to look plain or even ugly on screen, unlike many other vain what-so-called ‘actors’ who won’t take on a less-than-glamorous role for fear of ruining their image. No matter what she looks like in a given movie, one can expect an amazing depth and intelligent charisma she consistently projects on screen. There is also this chameleon-like quality that makes her perfectly suitable of any genre, from quintessential costume drama to contemporary thriller. Combine that with her knack for accents, Cate is without a doubt one of the most versatile talents working in Hollywood today.

The many faces of the great Cate

As I said above, there hasn’t been a single disappointing performance from Blanchett, but these seven are the ones I enjoy the most from her, even if the film itself might not be the greatest. Please bear in mind I have yet to see I’m Not There (I know, I know, it’s in my Netflix queue!) and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, so my list might look different once I’ve seen those. Anyway, here they are in order of the film’s release:

  1. The Virgin Queen in Elizabeth
    Blanchett tackled a complex role of Queen Elizabeth I seemingly with ease, from the monarch’s arduous ascension to the throne to her early reign. She’s so comfortable at the center stage, carrying the film on her delicate shoulders with such charisma that you’d be hard pressed to believe it was her first feature film. Both strong and vulnerable, it’s a dazzling breakthrough performance that’s worthy of an Oscar, even to this day, people still think she was utterly robbed (by Gwyneth Paltrow no less!).
  2. Kate Wheeler in Bandits
    Ok, so this isn’t one of the best crime comedy out there, but I thought it was quite entertaining and enjoyable. Cate pretty much stole the show from Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton, the two bandits who fell for the run-away housewife they kidnapped. Sporting a spot-on southern accent, her quirky performance was such a hoot to watch. She definitely have a knack for comedy, something I wish she’d do more of to balance her more serious/darker roles.
  3. Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
    Interestingly enough, most of the actors I love, both men and women, usually have a distinct voice. I absolutely adore Cate’s narration right from the moment she spoke the words “It began with the forging of the Great Rings…” Her luminous beauty makes for a perfect elf-princess who’s wise as well as kind to those who oppose the great evil Sauron. She’s easily one of my all-time favorite character in the entire franchise, so I’m thrilled that she will reprise her character in The Hobbit next year!
  4. Charlotte Gray in Charlotte Gray
    Just another proof that Blanchett can play all kinds of nationalities believably, in this WWII romantic thriller, she played a young Scottish woman who joined the French Resistance to rescue her Royal Air Force boyfriend who’s lost in France. I saw this film a long time ago, but I remember how good Cate was in this. This is the kind of role tailored for someone with her dramatic chops and she does the title role justice. I saw the trailer again earlier today and it made me want to re-watch the movie. Michael Gambon and Billy Crudup are both good in this as well.
  5. Veronica Guerin in Veronica Guerin
    Another title role and this time it’s a biopic of an Irish crime reporter who was murdered by the country’s drug lords in 1996. Cate not only portrays the feisty reporter, she embodies the journalist’s incredible valor in investigating Dublin’s drug trafficking. She looks the part and even does the Irish accent convincingly, which is what you come to expect from her. Don’t be put off by Joel Shumacher, it’s actually a great film with a great message of courage and risking one’s life for the good of others.
  6. Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator
    This is the role on everyone’s best-of list and it’s no surprise why. This is Cate at the top of her game, practically transforming herself into a classic Hollywood icon. It’s as if she belonged in this era with that side-part wavy hairstyle, those vintage clothes. Cate stole every scene she was in with her spot-on Hepburn’s mannerism and speaking voice. That dinner scene with Howard Hughes and her family is a downright classic! Finally the Academy recognized her stunning performance and awarded her a well-deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
  7. Marion Loxley in Robin Hood
    Sure this movie is quite divisive and not exactly Ridley Scott’s shining hour, but I quite enjoyed it and it definitely has its merits. As I said in my review, Cate’s casting is one of the movie’s major strength. She made me sympathize with Marion almost instantly, and her chemistry with Russell Crowe’s Robin is sweet and affecting. Their scenes together are wonderful to watch, but then again, we’re talking about two of the most charismatic actors in Hollywood, not just the ones from Australia.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Susan Jones in Babel
  • Tracy Heart in Little Fish
  • Marissa in Hanna

So happy birthday to my favorite actress… looking forward to more wonderful roles in the future!

Dear readers, what are your favorite Cate Blanchett’s roles? Please list ’em in the comments.