Book of Watts: Naomi Watts’s best and baffling performances
What exactly happened to Naomi Watts? After David Lynch propelled her into stardom with Mulholland Drive she’s frequently been considered one of our best actors working today. But we’d be lying if we could remember one exceptional performance from her in the last few years.
Watts has recently turned towards the television to prove that she’s still got it, but, if anything, was more of a step backward. In the wake of her performance in Gypsy, the Netflix show that was just all kinds of problematic, she’s returning to the big screen. She’s signed on with Sophia Lillis (It) for Claire McCarthy’s Burning Season, which will be introduced to Cannes by Hanway Films.
Based on a short story by Laura Van Den Berg, the film promises to take Watts away from the controversy that has been hounding her recently. A family drama, Burning Season features the two actresses as a mother-daughter pair exploring Madagascar for endangered species.
It sounds a little dry, but McCarthy’s upcoming film with Daisy Ridley (Star Wars: The Last Jedi), Ophelia is getting all kinds of hype, so we’re willing to give it a shot.
In anticipation for what will hopefully be Naomi Watts’s big comeback, we’ll take a look at the magnificent highs and offensive lows of her career.
The Book of Henry
One of 2017’s worst films, The Book of Henry was so undeniably awful that Disney took the last Star Wars film away from the clutches of director Colin Trevorrow. Naomi Watts following the posthumous instructions of her dead son to kill her next-door-neighbor with a rifle pulls this film unceremoniously into the ‘so bad it’s good’ pile.
Imagine the worst horror movie ever conceived, and then add Naomi Watts and a stellar cast. Jacob Tremblay (Room) is getting pretty grating, but the addition of Oliver Platt (Professor Marston and the Wonder Women) and Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things) just add insult to injury. Stop putting great actors into your cheap horror disasters!
Melissa McCarthy (The Heat), Bill Murray (Lost in Translation) without Wes Anderson (The Darjeeling Limited) and Naomi Watts playing a drunken, pregnant, Russian sex worker. No thanks.
The Divergent Series
Thank God the last one was cancelled. There are worrying rumors circulating about a television series, but Young Adult dystopia has already dug its grave and it deserves to stay there.
We’ll give Naomi a free pass for this one. Is it one of the worst movies ever made? Sure. But the fact that so many great actors were practically blackmailed or coerced into appearing in this farcical sketch show lessens the sting a little.
Watts isn’t bad in this per se, but The Crown has shown us how to do a story about the British monarchy correctly, and this ain’t it.
Despite Naomi Watts being tailor made for a show like Big Little Lies or Top of the Lake, she sadly had to settle for Gypsy, an ill-informed erotic drama based around Watts as a psychologist who invades the privacy of her patients. Like always, Watts isn’t all that bad, but the material doesn’t exactly demand a career-defining performance from her.
Peter Jackson’s monster movie remake feels like a fun, serviceable action movie, until you’re two and a half hours in and the fucking monkey still hasn’t climbed the goddamn Empire State Building yet. No, instead we get to see Naomi Watts and a giant ape skid around the ice for ten minutes. Her performance is good enough to make Kong feel pretty damn real, but it’s a bad sign when Jack Black (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) is out-acting you at every turn.
The original is better, but it’s a guilty joy to watch a terrified Naomi Watts try and escape the clutches of a televisual ghost, and as a horror flick it’s a damn sight better than Shut In.
While We’re Young
Noah Baumbach’s films are drenched with white neurosis, but occasionally he gets together a sensational cast and a worthwhile indie darling pokes through. While We’re Young is up there, mainly for introducing the incomparable Adam Driver (Inside Llewyn Davis) to beefier film roles, but Naomi Watts is pretty exceptional, too.
Is it still cool to hate Birdman? Don’t care; Alejandro Iñárritu’s film is hilarious and poignant, in no small part due to Naomi Watts. Her friction with self-absorbed actor Mike Shiner (Edward Norton) made for some of the best comedy of 2014.
Twin Peaks: The Return
Naomi Watts finally reunites with David Lynch, and it’s everything we dreamt it would be and more!
One of the last great disaster films, J.A. Bayona’s (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) first attempt at action on a huge scale works at every turn. Naomi Watts delivers an all time great performance as Maria, who experiences the 2004 Thailand tsunami during a family holiday.
The epitome of a modern classic, Naomi Watts is incredible as a plucky, naive wannabe film star who moves to Hollywood to discover not everything about the movies is what it seems. Seemingly a bright-eyed simpleton, Betty Elms transforms in an instant during her first Hollywood audition and cemented Watts as a talent to watch.