Maggie Gyllenhaal – Hollywood’s Best Kept Secret?

Maggie Gyllenhall is not the most overexposed actress out there. She generally plays unique women in mostly independent films. And she’s not the typical Hollywood beauty either. But I find that no matter what I see her in, I can’t stop watching.

I’m looking at her resume and it looks like I’ve seen 6 of her films (including Monster House, which is animated…so it doesn’t count), and every time, I am blown away by her performances. I might not think too highly of the films themselves (Mona Lisa Smile? yeech), but I can always expect a great performance by Maggie…and I am always interested in her character.

For example, Stranger Than Fiction. I really liked this film and I consider it to be Will Ferrell’s best movie. But I was enthralled with Maggie G’s performance. Her role could have easily come across as one-dimensional, but she gave her bakery parlor owner a twist by making her character hard around the edges, yet sweet on the inside. As the movie went on, we got to see what she was made of. And we liked it. It’s probably my favorite role of hers. 

In Donnie Darko, she played the sister to her real brother, Jake. It’s a very strange movie. If you get a chance, rent it and let me know what you think ’cause I have my opinions…but I don’t know if I understand them. I think it has something to do with dying…and a giant rabbit. I dunno. But Maggie is great in it!

In the movie I watched tonight, Secretary, she plays a downtrodden shell of a woman who can’t take the emotional pain of her life, so she creates physical pain to offset it. She’s sort of a sadomasochist. Then she takes a job as James Spader’s secretary. Things get a little strange (Spader is great in these kinds of roles. See “Sex, Lies & Videotape also), but amid all of the S&M trappings, there’s a love story for the ages. She gets him, he gets her. But there is still a lot of emotional baggage to wring out. And that is where I have come to appreciate Maggie G.

She does emotional baggage so well! It seems effortless to her. With those big eyes and expressive smile, you can’t not like her. I haven’t seen her at her worst (I hear she gets pretty rough in SherryBaby. It’s next on my list), but I can’t wait to see her in the upcoming Batman movie. She’s replacing Katie Holmes as the Batman love interest. I’m thinking this might be the movie that finally exposes her and gets her in more mainstream movies. Hopefully, Hollywood will be watching and give her some of the roles that Renee Zellwegger keeps getting. No offense to Renee (who I’ve always found kind of annoying), but I don’t think she has Maggie G’s range. I keep imagining how I might have had a different opinion of Cold Mountain or even Cinderella Man (which I liked…but didn’t like Zellwegger in it) if Maggie were in them.

Anyway, if you haven’t seen any of the above movies (or Adaptation…which is really awesome and unique), go rent them. Most of them get nominated for Golden Globes or get independent film awards. She even recognizes that she looks for roles that are “somewhat transgressive” and wants to be in movies that will “move the world forward”. She says she “wants roles that challenge people to question where they are in life”. I don’t know about you, but I like that in an actor.

I’m thinking a little bit more of Maggie G will be good for the world of film. And given her introduction in one of this summer’s biggest blockbusters, I have to believe that we’ll all be seeing more of that wonderful, introspective acting. And more of that wonderful Maggie G smile. And that is definately a good thing.

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3 Responses to Maggie Gyllenhaal – Hollywood’s Best Kept Secret?

  1. heather says:

    I really love her too. She’s so elegant.

  2. mandy says:

    Ooh, Donnie Darko. Used to love that movie, though I can’t for the life of me remember why. That was one freaky bunny. I’ll have to watch it again if I ever get around to renting Southland Tales.

    I only got to watch a half hour of SherryBaby. Rick, who is not a big fan of “somewhat transgressive” films, thought that it was too realistic.

  3. Allison says:

    I liked her in Stranger than Fiction and The Secretary too. I also liked her because she named her daugther Ramona (the name of one of my favorite childhood fiction characters). That shouldn’t factor into my like of her, but it does.

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