It’s far too easy to misjudge actors from the roles we first become accustomed to seeing them in. For me, the first association I will always make when hearing the name Anne Hathaway will be the awkward, frizzy haired girl who turned into a glamazon princess in 2001’s The Princess Diaries. In fact all of the cutesy movies like the sequel to Diaries as well as Ella Enchanted and Nicholas Nickleby created such a solid thought of her as a servant of the teenyboppers that I still remember how jarring, and initially unconvincing, it was to see her wild and very topless she was playing the free-spirited wife to Jake Gyllenhaal’s closeted cowboy in 2005’s Brokeback Mountain. But since then she’s been moving onward and upward toward the A-list status she, now, always seemed meant to have, beginning with the starring roll in the cult fashionista film The Devil Wears Prada, picking up an Oscar nomination for playing a strung out bridesmaid in Rachel Getting Married, and arriving now in 2012 with two tremendous roles that every doubted she could pull off.
I have great faith in Hathaway as an actress but I have no qualms admitting that when I heard she was cast as cat-burglar Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman in Christopher Nolan’s final Batman film The Dark Knight Rises that I wasn’t convinced, deferring only to my faith in Nolan’s eye for brilliant casting choices (Katie Holmes was a fluke, and I’ve already forgiven him for it). Although I found the presentation of character a diversion from Nolan’s realistic approach to the superhero mythology (hair down and five-inch steel stilettos?), she brought cheekiness to the franchise that it had always been devoid of with its deeply serious tone. She was vibrant and powerful and provided a bit of comic relief without reducing the film’s reputation to trivial silliness, not to mention pulling off a more convincing and not hilariously distracting black catsuit unlike Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow in The Avengers.
Then of course there’s the incessantly buzzed about performance in Tom Hooper’s grand adaptation of Boublil and Schönberg’s famous musical Les Misérables. Most remember hearing Hathaway sing for the first time in 2011, playing Richard Nixon to Oscar host Hugh Jackman’s David Frost in a musical skit for the awards show that year. Hathaway had actually been singing long before that having even played Belle in a Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast. I don’t know though if anything could have been prepared for just how magnificent she would be taking on the role of destitute mother Fantine in Les Mis. The film itself, over the massive one-hundred-fifty-eight minutes, tends to stretch thin, especially for poor Russell Crowe (apparently he can’t do everything), but Hathaway, who only appears in the first quarter of the movie, leaves such an indelible impression that you can easily forgive the other shortfalls of the movie. Her character, thrown to the streets for being an unwed mother, selling her possessions then her hair and teeth to pay for her daughter in the care of a pair of horrid innkeepers, finally resorting to prostitution to get money for her child, sings the beautiful and desolating “I Dreamed a Dream” with such raw power and poignant fragility she’s like a dying flower in a wasteland – so sad a wondrous as to inspire tears from the most stoic. Susan Boyle has nothing on this tremendous performer who has officially solidified her status as a name of greatness among the elite of Hollywood actors. Its not even a guess to say she’ll win every major award she’s up for. Take a bow, Anne. You’re amazing and you deserve all that is coming your way.