Saturday, January 30, 2016

Top 5 Movie Guide: Rachel McAdams

Welcome! The Slackers are back together for another limited Top 5 Movie Guide series run, as well as to debut each of our Top 15 Films of 2015 lists next month. We'll be bringing you a collection of five total Top 5 Movie Guides (weekly Saturday lists as well as one Wednesday list squeezed in the middle), culminating in the release of our individual best-of-the-year lists the week before the Oscars. So stay tuned - there is plenty more to come!

We kick-off our 2016 series with Rachel McAdams, nominated for Best Supporting Actress this year for her work in "Spotlight". McAdams was born in Ontario, Canada, and had interest in film/theatre at a young age. As as teenager she attended a prestigious theatre camp, performing in various Shakespearean productions. She then went on to study at York University, where she graduated with a degree in Theatre Arts. After college, she went on to appear in a few different Canadian television shows, even winning a notable award for her role in 2003's "Slings and Arrows".


But it was her breakout film role in the following year's "Mean Girls" that brought her worldwide notoriety and a slew of Hollywood offers. She followed that performance up with roles in surprising hits "The Notebook" and "Wedding Crashers", both of which helped make McAdams a household name. Since then, she's continued her acting career with steady and quality work. She's appeared in at least 25 films to date and has worked with some of the best directors in the business (Woody Allen, Terrence Malick, Brian De Palma, Wes Craven (RIP), Antoine Fuqua, Cameron Crowe, and Guy Ritchie, just to name a few). Only now, with her first Oscar nomination for her role in "Spotlight", is she starting to get critical recognition for the work she's done.

Of the roles she's turned down or been considered for, there are a few notable ones. She was Jon Favreau's first choice to play Pepper Potts in 2008's "Iron Man", but turned down the role. She also turned down Anne Hathaway's roles in "The Devil Wears Prada" (2006) and "Get Smart" (2008). And while it's not clear if formal offers were ever made, she was considered for roles in 2005's "Fantastic Four" (Jessica Alba's character, Sue Storm) and 2006's "Casino Royale" (Eva Green's character, Vesper Lynd).

P.S. Before we jump in, I want to announce and thank our latest contributor, Elisabeth Clem (for those wondering, she is the wife of Derek Clem)! She will be participating in this series of Top 5 Movie Guides as well as unveiling her own Top 15 Films of 2015 in the coming month. We're very excited to have her on board and know she will make a great addition to the team - it's always nice when we can get a guest contributor to help class-up the joint a bit!

Alex Schopp
It's a good thing I like romantic comedies. If I didn't, I probably wouldn't be as big a Rachel McAdams fan. Her filmography is full of them! It's nice to see her starting to break free from the genre - her various roles in 2015 alone really showcased her range - because I really do think she's a good actress (and very pretty); I'm looking forward to more variety from her in the future. Side Note: Since there's so much in McAdams' filmography that I enjoy, to narrow this down a bit I omitted "Spotlight" from contention. Sometimes I will include them, but anytime it's a particularly tough list to construct, I'll remove the film that's the reason for the list. I feel like I can justify that in my mind.

     1. About Time (2013)
This feels like such a bold choice to have in the top spot, but I think it's one of the best romantic comedies at least in the last decade or so. It's such a cute story and McAdams' character is adorable (all of the characters in this film are). The film is easy to watch, and even though the basic plot is pretty standard to a lot of romantic comedies, the sci-fi element really helps put this one over the top.
     2. The Family Stone (2005)
This has become one of my favorite holiday films to watch around Christmas. I really love the chaos between all of the characters - even though we're not quite as animated, coming from a big family myself, I can relate to many of the happenings in this film. McAdams' character easily provides some of the best comedy in the film; I love her character. Plus how good is Sarah Jessica Parker looking here? I really relate to Luke Wilson's character a lot in this film, and her character is a big reason why - even though she's uptight, I kind of dig it.
     3. Mean Girls (2004)
Is this the most notable teen movie of our a generation? Even though it was right in the range, I've always felt like it was made for the group of kids coming up right after me (I've always felt wedged between "Can't Hardly Wait" and "Mean Girls" - I easily see these as depictions of the people directly before and after me, respectively, but I don't feel like anything truly captured my exact generation's high school experience). Still, it's very genuine and on-point and really dug itself into pop culture. Plus it's neat to see how many of the actresses went on to do really big things after their breakouts in this movie.
     4. Morning Glory (2010)
I'm not sure this film will be making many other lists today, but I really enjoyed watching it. The film is light, easy to watch, and even though (again) kind of generic in its theme, it just works. Not only are the characters for both McAdams and Harrison Ford fitting for their personalities, but the chemistry between the two really is strong - that's what makes this film. Plus, you already know I'm a sucker for stories about the news industry; that puts it over the top.
     5. The Vow (2012)
You could go with a lot of films in this spot (one of my favorites from 2011, "Midnight in Paris", is probably the better choice - I just didn't feel her role was a reason I liked that movie), but I went with a film that surprised me when I saw it. I first watched this back in my (and every guy's) Channing-Tatum-is-a-bad-actor-and-only-on-screen-for-the-ladies phase, and I feel this was the first film that made me maybe think otherwise (it came out about a month before "21 Jump Street"). The chemistry between McAdams and Tatum in the film was believable, and the story was actually rather sweet. If you're looking for a movie to watch with your partner, there are worse options than this.

Derek Clem

     1. Mean Girls (2004)
I was about to write how this is clearly her most dominant work in culture, but then I remembered "The Notebook" (2004), which is not on my list. In my experience, I see her character, Regina George, as an exaggerated cartoon of a nasty teenage archetype. Though I’m sure it’s quite possible that there are real Reginas out there, I am lucky enough to have never met one. Regardless, McAdams creates a memorable meanie that continues to stand the test of time in regards to teen/high school comedies.
     2. The Family Stone (2005)
I think her character can be quite cruel; and this next statement is superficial, but, I really dig her look in this movie.
     3. Morning Glory (2010)
There’s a bit of a Nora Ephron vibe going on. It’s not fully fleshed out, but that feeling is enough for me to give this movie some praise.
     4. Spotlight (2015)
This cracks my list less for her performance and more for the fact that it’s just a really solid film. Very even in pacing and tone and it delivers high caliber performances all around.
     5. The Hot Chick (2002)
So I guess this is more Rob Schneider’s take on how McAdams portrays the character Jessica. And thinking back on this movie, with all that McAdams has now accomplished, it’s just funny that she’s in it.

Nathan Hinds
I should start by saying I have not seen as much of her filmography as I should have. I have always enjoyed McAdams' films, but of the films I've seen, I can't say she's ever had a role where she's really stood out. I think she has the talent to be an elite actor but has played it safe for the most part.

     1. Mean Girls (2004)
There are few films that nail how brutal high school can be. You either get how accurately it portrays high school and respect it for its accuracy or you hate it because it is so spot-on. Kids are cruel, plain and simple. This film really articulates just how kids need to feel in control (I can relate to kids who at the age of 18 need to stake their claim as an adult). It's a great portrayal of skewed priorities and the negative effects of trying to place everyone else below you. Basically, it's a message about getting over yourself.
     2. Wedding Crashers (2005)
Of all the films on my list, I enjoy this one the most. This doesn't have a lot to do with McAdams, but the chemistry between Vaughn and Wilson is a lot of fun to watch. I think it's one of the better comedies to come out in the last 15 years.
     3. Spotlight (2015)
If I were ranking these films based on technical quality, this would be at the top of my list. It's such a good portrayal of the passion and persistence that goes into good journalism. Plus I like any film that shows how corrupt religion is. It's one big scam, but I could write a dissertation on that - maybe some other time.
     4. The Notebook (2004)
This is definitely McAdams' most notable role. While most Nicholas Sparks adaptions are far too sappy and cliche for my tastes, this one has actually worked over time. I can relate to watching someone you're sure you should be with go through the motions with another person. Regardless of the outcome - a positive one as far as this movie is concerned - it's a great example of the lengths people will go to to be with someone they love.
     5. Red Eye (2005)
This is where my attempts at somewhat-deep intellectual thought gets cut short. This makes the list because it's a fast paced, fun film.

Andy Schopp
While I've personally never run to the theater because of a McAdams role, I've always enjoyed watching her for two reasons: (1) I think she's darn cute. (2) She brings life to almost everything she's in. She's always unique and just a solid pleasure to watch; she's more than deserving of the recognition she's starting to see for it.

     1. About Time 2013)

This is quickly becoming one of my favorite movies. It's just a true delight!
     2. Midnight in Paris (2011)
This is a film and theme that I have some strong feelings towards. I can't entirely relate, but it does grab me enough to feel the concepts its portraying.
     3. Spotlight (2015)
I almost didn't include this as it's the source material for this list, but it's just too good to leave off. Great performances throughout.
     4. Every Thing Will Be Fine (2015)
I have a weak spot for McAdams; I also have one for James Franco doing a dramatic role. This one is great if you are willing to tap into a touch of sadness and blues (but in a good way).
     5. Mean Girls (2004)
This should be higher, I know that, but I couldn't bring myself to raise it above the others. Is it that comedy might be one of my least appreciated genres? Probably. As I've said time and time again, I just can't make myself care about comedy as much as I should.

Elisabeth Clem
Looking at Rachel McAdams' acting credits, I realize I haven't seen even close to half her movies. She always seems to play such mean and selfish characters, maybe I've subconsciously avoided her work? Regardless, I do think she's talented and beautiful and I do hope she's a nice person in real life.

     1. The Family Stone (2005)
Rachel’s character Amy is pretty mean in this movie, but I also feel like I understand her. I get why she’s annoyed and why she’s trying to be so protective of her family. They have a fun, wild dynamic, and someone is coming in and (seemingly) ruining that. But I love that we get to see her soften a little by the end of the film. She’s willing to change, and that’s admirable. Plus, her outfits are on point. Comfy and mismatched is where it’s at. I actually own the same pair of mukluks we see her wearing on Christmas morning.
     2. Midnight In Paris (2011)
What a horrible, horrible person Rachel plays in this film. She has no likable qualities and never redeems herself, but I feel like we probably all know someone a little (or a lot) like that. As terrible as her character is, she’s so snobby and ridiculous (especially when paired with Michael Sheen) that she turns out some of the best comedy in the film or me. And overall, I just love this movie. It’s cozy and sweet and it’s one that I can watch over and over and never tire of.
     3. The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)
The Time Traveler’s Wife is one of my favorite books, and this movie adaptation does not do it justice. It’s pretty terrible, actually. But I don’t think the lead actors are to blame for that. Rachel McAdams plays Clare admirably and heartbreakingly well, and I still think about her performance from time to time. She did her best with the material given to her, and I think her understanding of the Clare from the novel really shines through.
     4. Mean Girls (2004)
I’m not as familiar with "Mean Girls" as the majority of girls my age – I’ve only seen it a handful of times. But I do think Regina George is the funniest part of the movie (except for maybe Damian). Her lines are so quotable. And her redemption at the end is surprising and sweet.
     5. Spotlight (2015)
I can’t say this is on my list because of Rachel’s performance, but I think everyone in the cast just worked so well together, making it the solid film that it is. Though I did very much enjoy her character - Sacha’s interviews with the victims; those were probably the highlights of the film for me.

I always love when there's such a variety in these lists. In total, there were 13 different films featured above. That's pretty good for an actress that's really only been around for about a decade. 13 films from her short filmography someone above deemed one of her best. Sometimes that means there's a lack of true quality at the top, but sometimes it means consistent quality throughout. We'll leave it up to you to decide to which side that pendulum leans for this list.

Overall, of the 13 films represented, six of them showed up on multiple lists. Of those six, "Mean Girls" was the only film that appeared on all five of them (and grabbed the top spot on two). Not only is "Mean Girls" one of the more notable teen films of the last few decades, but it's also incredibly easy to watch. It makes sense as the aggregate top choice from McAdams' filmography. "Spotlight" appeared on all but one list, and got a disclaimer on the one it did not - again, it's no surprise that the first role she got an Oscar nomination for showed up so frequently. Otherwise, "The Family Stone" was the only film to appear on three lists, while "About Time", "Morning Glory", and "Midnight in Paris" were the only others to appear on multiple lists, each hitting two.

We had a lot of fun getting back into the list-making business; hopefully this post provided an enjoyable read and maybe even brought to light a few interesting titles that you might have otherwise missed.

As always, happy watching!