Overrated actors

During this recent friendly exchange with filmsCine on her blog, https://thebigscine.wordpress.com/2016/09/08/rom-coms-of-the-1990s-notting-hill-1999/ (Check it out, she does good reviews and themes)
I once again offered my seemingly one-man opinion about the talents, or otherwise, of Julia Roberts. This led to us both start thinking about actors that I consider to be overrated, or just plain don’t care for. So, at the risk of alienating many blogging friends, or perhaps wishing to start a lively debate, here are some thoughts on that subject.

Julia Roberts has made a career out of having a huge smile, as far as I can see. I just don’t get the praise, and I don’t even find her that attractive. It is her dentist who deserves most of the credit, surely? “But she won the academy award for ‘Erin Brockovitch'”, I hear you cry. And she was in ‘Steel Magnolias’, ‘Mona Lisa Smile’, as well as ‘Mystic Pizza’. And who could resist her cuteness in ‘Pretty Woman’, or ‘Notting Hill’? Well me, obviously. Sorry, I just don’t get it. Or her. Maybe it’s the films? I don’t like a lot of them, that’s for sure, although I did enjoy ‘the Pelican Brief’. But not because she was in it. She has honestly never moved me, never convinced me, and I have never once believed in a single character that she portrayed on film. So shoot me. You know you want to.

Many actors make a good living playing themselves, whatever the part. They might be a detective, a romantic lead, or even have a role in a Shakespeare adaptation. But they still manage to just be them. Whatever wardrobe has dressed them in, however outlandish the disguise, it is the same old, ‘here we go again’. This list will feature a few of those.

Bill Nighy is a stalwart of British Cinema. He has been around for a long time, and starred in many excellent films. He has almost certainly been at his best in British drama, and historical ones at that. But can you recall the name of any character he has ever played? I can’t. That’s because he always just plays Bill Nighy. I really enjoyed the film ‘The Girl In The Cafe’. But once again, he played the same reserved, slightly stuttering, English upper-middle-class character he has been in almost every one of his films. At least all of those I have seen, or remember. It’s just lazy, isn’t it?

Hugh Grant is like a younger version of the same thing. Upper-class and English, floppy-haired and awkward. Has he ever been anyone else in a film, except Hugh Grant? Not for me, I can tell you. He has also been in films that I liked. ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’, ‘The Remains Of The Day’, and ‘White Mischief’, to name a few. But he was always the same, just an older or younger version of the usual English twit that he has played throughout his life. Maybe it’s not his fault that he gets offered identical roles in similar films. Or maybe he can only act one character. Hugh Grant.

American star Matthew McConaughey has also been in a lot of films that I enjoyed. I haven’t seen that many of his performances, but enough to know what to expect. Square-jawed, lean and often mean, he delivers the same moody presence whatever the role. Whether he is cast as a languid lawyer, (The Lincoln Lawyer) slow-talking meanie, (Killer Joe) or courageous naval officer, (U-571), we can guarantee a predictable performance. He might be a laid-back dude, romantic love interest, or a worthy protagonist, but we can be assured of one thing. He will still be good old Matthew. Playing yourself has worked very well for him. I suppose I should say “well done”, but I won’t bother.

An English actress, and one that is almost untouchable over here, is Emma Thompson. She is so much a part of the furniture in British acting circles, if we had a Thespian Royal Family, she would be the heir to the throne. She can act, of that I am sure. I have even admired her acting, not least in ‘Howard’s End’, and ‘The Remains Of The Day’. Most of the time however, she just plays the posh girl. The one who sometimes gets the man, and sometimes doesn’t. When she is in costume dramas, or classical adaptations, she plays the same part in her mind, and on screen, over and over again. Her voice never changes, her look rarely changes, and even in heavy make up as Nanny McPhee, it was just still the same Emma. And she does light comedy too. Well, she is in light comedy films, at least. Sorry, Emma. You can certainly act, but you are not as great as they (or you) think you are.

The last one for now. Thinking about these is making me depressed, because I have a feeling that I have just made myself an ‘outcast of the blogs’. But I couldn’t close without mentioning someone else that I just don’t get. Yes, he is very popular. Yes, his films are big box office, and yes, he has millions of fans. But he might be on my list as one of the least funny so-called funny men in history. I can honestly say that I have never watched a single film he was in that I liked. As a result, I have not seen that many, and don’t intend to. It doesn’t matter how great you tell me his is, I will never understand that, so will not be watching any more of his cringe-worthy attempts at comedy. Adam Sandler. I won’t bother to add any of the films as examples, that name is all I need to hear.

So, feel free to lambaste me in the comments, or perhaps even agree with me. If you like this sort of post, I will happily do some more of the same.

My list is long.

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65 thoughts on “Overrated actors

  1. I fully agree with you on Roberts, Pete. I watch her films pretty much because of who she might be casted with.. not because of her, like the Oceans movies. Pretty Woman.. ha.. now there’s a paradox for you. Hollywood sold us publically sexually prudish Americans that they could make a successful tear jerker about a blowjob-giving hooker. Just goes to show, it’s all about presentation (or how you package the item) that matters. I don’t find her attractive either. But then again, I don’t find Judi Denche attractive either but I enjoy her roles (she was great as “M”!).

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    1. Thanks, Doug. It doesn’t matter at all to me if an actress is attractive or not. (See my post about underrated actresses) It is just how much everyone raves about Julia being so beautiful all the time, and I just don’t see it.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  2. I don’t really see many movies, but I have to comment on Julia Roberts. I always found her face distractingly odd, with that great big mouth. Whenever we’ve seen her in a movie, I ask each and everyone in the room, “Do people really think she is attractive?” And then I wonder how she became a big star with two strikes against her, she can’t act and she has that strange face. I don’t get it either.

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  3. I love the The Girl In The Cafe, but it was the female lead who drew me into the story. The actor who took the part of the male lead just had to be passable, his role was to allow us to understand Gina and feel the pain that life had left at her door step.

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    1. You got that right, Charlie. A great performance from Kelly Macdonald. They had worked together before, in the TV drama ‘State Of Play’, but she easily took the laurels as Gina.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  4. Wow! look at your conversations here today. That’s what happens when you bring up a subjective, controversial list like this. I have always thought Julia was overrated. I would say yes about Matthew except he was different in ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ for which he won his Oscar. I am a fan of Emma T. but understand your disillusionment –kinda like Robert DeNiro, the choices he’s been making in the last 10 years. I thought she was very convincing in ‘Saving Mr. Banks’. I’ll not waste my breath talking about Adam S. other than to say he had comedic charm in the 90s but his films are so obnoxious now, I almost feel sorry for him. Your list could go on and on. What I will say, the superstars have some kind of charisma that supersedes acting. Why, I don’t know, I love Leo DiCaprio and have since ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?’ I’ve seen a sensitivity and range and my heart flutters when he’s on the screen. Weird! I know many would have him on your overrated list.

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    1. Leonardo is indeed destined for my next list, Cindy… (Other than for ‘This Boy’s Life’, and ‘Gilbert Grape’, when he was very good.) Glad you enjoyed the post. As always, I welcome and value your comments and input. As for Matthew; Oscar or not, does one exception count? Interesting to see what others think. Of course, Julia won an Oscar, but it didn’t change my mind about her.
      Best wishes as always, Pete.

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  5. I never used to be the biggest fan of Matthew McConaughey, but over the years, I think he has shown he is talented. I really like Julia Roberts, but totally respect your opinion Pete. You should do a post on underrated actors.

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    1. That might well happen. I already knew that you liked Julia. These things are all about different opinions and tastes. Nobody is really right or wrong. (Except me of course. I’m right…)
      Glad you also dislike Sandler too.
      Cheers mate, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, my friend I loved this post too… You shoot straight from the hip, as my grandfather use to say.. Calling a spade a spade was another saying of his. I can totally respect your views on these actors listed above and you’re correct in saying most deliver the same performance each and every time. Give me Meryl Streep anytime.. She can become what the role calls for every time…I would love to hear what you think of her…

    Take care, Laura

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    1. I’m not so sure you would, Laura. You might have to look out for her on another of these posts!
      They are somewhat outspoken, I agree. However, the intention is to provoke comment and debate, so that seems to have worked! (Streep has had some very good roles though)
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Interesting list. Adam Sandler I haven’t watched very often (he’s a bit too much for me, a bit like an early Jim Carrey). I don’t mind a lot of Julia Roberts movies, but I wouldn’t say she’s a good actress. Matthew McConaughey… it depends. I thought he was good in the Wolf of Wall Street (only a very brief appearance) and Dallas Buyers Club, but I know what you mean about him being him… Yes, I agree about Bill and Hugh Grant. Oh, and I absolutely agree with your comments about Mel Gibson. (Tom Hanks… I also prefer his earlier roles).
    I have to say that there are directors who seem very adept at getting incredible performances of actors that normally just seem to bumble along.
    Looking forward to more. πŸ™‚

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    1. This post has done what I hoped, and generated debate. As that is what blogging should seek to achieve, I think I will revisit this topic again. Many thanks for your own thoughts, Olga.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  8. What a fantastic idea for a post! Let me set your mind at ease: my post would start with Meryl Streep, so I don’t think you not liking Julia Roberts is that controversial (plus, there are people who would include in that list actors that I rank among the greatest, such as Kevin Spacey or Anthony Hopkins). As far as Roberts is concerned, I never understood the gushing over her acting abilities, never thought she was anything special and the only time I appreciated her as an actress was precisely in Closer (but, hey, Mike Nichols: everyone was great in that film). I would put Gwyneth Paltrow in that category as well (her Oscar dumbfounds me). The same for Matthew McConaughey (in all films). Hugh Grant was typecast very early on as the romantic lead, but at least he never pretended to be a great actor and he has been very honest about it, plus I liked him in Maurice and Four Weddings and a Funeral (*was he really in The Remains of the Day?!). Adam Sandler I cannot stand, and if what he does is comedy, then I don’t understand the meaning of the word. Bill Nighy is essentially a character actor, but I have always enjoyed his presence, there is a certain melancholy to him; plus I find him a very elegant presence (although I realize this probably does not count as an acting quality). On the other hand, other actors with a compelling presence, such as CiarΓ‘n Hinds, have not found a vehicle to showcase their talents. Emma Thompson is a different case: I liked most of her earlier films (Sense and Sensibility, with a horribly cast Hugh Grant by the way, is an all-time favorite), but I am bored by almost everything she has done in the last decade (or more). I also saw you were going to include Tom Hanks in an upcoming list: I was ambivalent towards him for many years, but I now actually consider him the modern equivalent of James Stewart. Sorry for the lengthy comment!

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    1. No need to apologise for the long comment, Nandia. It is always a joy to hear from you, and to read your opinions. Hanks and James Stewart is an interesting comparison, and I get it completely. I liked James Stewart a lot more as he got older, so perhaps the same will happen with Hanks.
      I agree with the talent of Spacey. He can act with nuance or bluster, but is always totally convincing.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m afraid I’ll have to agree with you on your list and I think therein lies the rub, a lot of actors no matter how good they are end up playing the same type of roles over and over again.

    If I may be controversial as well, I would add Maggie Smith to the list. No offence to the lady herself but half the time when I see her in a role be it Professor McGonagall or the Dowager Countess of Grantham, I still see Maggie Smith who seems to be acting on autopilot (probably not helped that Harry Potter and Downton Abbey aren’t particularly any good and the latter character is pretty much a pantomime dame). She was excellent in the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Sister Act and the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel but in many of her other films, she always playing the same prickly and difficult woman over and over again.

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    1. I can see what you mean about the dilemma of typecasting, and even the near-iconic Maggie Smith. To be honest, I only ever watched Downton Abbey for her. She delivered her acerbic lines to perfection. But that was as much about the script as anything else. I tend to like her though, so that helps.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agree. People generally did watch Downton Abbey because of her but for others it reached the point where not even Dame Maggie could persuade them to carry on watching. A lot of those acerbic lines are pretty much Fellowes trying to be big and clever and its testament to her ability that she could still make what is essentially a cliched and banal script worth watching.

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          1. I do have a review of the first two episodes – you can check it out as I made it spoiler free as much as possible or bookmark it to read later. I have a few niggles with it but there are things that were fairly done well.

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  10. HA! You put it out there, Pete! You are right: most Actors, male and female, will revert to a style that made them famous – in order to stay famous. They usually only change once that persona starts to wear thin…that said, they make great films, and yes, I always look at them and say, “Hi Julia! Hi Hugh! Hi Emma!”

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  11. Julia Roberts nailed it in Charlie’s War with Tom Hanks, brilliant film. Really worth watching. And I don’t recommend films as a rule but I think you’d appreciate it. Cant stand Sandler, the rest that you mention am ambivalent about.

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  12. Oh, the conversations that could ensue. I understand what you’re saying about Julia Roberts but I still find her very watchable. I am completely with you on Emma Thompson. I simply don’t understand that at all as she has no magnetism whatsoever. Her sister Sophie is far more interesting. I agree with all your others but I do find Bill Nighy charming and funny. Loathe Sandler and, though not mentioned here, hate Caine who plays himself over and over again without any discernible charisma or much talent or variation in his vocal delivery. I could go one!

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    1. We have agreed to differ about Mr Caine in the past, Sarah. I don’t dislike everyone who plays every film in the same old way, just some of them. Sometimes, I feel comfortable knowing what to expect, as with Caine and Ray Winstone. Nighy is indeed charming, but probably because he is charming when he is just being Bill Nighy too.
      Thanks for backing me up on Emma Thompson. I was out on a limb there!
      Best wishes, Pete. x

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  13. I’ve never seen an Adam Sandler or Matthew McConaughey film. I enjoy watching Emma Thompson in “Much Ado About Nothiing” and “Dead Again,” and I’ve seen a couple of other films of hers (including “Nanny McPhee” and “The Remains of the Day”), but I can’t judge her “sameness” based on the few I’ve watched. I don’t have a particular opinion of Julia Roberts. I’ve only seen her in three films: “Sleeping With the Enemy,” “Pretty Woman,” and “The Pelican Brief.” I’ve only seen Hugh Grant in three or four films, most notably (for me), his early turn in “The Lair of the White Worm.” My only familiarity with Bill NIghy comes courtesy of the “Underworld” films. There are very few good character actors out there (Gary Oldman, a true cinematic chameleon, comes to mind). Your “Overrated Actors” idea is an excellent one.

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  14. Wow – this is CONTROVERSIAL!! Thanks very much for mentioning my post, I’m glad it prompted some thoughts. I would have to say I really love some of the above names – Bill Nighy and Emma Thompson. But I see where you’re coming from very much when you talk about the roles they play. But it’s Emma Thompson, man!! She’s so great.

    Have you seen ‘Closer’ – that’s probably my favourite Julia Roberts role. It’s actually my favourite film. Her performance in it really is something else, maybe you’ll agree – or not πŸ˜€

    I’m not a fan of Adam Sandler.

    One I would add to this list would be Mel Gibson.

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    1. I did say it would be controversial, FC. (Actually, I said ‘Annoying’, I think.)

      I haven’t seen ‘Closer’. I deliberately didn’t watch it because Julia was in it!
      Your comment about Emma says it all really. Untouchable. Except by me…

      As for Mel Gibson, I liked his early roles. He was good opposite Piper Laurie in ‘Tim’ (1979) and ideally cast as the WW1 soldier in ‘Gallipoli’ (1981). Then came ‘Lethal Weapon’, and it was all downhill from there. Not content with that, he then gave British history a mauling, with ‘Braveheart’.
      Pleased to hear that you don’t like Sandler. It’s a small club.

      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Have a watch of Closer, by the late great Mike Nichols. I’d be intrigued to know your thoughts on it. It’s based on a play and it’s a really capturing screenplay.

        I think a lot of people find Sandler annoying … But then again I know some people that love him.

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