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In praise of Emma Thompson

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Mark Kermode | 10:19 UK time, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

In a career that has enjoyed such variety as attending to Arnold Schwarzenegger's pregnancy in Junior, portraying "The Angel America" in the HBO version of Tony Kushner's Angels in America, and breaking hearts in Love Actually, Emma Thompson, it seems to me, has never disappointed. Lately she had become famous to a new generation both as star and writer of the movie Nanny McPhee and I for one am rather delighted there's a sequel on the way...

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  • Comment number 1.

    not a shabby writer either.

  • Comment number 2.

    The phrase 'National Treasure' is bandied around all over the place but if that doesn't apply to Ms Thompson then it applies to no one.

  • Comment number 3.

    Another perfect example of the 'Best Thing In An Average Film' is Stranger Than Fiction. I think it's Will Ferrell's best performance, Maggie Gyllenhaal really surprised me and I always find value in Dustin Hoffman - but the narration by Thompson just shines throughout the whole film and keeps me coming back for more every six months or so.
    She's brilliant and like another user said, a National Treasure.

  • Comment number 4.

    Personally I think ET has improved a lot since the industry has stopped trying to convince everyone she's a big name and stopped forcing her into that "likable British" face in the International market. Now that she has matured (in age and as an actress) she picks/wins better roles with more depth and shines within them. Even if they are small roles (I Am Legend, Harry Potter) she still seems to shine and that raises her profile.
    The (supposed) big profile and glamorous roles of the past like Junior and Dead Again were poor at best and to be honest really put me off her. With age comes depth it seems and although I'm still not a big fan I have to agree that she was excellent in Stranger Than Fiction.

  • Comment number 5.

    Love Actually? Really Dr K?

    Surely if you like to call Dead Again 'Dreadful Again' then you have to refer to Love Actually as 'S**t Actually'.

  • Comment number 6.

    An education is jammed full of near scene stealers, better than emma thompson though are Alfred Molina as the dad and Sally Hawkins' blink and you'll miss it performance as the (*spoiler) wife

  • Comment number 7.

    So a glimpse into the Dr K psyche, the 'Magic Roundabout' (and we ALL know what that was about!) at bedtime. Explains a lot.
    For me 'Remains of the Day' will always be the yardstick to compare all performances by ET. Coming from a 'Footlights' background it was perhaps inevitable that she would find her niche in period drama. And I suppose being married to Kenneth Branagh didn't help.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    Dear Dr. K,

    Is the good doctor doing that thing that all Brits do (particularly with footballers) and over-hype mediocre Brits in a given field because, let's face it, at the big award ceremonies we are really clutching at straws when it comes to actresses?

    We either re-reward Dames like Ms Mirren or have to undergo an awesome, unholy explosion of self-loving that we know she's rehearsed way too many times for her own good: Cate Winslet (who's Oscar winning role will be forgotten as nice and quickly as it came).

    We really are missing out on the great talent that exists in the UK but never seems to get used...

    The Brits need their own Jodie Foster, Meryl Streep and hopefully a Bette Davis for the 21th Century.

  • Comment number 10.

    No love for Dead Again, Dr K? It's a magnificently bonkers film.

  • Comment number 11.

    I certainly wouldn't call Emma Thompson over-hyped.

    As an earlier poster mentioned, anyone who's seen Remains of the Day can't have a single argument. The 'book scene' in particular is a classic tear-jerker for guys and girls alike.


    Apparently she likes a pint of Guinness too. Well done!

  • Comment number 12.

    She really is that good.

    So good that her performance in Wit totally destroyed me.
    Along with Dancer in the Dark, it is one of the films that although great, I can probably never bring myself to see again.
    It even made it difficult for me to watch her in anything else for a good while afterwards.

  • Comment number 13.

    I feel her voice performance in 'Treasure Planet', one of Disney's less-celebrated animated features, is also worth mentioning. She plays an oddly feline ship captain with an attitude at one moment charmingly cavalier and the next as suitably commanding as the role requires. It helps that she's given some great dialogue to work with, as well.

    "And doctor, again, with the greatest possible respect: zip your howling screamer."

  • Comment number 14.

    The first Nanny McPhee was a delight and un unexpected pleasure. There were some great performances from the kids too, eg the girl from Inkheart (a really underrated kids film) and the kid who was in Doctor Who Human Nature/Family of Blood.

    Great there is another McPhee film out. Hopefully it will be as enjoyable as the first.

  • Comment number 15.

    Not even Emma Thompson could turn "Love Abjectly" into a good film.

    You should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself.

  • Comment number 16.

    Mark, does your wife know about this?

  • Comment number 17.

    I do concede that she was great in Angels in America - although everyone was great in that!

  • Comment number 18.

    The first thing I remember ET in, other than The Young Ones episode 'Contest', was opposite Jeff Goldblum in The Tall Guy - That scene in the flat had quite an impact on the 11 year old me. I always had a bit of a soft spot for Dead Again as it kind of assisted in my discovery of Hollywood movies of the 1940's, and it was one of the first film twists I remember having a big impact on me.

    She popped up in a cameo in I Am Legend which I watched this afternoon, having completely forgotten about her little role as the scientist responsible for what happens.

  • Comment number 19.

    Yesterday, I switched on the television and saw Emma Thompson giving a happy and hyper-active Blue Peter presenter a "Master Class" in acting. If only we were all young, free and childrens presenters, maybe we'd all get a chance to learn from the screens greats!

  • Comment number 20.

    Going slightly off subject...

    I just cant bear for anyone to even mention Love Actually. Yes, Emma Thompson (and Alan Rickman) are certainly redeeming features. But to have to sit through the rest of the stupid, pandering and stereotypical nonsense that Love Actually spews forth is just a horrible thing for anyone to have to go through.

    Oh look; it's Hugh Grant! He's all nervous and bumbley. Gosh isn't that sweet and appealing. My, wont the Americans just soak up the way he's the Prime Minister yet still likes to dance around like someone's humiliating father because, gosh, well... he's Hugh Grant.

    Am I the only one who, as an englishman, finds it degrading (just like four weddings and a funeral and most of Notting Hill) to have to constantly endure this?

    But yes, Emma Thompson. She's great. Especially in The Remains Of The Day. And Junior.

  • Comment number 21.

    Once again I agree with everything you say Dr K. Emma Thompson (& Alan Rickman) are the only good things about Love Actually. Their performances really do lift that movie and make it bearable. It's a shame that the whole movie wasn't just about their relationship.
    I agree with your assessment of Last Chance Harvey too. On paper it sounds like your average slightly embarrasing Rom Com, but Emma Thompson is so convincing, so real, so believable and down to earth that she completely rescues this movie.
    She's a definite alrounder, bringing gravitas to any role. Put her in these, what would normally be below average movies, and she lifts them to another level. Put her opposite Tony Hopkins in Remains of the Day and she blasts it through the stratosphere! A truly great actress.
    "I did knock" is bandied around in my home all the time!

  • Comment number 22.

    I shook the hand of Kevin Costner today.He's cool..

  • Comment number 23.

    I liked her strop in Peter's Friends. Very realistic, I bet she's like that in real life...

  • Comment number 24.

    Well, it looks like I'm going to be the dischordant voice around here when I state that Love Actually is a BRILLIANT film!!! Totally enjoyable from beginning to end. I think ET is great in it and I ALWAYS have a sniffle when she is listening to Janis Joplin in the bedroom.

    I have rated Emma Thompson for many years and have enjoyed most of her work. I've recently been refreshing the brain cells by watching 'Tutti Frutti' and she really is super as Suzy Kettles. I thought Nanny McPhee 1 was a fabulous kids film and always watch it when it crops up on the tv. I was delighted to see that no 2 was being made and have stated that I want to see this one at the cinema.

    Ms T is one very talented, witty, charming lady and I look forward to seeing whatever she gives us next.

  • Comment number 25.

    I saw Emma Thompson in about 1985 in 'Me and My Girl' at the Leicester Haymarket, with Robert Lindsay as the male lead. She sang. She danced. She was fab. I understand Mark's obsession.

  • Comment number 26.

    Hey mark whats your opinion of 'at the movies' being cancelled, its surely THE great home of mainstream movie criticism (other than 1-3 fridays on 5live obviously)

  • Comment number 27.

    Yes, the bit with Janis Joplin was good. At least it would have been if indeed it had ever happened. Because it didn't. Instead what happened was this: SHE LISTENED TO JONI MITCHELL!

  • Comment number 28.

    Emma Thompson is fantastic.

  • Comment number 29.

    I wouldn't say that Love Actually is a bad film. I'd say it's 9 bad films rolled into one.

  • Comment number 30.

    One more vote for Love Actually from me. One of my guilty pleasures.

    And if we're calling out favourite Emme Thompson performances, how about Tutti Frutti?

    She is wonderful. In everything. And (it would appear, from interviews and writing) rather brilliant in real life.

  • Comment number 31.

    Oh dear. I admit her performance in Love Actually (and Alan Rickman's too, ACTUALLY) was the only thing about the film that didn't make me want to hurl myself through the screen, but that still leaves me a long way from "liking" it, and the film a long way from "magnificent". NOTHING makes up for Martine McCutcheon. NOTHINGNOTHINGNOTHING.

    (Also, Hugh Grant for Prime Minister?! Really?! Talk about Meg Ryan Is A Helicopter Pilot.)

  • Comment number 32.

    Couldn't agree more Dr Kermode. I have been a huge Emma Thompson fan for years now, and she is without a doubt my favourite actress. I am not a fan of Love Actually at all, but that scene with her crying alone whilst listening to Joni Mitchell is heart breaking. One of my great pleasures of the last few years has been to introduce Nanny McPhee to my young daughter, who like me, loves it. It was with great excitement that we had a family day out to the cinema last Saturday to see Nanny McPhee and the big bang, and we were not disappointed. In fact we loved it so much, we went back on Monday to see it again!

    I agree with what you said about it being emotional in the right way too. I cried absolute buckets at certain scenes and I am not ashamed to say so either! Incidentallly, I think you and I must have the same trigger points for weeping because I always cry when Meryl Streep sings "Slipping through my fingers" in Mamma Mia too! : )


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