Pick Five #3 – Julia Roberts

Okay, so two and a half months per ‘Pick Five’ seems to be the going rate for updates, so as not to break with what you might call embryonic tradition, here is another of those top five lists that people regularly get quite a bit hot under the collar about. We’ve already been and done with Tom Cruise and Kevin Spacey so far, so it seemed only politically correct to suggest that the time was right for a spot of feminine brilliance. And where better to begin than with ‘that woman who can get a whole Wagon Wheel in her mouth without chewing it’, the one and only Julia Fiona Roberts.
As I’ve said in the past about other actors, these are my favourite films that Julia Roberts has been involved in. This doesn’t make them the best five films she’s been in by popular perception or mass hysteria, but the five best or most enjoyable performances I feel she has given out of a catalogue of possibly other more worthy entries. Don’t shoot me, I’m just a messenger. An albeit well informed, arrogant and almost always right one, but a messenger nonetheless. If you don’t agree, feel free to tell me so, but do so in the knowledge that you will probably get the same reaction from me as when telling a cow ‘not to poo in that part of the field’.
Anyway, that list…
5. Ocean’s Twelve – Tess Ocean (Dir, Steven Soderbergh)
Nope, not the first one. There was only so much room in Ocean’s Eleven and that didn’t include too much time for America’s favourite actress. Not surprising, given the ensemble cast. The character of Tess Ocean, somewhat cold and hard-hearted through the first of the franchise melted to a degree by its finale, leaving Soderbergh with the opportunity of employing Roberts’ skills as a magnetic and beautiful presence on screen, coupled with a wicked sense of humour and fun, poking holes in her own fame in a way that was fresh and unique at the time. At a time in her career when she was really beginning to truly relish these kinds of roles and working with Soderbergh yet again, meant that she could really let herself be free to express Tess as she saw fit.

4. Notting Hill – Anna Scott (Dir, Roger Michell)
Richard Curtis’ script for Notting Hill was seemingly designed for the bumbling idiot that was every character Hugh Grant ever played (and still does, on occasion) but seemed much less like a vehicle that Julia Roberts would be likely to embrace. Happily she did and she was subsequently perfect as the superstar Anna Scott, thrust into the glare of media attention that she neither courted nor was prepared for, despite her fame.

3. August: Osage County – Barbara Weston (Dir, John Wells)
Hard to stand out in this crowd, but Julia did just that, receiving both Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actress amongst a cast of powerhouse female performances, as Barbara, eldest daughter to the fiercely feisty Violet, played by Meryl Streep. The performance here from Roberts displays all of the talents and range she has amassed over her career thus far. Sometimes funny and occasionally cruel and twisted, this is Roberts at her best yet.

2. Erin Brockovich – Erin Brockovich (Dir, Steven Soderbergh)

In 2000, Julia Roberts was really hitting her stride, performance-wise, which was handy as it was going to take a performance of some standard to convince us any actress could pull of Susannah Grant’s single-mother with an attitude of nothing to lose and everything to say. Aided by a sparkling and witty script, Roberts clearly relished getting her teeth into this unique character’s skin and delivered a breathtaking job admired by both audiences and critics alike.

1. Pretty Woman – Vivian Ward (Dir, Garry Marshall)

Not her first role, but arguably her defining role and the performance that truly made her a Hollywood A-Lister, playing the streetwalker with a heart, Vivian Ward, as she meets billionaire Richard Gere when he’s trying to find his way to his hotel in a car that ‘runs like it’s on rails’. Goofy and beautiful, Roberts entranced audiences worldwide and her infectious joy as Vivian was impossible to ignore. A pauper to princess story that everyone can warm to.

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