During the past few years, Amy Adams has had an interesting career turnaround. When she came on the scene with her Academy-nominated supporting performance in Junebug, Adams played the role of the “perky, sweet girl,” and seemed in some ways typecast with a variety of similar roles from the singing and dancing Princess Giselle in Disney’s Enchanted to the neurotic, whiny Julie Powell mastering Julia Child’s “The Art of Cooking” in Julie & Julia and as a sweet, mouse-like Sister James in Doubt. She’s been nominated four times in the Best Supporting Actress category, yet has never won. The perpetual bridesmaid, Adams is a gifted actress, yet doesn’t seem to get many opportunities to play the leading lady.
In the last few years, though, under the stellar direction of Paul Thomas Anderson and David O. Russell, Adams has broken away from these “perky, nice girls,” and played against type in The Master as the Lady Macbeth-esque Peggy Dodd and as the supportive girlfriend of Mark Wahlberg aka “MTV gurl” in The Fighter. In my opinion, her real breakthrough performance has been this past year as the duplicitous, sensual con artist Sydney Prosser opposite Christian Bale in American Hustle.
Adams has exhibited a real range in this role to take her from supporting player to leading lady. Using the pseudonym Lady Edith Greensly, Adams slips in and out of an English accent and almost seems to be constantly forgetting who she is. With a penchant for Duke Ellington, Adams’s Sydney is passionate, possessive, and in charge, and while Jennifer Lawrence’s kooky, crazy Rosalyn may get the most laughs and the flashiest entrances, I couldn’t take my eyes off Adams and her interpretation. She owns the character from the plunging neckline ’70s-era gowns to the large curly Diana Ross hair, and knows that this woman needs to constantly reinvent herself all while juggling the affections of her partner Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and the FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper).
Adams has been nominated for a Golden Globe and a Critics’ Choice Award in the comedy categories, yet was snubbed a SAG nomination for this role. Will she be able to make it into one of the already almost locked spots for Best Actress at the Oscars opposite Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench, Sandra Bullock, Emma Thompson, and… Meryl Streep? This isn’t her year to win the award (that goes to Blanchett), but I would love if Adams finally got a nomination as a leading actress. Like Sydney, Adams is reinventing herself as an actress and we as the audience can’t take our eyes off her.