Sunday, September 4, 2011

Emma Stone: Rising Star

Emma Stone is one of the most interesting cases of instant stardom in Hollywood in recent memory. Just four years ago, she was in her first movie. Now, she may be the most bankable young star out there. How did we get to this point? Where did her crazy popularity come from? Yeah, I am not sure either. I have been trying to figure that out.

In 2007, after doing just 12 television episodes as an actor, Emma Stone got her break by getting cast as one of the supporting females in Superbad. From the first time I saw her on screen, I knew there was something different about her. She had these huge, beautiful eyes and her voice had a raspiness to it that made her sound different than anyone else on screen. I had no idea, though, that in four years that she would be a big star. I assumed she would become one of the underused, underrated supporting comedy actresses, adding to the list that includes the likes of Leslie Mann, Kristen Wiig, Jenna Fischer, and Elizabeth Banks.

In 2008 and 2009, Ms. Stone started to get a few more roles. She had small parts in The Rocker, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, The House Bunny, and Paper Man. She was starting to become more of a familiar face, but still to everyone she was just “Jules from Superbad”. Later in ’09 she got one of the female leads in the surprise hit Zombieland. This movie is where she really came into her own. She played a character that was not quite like what we had seen her as before, and she looked smoking hot. As shallow as it sounds, one of the requirements for an actress to really be taken seriously as a big star, they need to be eye candy. I was not sure that she could have that quality until this movie. It wasn’t until after this that I finally cared enough to learn her name.

Now, obviously Emma Stone’s star-making role was Easy A. At no point did I think the movie would be good, until I started watching it. It was such a fresh movie, and I wasn’t really sure why. It was a fairly clich├ęd script with some good actors and some annoying characters. But it was Stone as the main character that gave the movie its heart and appeal. The way she appears on screen in all of her movies is so grounded and real. You cannot really take your eyes off her. There is something in those eyes, something in that voice that intrigues us all. Her Golden Globe nomination was well-deserved. She probably should have won. I would almost compare her acclaim, appeal, and impact of this role on her career to Terrence Howard’s part in Hustle & Flow.

After some voice work, we get to 2011, a monster year for Ms. Stone. We start out with Friends with Benefits, which is only a cameo, but isn’t the fact that she has a cameo proof that she has arrived? It is not like it is just a bit part, it is sort of crucial, with the male parallel character being played by Andy Samberg. Later in the summer came Crazy, Stupid, Love, which is another really strong character for her. She played basically the one character that everyone can relate to in the film, and brought an undeniable amount of heart to it.

Finally, we have the current megahit The Help. In that brilliant ensemble cast, it is Emma Stone that got the lead role. The film is such a strange case in the industry right now. It has won the box office for the third straight weekend. It had a fairly corny, lame trailer, so I am not exactly sure how it shot onto the scene so rapidly. The movie is pretty good, but very slight and unchallenging. How is this movie so successful and widely appealing? The only answer I can come up with is Emma Stone. She is to that level already. Everyone goes to see this movie: young, old, guys, girls, black, white… It does not matter. It isn’t one of the new faces Jessica Chastain or Octavia Spencer. It isn’t the bit part specialist Viola Davis. It may be the subject matter in some circles, but it can’t be for all of them. It is the director’s second film, so it can’t be that. All I can think of is that Emma Stone is getting the people in the seats. Other than some glowing reviews (and let’s be honest, that has no bearing on box office success), Ms. Stone is the main reason why I was intrigued by the movie. It is crazy to think that a girl can be planted on the scene one year, then four years and one leading role later she can simply appear and make her film into $100 million hit in a few weeks. The movie is not a blockbuster and it is not a normal August release. It is a November-type release, and one that under normal circumstances would not have gotten too far off the ground. Some people may differ with me on this, but that is exactly how I view this phenomenon.

So, what is next for The Help and Ms. Stone? I view The Help as being this year’s The Blind Side. If there were 10 spots at the Oscars still, it would be a lock for a nomination. Now, it is less of a sure-thing, but still very possible. Recently, the Oscars have been focusing on nominating more films for, about, and/or by women, so it will certainly get its share of votes. They cannot ignore that box office number either, which will most likely pass $200 million by the time its theatrical run is done. Viola Davis will be nominated, and I would put Stone right there in the running for a Best Actress nomination. The Golden Globe nod is almost assured, but the Oscar is really possible.

When I think of Emma Stone’s rising star and how rapidly it got there, I can’t think of any other comparison than Julia Roberts. Within three years of her acting career starting, she had already been named Hollywood’s sweetheart and gotten two Oscar nominations. Ms. Stone has a similarly pretty face and is becoming the female movie-goer’s next favorite star. She is incredibly likable and very down-to-earth. I can totally see her being one of this generation’s top actresses in 5-10 years. And if people still do not know who she is, I guarantee that they will after her appearance as the female lead in the new Spider-Man flick next year.

So, does anyone agree? What do you like most about Emma Stone and/or The Help? Can she be as big of a star as I indicated?

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