Ahead of new film Eileen, we look at the actor’s best roles, from fireworks and fisticuffs to sensuality and seduction
20. Becoming Jane (2007)
Not Anne Hathaway’s finest hour, this formulaic Austen biopic from Miramax has Hathaway in excessively fragrant and phoney mode as the gorgeous novelist drawn to James McAvoy’s passionate, penniless lawyer, while being wooed by Laurence Fox’s snooty toff. No prizes for guessing who she picks. Hathaway, in no particular order, smiles, trembles and pouts. Not to worry: her lapse in concentration was a one-off.
19. Song One (2014)
This New York-set romcom is admittedly short on laughs or sexual heat, yet contains plausibly fraught scenes between Hathaway (as Franny, a budding anthropologist with a comatose musician brother, Henry) and Mary Steenburgen (as their mother). This scratchy double act is awesome, as are a series of folk songs, mostly performed by Johnny Flynn and co-written by indie legend Jenny Lewis. The plot is more tuneless. Pre-coma Henry idolised a handsome, creatively blocked and some would say nauseatingly winsome British folkie played by Flynn. Get set for way too much warbling.
18. She Came to Me (2023)
Not everything about Rebecca Miller’s busy New York comedy works. Hathaway, though, is hypnotic as austerely elegant Patricia, an ex-Catholic therapist with OCD and snobbish tendencies, who happens to be the wife of a tortured musical genius (Peter Dinklage). Upon learning of her husband’s tryst with a tugboat owner (Marisa Tomei; fantastic, of course), Patricia lets out the most primal of screams and slowly strips in front of a patient, then decides to become a nun. Hathaway makes us sympathise, deeply, with a woman whose life has always revolved around neurotic, creative men.
17. Interstellar (2014)
Though Hathaway’s second collaboration with Christopher Nolan is immersively trippy, this sci-fi yarn doesn’t give her nearly as much room for manoeuvre as The Dark Knight Rises did. She and leading man Matthew McConaughey are Nasa astronauts in a dystopian future, and both are impressively non-glam (he looks like a famished reptile; she’s peaky as hell). But where he gets a meaty storyline, she doesn’t. Hathaway busts a gut trying to bring wary, rational, secretly lovelorn and emotional Dr Amelia Brand to life. On board a spacecraft to Saturn, Amelia tells the flirtatious Joseph, “You are literally wasting your breath.” It’s her only decent line.
16. Love & Other Drugs (2010)
A peculiar little project that reunites Hathaway with her Brokeback Mountain co-star, Jake Gyllenhaal. She is Maggie, slowly dying from Parkinson’s disease. He is Jamie, a barely ethical salesman, merrily pushing Zoloft and, later, Viagra. The love stuff feels samey. It’s when the actors are allowed to talk about sex and drugs that things get interesting. Look out, too, for the bits where she gets suddenly punchy.
15. Bride Wars (2009)
Critics hated this frothy comedy with a passion, but it’s worth seeing because 1) it’s fun, 2) Kristen Johnston is on fire and 3) it allows Hathaway and Chris Pratt to stage a real coup. Hathaway is meek New Jersey girl Emma, who has always allowed her “obnoxious” best friend, Liv (Kate Hudson), to call the shots. Yet as the women’s wedding plans go awry and Emma, for once, refuses to cede ground to Liv, we realise the person cramping Emma’s style might actually be her fiance, Fletcher (Pratt). Hathaway and Pratt make an ultra-attractive couple and we assume they’re right for each other because Pratt always plays nice guys. Guess what? They’re not.
14. Armageddon Time (2022)
Discussing his brazenly dour, 80s-set autobiographical drama, director James Gray said he was amazed Hathaway signed up for the part of anxiety-riddled Esther (a stand-in for his own mother). All but buried beneath owlish glasses, Hathaway is superb as Esther, who adores her excitable youngest son, Paul, but screams at him when she learns he has been misbehaving with a Black boy at school. Racism, antisemitism and Trump-family-endorsed bigotry: Gray covers a lot of ground and keeps us on side with salty New York language. There’s no resisting characters who metaphorically shake their fists at “lug nuts”.
13. Ella Enchanted (2004)
As well as showing off Hathaway’s singing prowess, this fantasy satire/romcom – about a Cinderella-ish young girl, cursed by an “obedience spell” – surrounds the star with mischievous British actors (Joanna Lumley, Minnie Driver, Lucy Punch). They’re all in cahoots with a script that is slyer than it seems. Thanks to forces beyond her control, Ella takes commands literally and does whatever she’s told; no wonder Hathaway’s heroine has become an icon for the autistic community. When the character finally finds her voice, it may bring a lump to your throat.
12. The Witches (2020)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Robert Zemeckis’s attempt to nail Roald Dahl’s story isn’t a patch on the Nicolas Roeg version. The CGI, in particular, is ugly and overused. But Hathaway is divine as Lilith, the immaculate Grand High Witch who descends with her coven on a New Orleans hotel, managed by Stanley Tucci’s Mr Stringer. It’s the late 60s and Alabama grandmother (Octavia Spencer, warm and cosy) takes her grandson to the ritzy hotel because she believes “witches only prey on the poor and overlooked”. Lilith is never as scary as the 1990 film’s villainess, who was played by Anjelica Huston. The extra ingredients Hathaway brings to the table are a catwalk strut and the kind of nostrils that seem designed for hoovering up lines of cocaine.
11. Ocean’s 8 (2018)
This Ocean’s 11 spin-off (technically, a sequel to Ocean’s Thirteen) allows Hathaway to have a ball as Daphne Kluger, a Hollywood film star determined to be more than just eye candy. Originally the victim of a Met Gala heist organised by Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock), the self-absorbed Daphne muscles her way into the operation. She wants to be a girl’s girl, and her desperate efforts to join the gang (which also includes Cate Blanchett’s debonair crim and Helena Bonham Carter’s cancelled fashion designer, Rose) are a hoot. The denouement of this caper sees Daphne stepping behind the camera. Hathaway has never tried her hand at directing. She should.
10. Dark Waters (2019)
In Todd Haynes’ more-topical-than-ever epic about tainted water supplies, Hathaway is Sarah, the polite, passionate, agonisingly tense wife of Rob (Mark Ruffalo), a corporate defence attorney who turns whistleblower after discovering chemical company DuPont is knowingly poisoning rivers and lakes in West Virginia. Sarah doesn’t do the legal heavy lifting, but this is her fight, too (as she says to Rob’s boss, “Please don’t talk to me like I’m the wife”). Sarah has much in common with Carol, the clenched character played by Julianne Moore in Haynes’ 1995 masterpiece, Safe (in a deliberate visual echo, both women are shown as keen gardeners). Hathaway’s quiet plea: wake up and smell the roses.
9. The Princess Diaries (2001)
This glossy adaptation of the Meg Cabot young adult bestseller launched Hathaway’s career, and as a showcase for her Julia Roberts-esque smile it can’t be faulted. San Franciscan teen Mia discovers she is European royalty and, as part of a makeover organised by her regal granny (Julie Andrews, on great form), she is handed a copy of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, then ushered into a room full of dresses, shoes and crown jewels. Mia whoops, “My own mall!” Not sure that’s quite what Woolf had in mind. Ah well, 18-year-old Hathaway manages to be adorable throughout, especially when talking to her cat or bouncing with frustration because her bestie, Lilly (Heather Matarazzo), doesn’t think monarchies are all that.
8. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Just a year after appearing in The Princess Diaries 2, Hathaway stunned audiences with an extended cameo as a vivacious rodeo rider who marries Jake Gyllenhaal’s gay cowboy, who lives a double life before his death. At the end of Ang Lee’s delicately devastating film, her husband’s former lover (Heath Ledger), telephones her. The camera stays with Hathaway as she whimperingly realises she is talking to the love of her husband’s life. Hathaway is completely in sync with the spare script, filling us in on the bitterness and pain this love-starved widow can’t express.
7. The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
In perhaps Hathaway’s best known film she plays Andy, the bright young thing who falls under the spell of despotic fashion-industry guru Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep, who is to die for). Though we are meant to be interested in Andy’s relationships with two cute, straight men, all the fireworks occur when Hathaway shares scenes with Streep and, especially Emily Blunt (impeccable as Miranda’s minion). Hathaway plays the character as a little girl lost (with big girl needs). Weird but lovely stuff.
6. Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Tim Burton’s take on the Lewis Carroll classic made heaps of money, but among Burton fans it tends to come in for a kicking. Which may explain why Hathaway’s splendiferous turn as Mirana the White Queen gets so little attention. Hathaway is sublime as the apparently lady-like pacifist who enchants and startles Alice (Mia Wasikowska). Mirana, though a vegan, groans with carnivorous delight as she concocts a potion involving “buttered fingers” (there’s a backstory that suggests the young Mirana was a greedy and mendacious sauce-pot which Hathaway weaves into her performance). Visually, she echoes all the sexy, semi-maternal characters Burton’s back catalogue has in spades, and thanks to Hathaway, the wayward White Queen is in a class of her own.
5. Eileen (2023)
William Oldroyd’s leftfield noir casts Hathaway as Rebecca, the sensual and poised new psychologist at a juvenile detention centre in 1960s Massachusetts, who catches the eye of browbeaten and restless young secretary, Eileen (Thomasin McKenzie). Hathaway is wonderful in the film’s first half, purring compliments in Eileen’s ear and treating all the grown men she meets like palookas (as with a surprising number of the iconic characters played by Hathaway, Rebecca is handy with her fists). Things get even better, though, in a grim second half which informs the audience that what Hathaway appears to enjoy most is trying something new.
4. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
As Catwoman/Selina Kyle in Christopher Nolan’s third and record-breakingly successful Batman movie, Hathaway somehow manages to equal Michelle Pfeiffer’s wildly sexy performance in Batman Returns. As well as being seductive, savage, gleeful and politically astute, Hathaway’s Selina is comfortable with other women (she has delightful chemistry with Juno Temple’s vulnerable urchin) and is always the wittiest person in the room. Much has been said about the “oops” she delivers when told by Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne that she’s just cracked an uncrackable safe. If you’ve not seen the film, you may be wondering how good an “oops” can possibly be. Watch and learn.
3. Les Misérables (2012)
It’s time to talk about “Hathahate”, the (at times) widespread conviction that the actor, for all her beauty and talent, is somehow cringeworthy. Her work in Tom Hooper’s musical won her a best supporting actress Oscar and maybe her breathy acceptance speech was a bit much. Still, as working-class single mum Fantine, she is blazingly sincere. Weird plummy accent aside, Hathaway ensures the character is fragile and furious. Her key scene, of course, is a one-take shot in which Hathaway sings/yells I Dreamed a Dream, hitting all the right notes as poverty rips her apart.
2. Colossal (2016)
In Nacho Vigalondo’s ingenious sci-fi meets mumblecore mashup, Hathaway is Gloria, a broke and scuzzily compulsive boozer with hair like Cousin Itt. Forced to hole up in the New Hampshire town where she grew up, Gloria discovers she and her childhood buddy, super-helpful bar owner Oscar (Jason Sudeikis, never better), have a bizarre connection with a kaiju monster running amok in Seoul. Hathaway and Sudeikis handle every twist with grace, making the most of a script that recognises how easy it is to kick down, throw your weight around and generally be monstrous if you have white skin and live in the west. At the time of its release, Colossal was mostly dismissed as wacky. Now it looks more fleet-footed than ever.
1. Rachel Getting Married (2008)
Jonathan Demme’s critically praised but underseen wedding drama is harrowing, joyful and allows Hathaway (as well as Debra Winger, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin and a humble dishwasher) to throw us for a loop. Hathaway’s Kym, taking a break from rehab to attend her sister’s big day, is the spiky thorn in her family’s side. Highlights include Kym’s excruciatingly toxic toast to Rachel and the moment where Rachel shares a piece of good news and Kym stamps her foot and wails: “That is so unfair!” How does Hathaway make us care for this spoilt brat? Her performance feels like a miracle. Kym calls herself “Shiva the destroyer”: when it comes to dissecting dysfunction, Hathaway is up there with the gods.
Source: The Guardian