Top Performances is a recurring feature in which we definitively handpick the very best performances from an iconic actor or actress. This article was originally published in 2015.
We meet again, Miss Moore.
Congratulations are in order for Julianne Moore. On Sunday night, she won a well-deserved, and long-hoped-for Oscar for Still Alice. She brought infinite grace, humanity, and incredibly affable qualities to a person stuck in a dire situation, and Moore walked away from the movie with Best Actress at the Oscars, for what might be remembered as her seminal role — not to mention one of the surest bets in recent Oscar history.
But is it Moore’s best?
Moore’s had an exhaustively diverse career, with one uniting quality: She’s really, really good in everything she’s in, and everybody likes her. So, do we dare attempt to rank her works and offer up a top 10? Totally. Keep in mind, she’s so talented and casual, you can’t blame her when she’s taking pratfalls in stuff like Evolution. Or forced to feign interest in Nic Cage in Next. Or in Carrie 2013. She’s still terrific in her flops, so imagine our stress ranking her classics when there are so many.
So, keeping that in mind, while some great films didn’t quite make the cut (The Kids Are All Right, Game Change, Short Cuts, Children of Men), we chose the movies that feature what we think is her truly best and most iconic work. We only have so much room for Moore.
— Blake Goble
10. Laura Brown, The Hours (2002)
Julianne Moore’s performance in The Hours might not be her most fulfilling work, but as one of her double nominations in 2002, it offers more than a peek at her ability to carry the weight of a layered and complex character. The film portrays the stories of three women spanning three generations, connected by a struggle and desire to understand the aspects of life that make it worth living, linked furthermore by the reflections read in Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.
Moore plays Laura Brown, a pregnant 1950’s housewife with a young son who seems to know too much. Laura acts in her day-to-day life. She feigns happiness. Pretends this is the life that she wants. She has a doting husband whom she can’t truly love, due in no small part to the questions of her own sexual identity. Moore plays her with a slight coldness, measured by a growing distance that seems to build with her faltering ability to stay within this life, a life she equates to death. It’s an inner turmoil that she wears in her eyes when she thinks no one is watching.
Moore’s Moment: This scene in particular feels like the crux of it all. It takes place after a crucial decision is made, and as she hides away in the bathroom, we experience her disparate worlds — the life of lies reinforced in the words to her husband and her own dismal truth held back through tears. — Rebecca Bulnes