Tuesday, February 7, 2012

In Defense of Blake Lively

Blake Lively is gorgeous- no question about it. She's the kind of long-legged, perfectly proportioned blonde that comes along every couple of years that Hollywood seems to be drawn to and anoints with the title of "It". She stars on a hit television show ('Gossip Girl' just aired it's 100th episode last week). She's dated the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Ryan Reynolds. She's become a sort of fashion icon- famously stating that she doesn't use a stylist. And counts the likes of Anna Wintour (whom she sits next to in the front row of fashion shows), Karl Lagerfeld (who throws parties in her honor and makes her the face of campaigns), and Christian Louboutin (who named a shoe after her) as friends. So, why would someone who seems to have so much need to be defended? Because all she really wants is to be is taken seriously as an actress.

Not content with just being a pretty face, Blake has sought out great directors and difficult material to collaborate on. Writer/director, Rebecca Miller (daughter of playwright, Arthur Miller, and wife to Oscar winner, Daniel Day-Lewis), was the first to take a chance and cast Blake in her film, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee. Miller says she wasn't even aware of Blake's television career and felt that she was discovering the next great actress of her generation. She even compared her talent to Oscar winner, Jessica Lange. Blake next worked with actor/director Ben Affleck on The Town, in which she played a gritty character so far removed from what people were accustomed to seeing that audiences and critics started to wonder if there was more to her than originally suspected. This fall brings her work with celebrated director, Oliver Stone. The film, Savages, which takes place in a world of drugs and kidnapping is another far cry from her Park Avenue Princess role on television. It seems that she is determined to challenge herself and grow as an actress. 

But, it seems not everyone is buying it. Blake was set to star in the film, Side Effects, from Oscar-winning director, Steven Soderbergh. The character is a woman addicted to prescription drugs who fears the release of her husband from prison. She was set to start filming this spring, until word came last week that she was out. It turns out, the producers backed out when they found out Blake was involved in the project and only came back on board when she was replaced with Girl With the Dragon Tattoo star (and Best Actress Nominee), Rooney Mara. 

This would have been her first time as the lead in a film. It's hard to show that you are capable of more when someone won't even give you a chance. People are quick to dismiss Blake Lively as an actress, but we have yet to see her potential. So far she has risen to the task in supporting roles, but has yet to be able to carry the responsibility of a drama on her own. She could very easily take the easy way to stardom and appear in brainless rom-coms that ask nothing more of her than to be beautiful. But, she is actually seeking out work that will help her grow as an artist. Soderbergh must have seen something in her to cast her in the first place. Hopefully, she'll be able to showcase what she has to offer so we can accurately judge her abilities as an actress.

When you rise to fame on the success of a teenage soap opera, it can be hard to break out of that mold and be able to portray substantial, adult roles. Luckily Blake has a patron saint; someone who paved the way for what she's attempting. After all, ten years ago, three-time Academy Award nominee, Michelle Williams, was still just that blonde girl from 'Dawson's Creek'. 

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