Is Laura Linney a Good Bad Actress or a Bad Good Actress?

Laura Linney is, according to many people who know more than I do, supposedly a good actress, ((She’s been nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress as well as won many other acting awards.)) but it’s hard for me to see what all the fuss is about. When I see her I think she’s either just alright in a role or downright wrong for the part. It’s probably just me, but she seems to have this snooty arrogance to her, like if you met her at a party in New York or L.A. and you didn’t know about some oppressed Iranian poet or an obscure theatrical reference she mentions she might just stop talking with you and turn away. Like I said, maybe it’s just me, but I just don’t get her.

In her favor, she’s been in some fine movies but that doesn’t mean that she’s been fine in them. Several cases in point I’ll go over here – Dave, The Truman Show and Breach. Let’s break ’em down.

I loved and continue to love Dave. Why wouldn’t I love it, given that it was the first “date” I went on with my wife in college? In Dave, Kevin Kline is thrust into the role of President of the United States when the man (the real President) he was doubling for has a massive stroke. Linney plays the Oval Office secretary that the real President was having an affair with when he had the stroke and her “fawning” and “relief” when the “President” returns to office ring hollow. You can tell that Dave is a little freaked out by her reaction and with good reason – he has no idea who she is and she’s chomping at the scenery. Not a good choice for a rather important plot point.

I also love The Truman Show and still think that Jim Carrey has the makings of an actual living breathing actor in him, if he can just get away from mainstream fare like Fun with Dick and Jane or Bruce Almighty. But in The Truman Show, Linney once again rears her bad-actor head, this time in the role of Meryl, Carrey’s television wife. She’s over-the-top skittish and not likable at all, and maybe that’s the point, but it doesn’t make her sympathetic in any way when she breaks down while Carrey interrogates her in their kitchen about his situation. The only good that could have come from that scene would have been if Carrey had killed Meryl with that jar of Mococoa she was holding.

And what can you say about her in Breach? It wasn’t a big money maker, but it wasn’t a bad movie at all, far from it. It was better than I thought it would be, but Linney plays tough-as-nails FBI agent Kate Burroughs, and she wasn’t a very good choice for the part. Get someone else, Holly Hunter, Jodie Foster, just don’t pick Linney to talk tough to Ryan Phillippe. It’s flat and silly and we know that she’s doing the one thing she doesn’t want you to know she’s doing : acting. She was just wrong for the part.

In her favor though she’s done some wonderful (or at least, good) films also where she too has been wonderful. You Can Count on Me, where she plays big sister to the way-cool Mark Ruffalo, is excellent, and she is too. She’s also great in Love Actually as the pathetically lonely Sarah who pines away for Rodrigo Santoro. She hits all the right notes as she tries to woo Santoro and take care of her mentally imbalanced brother. And while it wasn’t (any) good, The Life of David Gale featured her as an anti-death penalty advocate and she was very good. It always seems that the parts she’s best in are where she’s a pathetic little creature trying to get by in the world or fight for a higher cause. Unfortunately, you don’t get too far in Hollywood playing the same character over and over. ((Or maybe you can. Case in point – Robin Williams.))

When Linney’s good and cast in the right character she’s great, but when she seems completely out of her league it’s embarrassing to watch. I just don’t “get” Laura Linney. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

7 Responses to Is Laura Linney a Good Bad Actress or a Bad Good Actress?
  1. Steve Reply

    I don’t care for Laura Linney’s acting. She comes across as a stuckup bitch in her interviews. I don’t find her good-looking either. She talks like a man too. Her voice is kinda masculine. She’s not very feminine. Is she a lesbian?

  2. Me Reply

    You are not the only one.

  3. Ally Reply

    I just watched her in Primal Fear, and I found her just to be down-right wrong. Her choices were quite strange and awkward and she spoke as if she was reading an audio-book half the time. I have no clue how she went to Juillard or how she’s been nominated for Oscars.

  4. Scottie Reply

    I agree. She is the quintessential “leading man” (which isn’t gender specific, despite the label) — like John Wayne or Harrison Ford or Clarke Gable, or Marlena Dietrich to name a few others — rather than a true actor. When you see her ( or any “leading man”) in a new role you instantly recall five other roles you have seen her in — because she plays essentially the same type of character every time. She is good at acting that one kind of character (with slight variations), but when the archetype she plays well doesn’t fit the character she is currently portraying, she appears grossly out of place — just like when the Duke playing Gengis Khan in “The Conqueror”. She’s good (as leading man actors go), but she lacks the range in her talent to be a true honest to goodness actor. For example, could anyone ever imagine her in Guys and Dolls playing a character like Adelaide?

  5. Zoolface Reply

    I suppose you either love her or hate her. I thought she was outstanding in JOHN ADAMS. I also liked her in THE SAVAGES. There is something real and not “cupcakey” about her. Unlike most actresses her age, she does not appear to have had plastic surgery, which I find refreshing. She looks like a natural woman to me.

    But you do have a point… At times her acting kind of reminds me of Jodie Foster…. That Juliard School, Ivy League-Elite cerebral kind of acting….

  6. JB Reply

    I can’t stand her “acting.” She always overacts and seems to be trying really, really hard so much that it always comes off as very fake.

  7. Tobias Funke Reply

    her performance in the new netflix series Ozark makes me want to jump off the 80th floor of a building. i think, as previously stated, her voice is a bit masculine..but in the end you can’t hate on someone that has established their self in the entertainment industry, i just don’t prefer her as an actress.

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