IMHO, Charlize Theron deserves waaay more credit for the badass and hugely talented actress she is. Never mind the fact that she’s absolutely stunning and has over 50 credits to her name ranging from drama and comedy to adrenaline-pumping action, she has also provided us with a number of exemplary female role models over the years (well, when she’s not playing a villain/serial killer).
There have been some stinkers over the years, yes, which were not down to her might I add, but down to the fact that the movies themselves – Hancock, Prometheus and The Fate of the Furious come to mind – sucked. So we’re looking at five core performances from her career and how they contribute to her status as one of the most important actresses of our time.
Our starting point has to be Theron’s Oscar-winning turn in Patty Jenkins’ (that’s right, the director of Wonder Woman) Monster. The movie is inspired by the life of Aileen Wuornos, a prostitute who runs off with her lover, played by Christina Ricci, and through a number of unfortunate circumstances, comes to be a serial killer.
The movie did receive criticism at the time from the families of Wuornos’ victims but there’s no point in engaging in that debate here. Rather, you have to appreciate the fact that Jenkins wanted to portray how a desperate woman under the most difficult challenges turned to murder. Theron got much praise for her physical transformation but to become Wuornos also required a psychological transformation. She truly got into the mindset of this difficult character, effectively conveying her desperate descent and steely fight to the very last breath.
North Country (2005)
Theron earned her second Oscar nomination for her role in North Country, a film which is one of her lesser known in spite of having big names in the cast like Sean Bean, Frances McDormand, Jeremy Renner, Woody Harrelson and Michelle Monaghan. Similar to Monster, the film was bogged down by its biographical origins in that it came to be a fictionised account of the first major successful sexual harassment case in the United States after Lois Jenson, who the film is based on, declined to sell the rights to her story or be the film's consultant.
It remains a pivotal role in Theron’s career and seems timely now more than ever following Taylor Swift’s recent win in the ‘groping’ assault case. Theron plays the first in a group of women miners who decides to take a stand against the assault and sexual harassment they are forced to endure regularly from their male co-workers. She brings a stunning vulnerability to the role as well as an admirable determination and ferocious desire for justice for her and her female colleagues.
Young Adult (2011)
This very different role of Theron’s came from the same director-writer team as Juno. Theron shows her talent for comedy in the likes of Arrested Development and A Million Ways to Die in the West but the black humour she evoked through her character in Young Adult was something entirely different. She plays a ghost writer for young adult novels who in her youth was the popular girl with the world at her feet. Now her high school boyfriend is married and having a baby but she’s determined to win him back.
It’s one of those classic ‘returning to your hometown where nothing and yet everything has changed’ narratives and Theron is able to majestically convey her character’s narcissism, as well as naïve, desperate demeanour. Moreover, a last-minute, totally shocking revelation involving her character gives her increased depth and sympathy, while her decisions in the finale are admirable.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
There can never be enough praise for how frickin’ awesome Charlize Theron is in Mad Max: Fury Road. Furiosa is an icon and no one could have brought her to life the way Theron did. In case you don’t remember, the woman single-handedly (literally, given she had one arm) started a rebellion against a dictator by freeing and running away with his five wives, who solely existed for his breeding pleasures. Furiosa proceeded to conquer the Citadel alongside a group of fierce ladies, and Max.
In fact the film may be called Mad Max but anyone who has watched the film knows that this story is about Furiosa’s quest for, in her own words, ‘redemption.’ She is full of fire and fight as well as bright and hopeful. She is the heart and soul of the film, but also delivers on hard-core, badass, kickass action in a way that would make Sarah Connor proud.
Atomic Blonde (2017)
So how does Charlize Theron’s latest movie compare? While no means the culmination or finale to the actress’s illustrious career (it really can’t be – it’s not good enough), she is the best thing about the impressionable albeit flawed film. The movie’s director David Leitch was co-director on Keanu Reeves starrer John Wick and in spite of comparisons, it can’t be emphasised enough that Theron is so much more than just a female Wick here.
Theron plays top MI6 spy Lorraine Broughton whose actions and motivations remain enigmatic throughout the film. The camera adoringly photographs her whether she’s making an entrance walking into a club in stunning attire, or beating the living daylights out of bad guys. When she’s in action, the actress is really a wonder to behold. Dialogue-wise, she says little, conveying her character through the smallest of gestures and looks, and in that way, she reminds you of other iconic actresses who are so effortless in their roles, who make the movie shine just by being on the screen. She has become iconic, and the future of film is bright so long as she gets the roles she deserves.