Dear Emily Blunt

Art & Culture

Dear Emily Blunt,

A few weeks ago, I would have been writing a letter singing your praises, but two recent films have led me to have Doubts.
The first film I saw (at Toronto) was called Arthur Newman, in which you star alongside Colin Firth. A surefire winner, you might think, but you were wrong. Just as the film is wrong from the opening seconds to the closing credits. Wrong, wrong, wrong. And awful to go with it. Then I saw Looper which critics are drooling over. Once again you play an American character, and once again, as in Arthur Newman, you are not plausible. My concern is that by virtue of having become flavour of the month, you are dissipating the very essence of what has so far made you interesting and original.
Rewind to 2004, when Bath Film Festival showed a wonderful film called My Summer Of Love. You played Fiona, an upper middle class girl playing at being in love with Natalie Press from the wrong side of the tracks. You had the looks, the manner, the lethal charm and the insidious indifference to other people's feelings down to a T. A couple of years later, and your world expanded when you had a key supporting role in The Devil Wears Prada. OK, so Meryl Streep stole the show and Anne Hathaway got top billing, but you did well for yourself as a whinging Brit who is upstaged by the plucky Yank. Your first effort at an American accent – The Jane Austen Book Club – was one of those too-many-actors-in-a-movie flops, but you did well for yourself in a small role in Charlie Wilson's War, alongside Hanks and Hoffman (PS Hofffman, that is).
Then along came Young Victoria with you in the title role. I suspect that Vicky was not quite that hot and pouty, but the point the film made was that she was once a sexy beast, despite becoming old and short and stout and repressed in later life. The film wasn't a huge hit, but it put your name effectively on the map. That was 3 years ago, and what have you done for me lately? The evidence, to my astonishment, is unimpressive. Here they all are, one after another: Wild Target, The Wolfman, Gulliver's Travels, Gnomeo & Juliet (voice only), The Adjustment Bureau, Salmon Fishing In The Yemen, Your Sister's Sister, The Muppets, The Five Year Engagement and the 2 films mentioned above. Your next film is a sci fi big budget piece of fluff with Tom Cruise. The question I have to ask myself is – What Was I Thinking?
There are 9 films in that list, only one of which I would willingly see again – Your Sister's Sister – and even that would need a couple more years. As for the rest, they range from the idiotic to the banal. Wild Target is an absurdly misjudged British comedy with Bill Nighy as a hitman (whose barmy idea was that?) and you as a kooky conwoman, while assorted other actors trying not to look embarassed. The next two were, presumably, attempts by your agent to break the American market. But appearing in a lousy remake of a 1930s horror classic and a cheesy Jack Black vehicle which makes a mockery of a great political satire (and both films were flops) is not the way to go about it.
We'll ignore the Elton John-themed cartoon, and move on to the next US-based movie, The Adjustment Bureau. It should have been good, and you and Matt Damon had a certain je ne sais quoi, but the running time for this film seemed to have been misinterpreted as the amount of time you were supposed to be running, and it ran out of steam. Now I know that a lot of people liked Salmon Fishing At The Exotic Marigold Hotel (sorry, those 2 films seem interchangeable, aimed as they were at the G spot of middle brow, middle aged, middle class England) but try telling me that playing sexy English totty is a) a stretch or b) very interesting. And Ewan McGregor, like nearly all the men in your life in movies, is considerably older than you.
As I said before, Your Sister's Sister has a certain indie charm, as well as the delightful Rosemarie deWitt, and The Muppets was strictly a cameo appearance, but The Five Year Engagement sees another romantic mismatch with the large, podgy and not terribly funny Jason Segel as a man/boy, and frankly it was not a film that was worth your while making, any more than Looper or Arthur Newman were.
And so we return to the central issue – what was I thinking? Was I briefly deluded by your charms into thinking you were a good actress, when in fact you're just another disposable item, less Kate Winslet and more Kate Beckinsale? Or is there a really good actress in there whose talent is being squashed by the demands of a greedy agent and a hunger for a Hollywood career. I can't see you lasting long by playing a series of interchangeable American women who are a) fake tough or b) fake wacky. You're not 30 yet, but surely you don't need telling that the sausage-making machine based in L.A. spits out not-as-young-as-they-used-to-be actresses on a daily basis. If you want a career that will last, you need to find some decent films, preferably ones which play to your strengths – if you know what those are.

Phil Raby

Front Row Films

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