One of the more curious movie trends of late - either encouraging or distrubing, depending on how one's perspective - has been the terrific performances of some actresses in films that are fair-to-middling.
Case in point: Julia Roberts shrewdly thought-out bravura turn in "Larry Crowne," Tom Hanks' rather facile, TV-movie take on the current economic straits. Working with material that is nearly non-existent, Roberts (smiling above) effortlessly breathes some semblance of real life into a film determined to put a Happy Face on an unfortunate situation.
Running a close second to Roberts is Kate Hudson's full-fledged Movie-Star turn as a high maintenance good-time gal in Luke Greenfield's "Something Borrowed," a film which struggles to be something more, something deeper, than your usual by-the-numbers RomCom/Chick Flick, and that succeeds in its quest whenever Hudson (that's her below with Colin Egglesfield) is on camera. This is the kind vibrant great performance that's too ofter overlooked or hastily dismissed.
Two of our more refreshing young film actresses - Mila Kunis and Emma Stone - are currently also multi-tasking as rescue artists. Their respective films, Will Gluck's "Friends with Benefits" and Glenn Ficarra and John Requa's "Crazy, Stupid, Love," are agreeable but naggingly familiar RomComs - even though the former serves up some hip, rapid-fire dialogue and the latter adds a touch of Bromance for good measure. But Kunis and Stone (who actually manages to upstage a one-note Julianne Moore in her film) both give their movies a much-needed shot in the arm.
The singular Lucy Punch and Cameron Diaz are the game players who elevate Jake Kasdan's "Bad Teacher," while the affecting Jenna Fischer, long overdue for a starring movie role, is the only reason to see Michael J. Weithorn's well-intentioned downer, "A Little Help."
And, finally, there's Jennifer Connelly who soars, comedically, in a film that is way better than "fair-to-middling" - George Ratliff's wise and witty attack on organized religion, "Salvation Boulevard." As a religious fanatic on the verge of a serious meltdown, Connelly affects wildly avid facial expressions and hyper gestures that are topped by her maniacal line readings. She stands out in a cast that includes Pierce Brosnan (always a good sport), Greg Kinnear, Marisa Tomei, Ed Harris and Ciarán Hinds.