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Heroes of filmcritic.com: Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet. Every male I know wants her and many women would like to switch places with her. Why? Because not only is she a talented actress, she is beautiful without succumbing to model measurements, brainy, and speaks with an English accent.

Okay, so Titanic was a horrible movie. But you can’t blame a girl for wanting a paycheck and establishing herself as a household name after taking films like Jude (1996), which may have been a powerful movie but was much ignored. And her role in the sinking ship was fairly strong after all, calling on her to rebel against custom, all for love. She at least gave the inane dialogue some weight, which the rest of the cast failed to do.

After the stardom explosion of Titanic she reportedly turned down roles in such blockbusters as Shakespeare in Love and Anna and the King. She went from the spectacle to a small movie, Hideous Kinky (1998), which was indeed hideous but still a commendable performance as a single mother adventuring through Morocco. How many actresses can get away with switching from a success to a bomb and still keep on ticking? No matter how horrible the movie, or how recognized the material, Winslet always brings a personal shine to her character that demands respect.

This is a woman who, when facing negative press about her weight gain post-Titanic, didn’t go on crash diets to please anyone. She doesn’t feel the need to satisfy the stereotypical anorexic pattern subscribed to women trying to make a living in front of the camera. She is who she is and continues to take on challenging roles. The Hollywood crapshoot doesn’t touch her. In every interview or feature story she comes across as smart, down-to-earth, and personable. There isn’t the slightest hint of the high-maintenance, prima donna syndrome assumed by many in the spotlight.

It all started with Heavenly Creatures (1994) in which she co-starred as an obsessive adolescent murderess. The film was almost ignored when released in theaters but has since garnered respect as a cult favorite. With undertones of lesbianism and a fresh look at emotional turmoil, it is a rare in its ability to please a varied audience. She had been in three television programs before that, but Heavenly Creatures put her on the map.

She’s done classics like Shakespeare (Hamlet, 1996) and Austen (Sense and Sensibility, 1995), playing characters already established in general public with a personal flair. Her Ophelia was a perfect balance of neurosis and nerve. As Marianne Dashwood, her vigor was so engaging that it’s understandable how she stood out among a cattle call of hundreds of women to earn the role.

Winslet has lately moved on to more fanciful tales like Holy Smoke (1999) and Quills (2000). In the former she fights off Harvey Keitel as he attempts to recondition her out of an Indian cult. One of the ultimate achievements of this film is that Winslet appears completely naked in it in such a way that leaves one more in horrific awe than sexually aroused when she urinates on camera. By contrast, in Quills, she inspires sexuality in all those around her as an accomplice to the Marquis de Sade.

At just 25 years of age she has already been part of the entertainment industry for 10 years, participating in 19 films. She is the youngest person to have been nominated for two Academy Awards, for Sense and Sensibility and Titanic. She’s a wife and mother, and though in the spotlight, she never uses it to garner favorable attention. You don’t see her picture taken at charity events to show off how wonderful she is.

While eclectic in taste of projects, all her characters have the common thread of being ballsy. One of her next projects, which she is also executive producing, Thérèse Raquin, features her as an adulteress murderer. Not content to stick with characters that will only make her look angelic or perfect, she chooses to imbue strength in roles that are consistently complex. She is also currently in production on a film about Iris Murdoch, in which she will play the younger version opposite Judi Dench’s older one. Winslet is here to stay, and the film industry is lucky to have her, as is the audience.

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