Purely by coincidence, I have seen three Anjelica Huston movies in the last week. They are all extremely different from one another—not the most varied roles in her acting career, but fairly different for all that. And yet they are all distinctly Anjelica Huston roles, ones where you would not confuse the performances as being from anyone else. And, okay, part of it is that all three roles require a beautiful woman, and Anjelica Huston is definitely beautiful. But they also rely on her acting ability, which is also undeniable. In fact, I’d say they rely on her reactions, and I’m not sure anyone reacts better than she does.
It would be very easy to write her off as a legacy. She is, after all, the third Huston to win an Oscar, after her father and grandfather. (Her brother has also been nominated, for Adapted Screenplay for The Dead, which lost to The Last Emperor. Actually, her father and her grandfather only ever won, both of them, for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre!) And without that, it would be easy to write her off as another “model turned actress.” Still—sometimes, with legacies, you get a full-on acting dynasty, and for a reason. And some models become actresses with great success.
Huston is high on the list of people who prove both of those things. She is incredibly talented. While the Academy is known for giving nominations to old people who deserve it for previous roles, it’s not actually known for giving nominations to people’s kids just because. At least I don’t think they are; I haven’t noticed it. And even if you reject the Academy as a sign of quality, just watch her movies. Even in her first major role, in the 1969 A Walk With Love and Death, you can already see her ability.
While she may have worked for her father a few times, she seems to work with a few directors more than once. Woody Allen. Wes Anderson. And of course Barry Sonnenfeld, who directed her as Morticia Addams. She has done many fine roles, but so many of my friends want to have a relationship like Gomez and Morticia from those movies that I’m surprised it doesn’t come up more often. It was frankly a more grueling role than people realize—she has to maintain near-perfect calm while being sewn into a dress and having a light shining in her eyes in most of her close-ups.
I will also confess a deep adoration for her as the evil Rodmilla de Ghent in EverAfter. The entire premise of the movie is ludicrous—every good French mother would know that being the king’s mistress was usually at least as influential as being queen, for starters—but she’s so good in it. And beautifully dressed; I love the costumes in that movie. And she is a very different kind of bad mother in that than she is in The Grifters. Scheming, grasping, and manipulative, okay, but not at all in the same way.