The Sundance Film Festival is underway right now, and reviews are already coming in about various highly anticipated new films. One of those films is The Spectacular Now, starring Secret Life of the American Teenager (ABC Family) actress Shailene Woodley. The critics have spoken about her performance, and as in 2011 when she starred with George Clooney in The Descendants, they’re very impressed by her. But it still begs the question, “How is the star of Secret Life so good in movies?!”
Some reviews praise Shailene Woodley in spite of her role on the show. For example, Hitfix.com says:
“For Woodley, this is also a confirmatory performance more than an eye-opener. The gap between the poised, unaffected actress in ‘The Descendants’ and the wooden star of ‘The Secret Life of the American Teenager’ was so vast that any amount of skepticism was well-earned. After watching Woodley in ‘The Spectacular Now,’ the weight of blame shifts fairly conclusively to the ABC Family drama.”
As someone who’s seen a few episodes of Secret Life, as well as countless clips from it on The Soup, I understand critics’ reservations about the actress’s new performance. There’s an episode in which a girl thinks her father died because she had sex, and the actors give performances only slightly better than guest star Bristol Palin.
But there is now Oscar buzz surrounding Shailene Woodley’s performance, just like there was for a brief time in 2011 for her Descendants role. MSN says:
“‘The Spectacular Now’ is, if anything, even better, featuring two performances from Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley that, in a just world where The Oscars and suchlike were actually about quality acting and not clever marketing, would earn them every possible consideration.”
So… how did Shailene pull off this 180 degree career shift? I have two theories. One, she has an evil twin determined to ruin her life with terrible acting choices. Two, she pulled some kind of Gandalf the Grey/Gandalf the White transformation and went from Shailene the Wooden to Shailene the Golden. Not sure if a fight with a balrog was involved.
Either that or it’s just true that even a good actor can’t push past bad material. Unless you’re Meryl Streep, of course. Meryl Streep would undoubtedly get an Emmy nod if she starred on Secret Life. She’d probably even get the Academy to break the “movies only” rule and nominate her for an Oscar.