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Beginning with her film debut in 2007’s Greg Mottola-directed comedy, Superbad, playing the love interest for Jonah Hill, Emma Stone earned immediate attention for her natural acting style and unconventional beauty. Demonstrating great range since, having roles in several high profile films, including an Oscar-nominated performance in 2014’s Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), she has become one of the most recognized faces in Hollywood. With her recent film La La Land earning her even more praise, and a Golden Globe, it’s a good time to look back at this star and remember a few roles you might not remember.
A huge box office bomb, this is a comedy about a former rock drummer (played by Rainn Wilson) who missed out on glory, given a second chance twenty years later when his nephew’s high school band needs a drummer. After a viral hit where he plays the drums nude brings them wide recognition, the band goes on tour.
Stone plays Amelia Stone, the bass guitarist, decked out in curly red hair and all the sass and charm she had from her previous film, Superbad. The only female lead, she is funny and sharp even though the film loses its cleverness early and pads out the simple premise for too long. She remains the highlight, with limited screen time, but her willingness to be funny rather than typical makes this a role to see.
A once gifted novelist (Jeff Daniels) is washed up and heads to a Long Island beach community for the winter to try and end his writer’s block. Meanwhile, he still talks with his childhood imaginary friend Captain Excellent (Ryan Renolds), a relationship that seems to suppress his talents rather than support it.
Stone plays Abby, a 17-year-old rebellious-type girl he meets and hires to serve as a babysitter, even though he has no children. She seems okay with the arrangement and a kind of father/daughter bond forms in this admittedly tepid, unrealized attempt. Stone gets her first foray into drama and reveals a new side to her talents, and even though the film is considered a failure, Stone does good work here, and clearly makes a step toward full legitimacy.
Sleeping Dogs is an open world video game about an undercover cop in Hong Kong who infiltrates a criminal organization to try and bring down a notorious gang. Featuring mission-style gameplay with a number of varying play-styles, including free running, driving, and shooting, it was a huge critical and financial success.
Stone voices a character named Amanda Cartwright, an American fresh out of university, traveling to gain experience in hopes of becoming a photographer and journalist. Amanda meets Wei Shen (Will Yun Lee), the game’s protagonist who shows her around the city and eventually becomes a love interest. While only a small part of a very large game, her storyline is compelling and one of the few that is not violence-based. Stone’s great voice work gives the character a lot of investment and encourages players to spend more time with her. And speaking of voice work . . .
The Croods is an animated film about a prehistoric family who lose their cave and must travel through a strange and fantastical land in order to find a new home. Despite its box office success, it is often forgotten as larger, more recognizable titles continue to dominate the big screen. Well-acted and surprisingly deep, it’s a good family film with a lot of heart.
Stone plays Eep, the teenage daughter who naturally wants to explore the world around her, even though her over-protective father (voiced by Nicholas Cage) demands she stay close. Eep, and her relationship with her father, are the film’s core story, and Stone elevates the part with some inspired voice work, giving Eep a lot of energy. We tend not to think of voice work as acting, but not many can make it effective. Stone does.
After Shelley (Anna Faris), a Playboy Bunny, seems to get a notice that she’s kicked out of the Playboy Mansion, she heads to the nearby university where she ends up joining the Zetas, a sorority of intellectual but socially awkward girls who realize she can teach them how to get boys.
Stone plays Natalie, the de facto leader of the Zetas, who is initially the only one who sees the potential in Shelley, befriending her and having her stay. She undergoes the obligatory make-over but also helps Shelley learn about true friendship as well. The film is a missed opportunity that has few laughs, keeping predictable and bland, but Stone (along with Faris) goes all in and is effortlessly winning. She plays the full spectrum from book-nerd smart to glamor-sexy always with a knowing look in her eye that makes it clear she’s totally in the fun of it. Even in duds, Emma Stone always comes out on top.