What you definitely know her from:
Miss Congeniality, Gravity, Speed
What you might know her from:
Crash, Practical Magic, The Heat
What you probably don’t know her from:
Infamous, The Lake House, Premonition
She’s had a career spanning over 20 years, and we all know her as the lovable, goofy rom-com goddess but she has a surprisingly varied CV when it comes down to it. She won an Oscar for her role as the irrepressible Leigh Ann Tuohy in The Blind Side, and, after a brief quiet spell, came back with a vengeance this year in The Heat, a buddy cop comedy, and Gravity, which is arguably the film of the year.
Let’s start with what is probably her best known role, although it is by no means a career defining one. Bullock is hilarious in this beauty pageant/crime drama/sisterhood comedy, showcasing her undeniably perfect comic timing and her ability to perform the perfect pratfall. People constantly say that comedy is one of the hardest things to perfect, and Bullock has certainly done so. She makes it look effortless, and one of the most endearing things about Bullock is that, despite the fact that she is undeniably a gorgeous woman, she has no qualms about making herself look a total twat up on the big screen. Which is great for us, as she does it incredibly well. She’s the girl next door, the one we all want to be best friends with when we watch her on screen. All of this being said, of course, the less said about the sequel, the better (although I do have a soft spot for it personally. Any film which has Sandy chasing down Dolly Parton and wrestling her to the floor is a winner in my book).
An odd one to pick, perhaps, but a childhood favourite of mine and the film that first introduced me to the marvels of Sandy. She plays the sister of Nicole Kidman (before she froze her face), and together they are a pair of witches, doomed to lose the love of their lives due to a curse passed down from generation to generation. So it’s a supernatural rom-com thriller type…thing. This only means, however, that Bullock gets to show off exactly what she can do, guffawing one moment, roaring with tears the next, and then refusing to be beaten down and showing us her more aggressive side, albeit aided by a broomstick. Technically, the film’s an ensemble piece, but Bullock and Kidman run this show, owning every scene they’re in, and really selling the idea that they are sisters, with a rarely seen feminine chemistry on screen which aids the overarching idea of female empowerment.
Bullock plays rookie Ryan Stone, a medical engineer with only 6 months training under her belt before her first space shuttle mission. It wouldn’t be unkind to say that this film is essentially Speed in space, and it’s easy to see why they cast Bullock in the role. She pretty much carries the film on her own, and it seems like one disaster after another. One incredible, immensely gorgeous catastrophe after another. It’s a sublime piece of film-making, and ten times better than Speed, and Bullock is the sole reason why. Gravity could have so easily been a simple disaster movie, but all of it’s elements make it so much more. Visually, it’s stunning. It’s Bullock’s performance, though, that give the film it’s heart, and which will ensure it’s endurance. In anyone else’s hands, she would have been a mere sketch of a woman, but Bullock transforms her into a woman destroyed, prepared to die who essentially finds the will to fight and a verve for life which pushes her on. Bullock’s main flaw throughout her back catalogue is that we never quite believe that she is anyone but Bullock, but in Gravity, that’s never an issue. She’s an empty vessel through which we see our own reactions to her ordeals, and yet, at the same time, she is a heartbreakingly earnest character. The audience roots for her constantly, even when the odds seem insurmountable (which is pretty much the entire film to be honest). It’s difficult to talk about how astonishing her performance is without giving too much of the film away. Regardless, as incredible as the film looks up on the screen (and you need to see it on the biggest screen possible, in 3D), it’s Bullock who will be haunting you for days afterward.
So, what grade to give our Sandy? The success of her career has been down to one enduring factor; she is our everywoman. She doesn’t care if she looks like a tit so long as it raises a laugh, isn’t afraid to make herself look unattractive on the big screen, whether that be because she’s just fallen in a pile of mud or because her makeups running all over her face. She is completely believable because of this, and I can’t think of a performance of hers which doesn’t come across as 100% authentic, which is ultimately what we want from an actor. It is, however, sometimes a problem that all we see on the screen is Bullock being Bullock, regardless of who her character is, but to be fair to Bullock, this is more a flaw of the romantic comedy genre as a whole rather than a reflection on her abilities. When she’s given the chance to fly, such as in Gravity or the rather fantastic Infamous in which she plays Harper Lee, she inhabits the roles completely. Bullock is the best at what she does when it comes to rom-coms, and when it comes to drama, she’s a damn good actress too.
Overall Grade: B+