From comedy to Oscar: Emma Stone shines in 'Poor Creatures', eyeing second gold statue
The distribution of the industry's most prestigious awards always triggers an array of emotions. This year, the competition is fiercer than ever, although that's said almost every year. The Best Actress of 2023 sees Carey Mulligan ("Maestro"), Annette Bening ("Nyad"), Sandra Hüller ("Anatomy of a Fall"), Lily Gladstone ("Time of the Blood Moon"), and Emma Stone ("Poor Creatures") competing for the respected title.
Of the nominated women, only Stone already has an Oscar to her name. Many anticipate another award for her during the ceremony on March 10 (or March 11, Los Angeles time), predicting another Oscar statue will join her existing one on the shelf.
Ascending from supporting roles to the spotlight
Looking at Stone's filmography, her career trajectory is evident but not necessarily obvious. She navigated the expected stages of popular comedies (romantic in the genre), zombie films, and superhero blockbusters aimed at mainstream audiences before transitioning smoothly to more ambitious and demanding projects while interspersing with pure entertainment productions.
But some undeniable facts need to be stressed: Emma Stone is one of Hollywood's most popular, talented, desired, and loved actresses. She could have easily settled into the unexceptional, stereotypical girl-next-door supporting roles. Still, something magnetic within her attracted both viewers and filmmakers, propelling her to ascend to her own dramatic talent's pinnacles and the film Olympus itself.
A marketable origin story
Like any real star, Stone has her own 'origin story', a noteworthy career foundational myth that has been much talked about in the media. Her beginnings in Scottsdale, Arizona, weren't particularly unique. Childhood dreams of a career in acting, bouts of panic attacks due to school pressure, and ultimately finding solace in the school theater – her story isn't unfamiliar.
After being educated at home and captivating audiences at the Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix, she continued her dramatic education at high school. Born in 1988, Stone experienced casting disappointments in Los Angeles, but she was unfazed.
Stone's legendary PowerPoint presentation, often mentioned in interviews, prompted her initially reluctant parents to move to California. The then 15-year-old Emily Jean (Stone's real name) cleverly presented her chosen career path's pros and cons.
A star is reborn
In 2004, she relocated to Los Angeles with her mother. Initially, the teenage talent failed to gain recognition. Complicating matters further, she had to rename herself to become a member of the Screen Actors Guild. Emily Jean became Emma Stone in tribute to Emma Bunton from the Spice Girls.
Her first notable role was Violet in the crime-adventure series "Drive". This was followed by roles as 'attractive girls' in somewhat forgettable films such as "Bunny" and "Superbad" alongside Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Seth Rogen. She even scored a role in the Christmas comedy "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" with Matthew McConaughey, who had transitioned from heartthrob to unpredictable actor.
The crucial turning point came with Ruben Fleischer's "Zombieland" in 2009. While Stone's role was conforming to the early 21st-century tendency to portray beautiful young women as mere decorations in movies, her performance was significant enough to be recognized by the critics. A year later, at 22, she received her first Golden Globe nomination.
Succeeding at success
The industry bestowed its first honors upon her for her lead role in "Easy A" by Will Gluck. Stone reportedly contacted the director for a role in Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" loose adaptation. Stone, a natural blond, transitioned into a fiery redhead during filming.
EASY A - Official Trailer
Viewers saw her fiery mane in the romantic comedy "Crazy, Stupid, Love." by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa featuring a star-studded cast. While filming this enjoyable rom-com, Stone co-starred with Ryan Gosling, a partnership that would reunite soon after. Before this, Stone had already begun her romance with superhero cinema.
Before scoring her first Oscar, she also starred in two parts of Marc Webb's "Amazing Spider-Man". During the making of this film, she met Andrew Garfield, whom she dated from 2011–2015 (preceded by a year-long relationship with Kieran Culkin, the star of "Succession"). The couple maintained privacy around their relationship and its subsequent end. The reasons for their split remain unknown. Not long after, Stone found love again.
Since 2016, she has been in a relationship with Dave McCary, former "Saturday Night Live" director. The couple announced their engagement in 2019 and married the following year. They welcomed their daughter, Louise Jean, in 2021. Stone, now 35, remains protective of her family's privacy.
She also starred in two films by the celebrated but controversial director Woody Allen. In "Magic in the Moonlight," she plays a medium who falls into a romantic relationship with an older Englishman (Colin Firth). In "Irrational Man", she played a student entangled with her professor. She accepted this role so she could work alongside Joaquin Phoenix. However, both movies were far from successful.
The dismissed film "Aloha" by Cameron Crowe stirred controversy as Stone portrayed a character of Chinese-Hawaiian descent. Accusations of racism and discrimination related to the film nearly ousted the star from the industry. Just a year prior, she had starred in one of the decade's most acclaimed works.
Staying on course
This is about the phenomenal "Birdman" by Alejandro González Iñárritu, where she shared screen space with the then emerging star, Michael Keaton. Stone received her first Oscar nomination for playing his daughter, a former drug addict. This role enabled her to display her unexplored and sublime dramatic talent.
In hindsight, "Birdman" remains the production in which Stone unveiled her dormant and abundantly resounding dramatic talent. After demonstrating her acting prowess through high levels of commitment and transformative performances, there was no looking back.
Dancing her way to an Oscar
"La La Land" directed by Damien Chazelle in 2016 further underscored Stone's talent. Together with the aforementioned Gosling, the actress perfectly adapted to the musical-genre film, showcasing dynamic vocal and dance performances. The sincerity and realism of their performances were underscored as they themselves sang the songs written for the film.
The imperfect, emotionally loaded voices (see Mia's audition scene) only intensified the overall effect and enhanced character credibility. It is in this creation that Stone’s distinctive raspy voice found a new appreciation and justly brought her an Oscar.
A second Oscar in sight?
"Poor Creatures", lauded with as many as ten award nominations, marks Stone's second collaboration with Yorgos Lanthimos. They first worked together on "The Favourite," a layered historical erotic thriller. Stone earned another nomination for her role in the Greek director's distinctive raw style.
Will her dream of a second Oscar come true? The possibility seems plausible. Stone’s bold portrayal as a young woman who, brought back to life by an eccentric scientist, begins to audaciously explore everything the world offers her, is already causing waves. "Poor Creatures" would not exist without Emma Stone’s stellar performance.
Distinguished critiques from Wendy Ide of "The Guardian," Manohla Dargis of "The New York Times," and Christy Lemire from "Roger Ebert" all hail Stone's transformative and stunning performance. Ide praises "Stone's virtuoso use of her body," while Dargis admires how Stone "discreetly builds her performance - with words, gestures, and Pavlovian stage presence".
Compared to the other Best Actress nominees, Stone's extraordinary performance seems particularly worthy of recognition. However, there still lies a risk that the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will instead reward the strong but more subdued performance by Lily Gladstone in Martin Scorsese's "Time of the Blood Moon". Gladstone would be the first Native American not just nominated but potentially honored with the industry's supreme award. As we know, the Academy loves record-breaking victories.