Oscar: Women Deglamorized–Amy Adams and Emily Blunt

In “Sunshine Cleaning,” the naturally beautiful and sexually alluring Amy Adams and Emily Blunt play losers, downtrodden sisters Rose and Norah Lorkowski, stuck in New Mexico in the middle of nowhere, trying to make a living—and regain their sense of self-worth.  To make a living, the entrepreneurial Adams proposes that they start a business, Sunshine Cleaning,” which boils down to cleaning the mess (blood, brains, and guts on the walls) left after people commit suicide—for different reasons. (See Review).


Of course, nobody bothers to ask why resourceful, bright and beautiful woman such as Adams’ Rose should have such narrow and limited career possibilities, even in a town like Alberqueque?  Couldn’t she make a living in a different, cleaner line of work? (Clue: But then it won’t be a typical and quirky Sundance indie).


The tendency to deglamorize naturally attractive ladies and stars is as old as Hollywood itself.  Wayne Wang’s romantic comedy “Maid in Manhattan,” which became a huge commercial hit, cast Jennifer Lopez, one of the most alluring and entrepreneurial women in the industry, as a cleaning lady in a posh New York hotel, where she meets rich prince charming Ralph Fiennes.


More recently, Jennifer Aniston, the rich, successful, beautiful femme from TV’s “Friends,” was cast against her image (and looks) in two respectable Sundance indies: “The Good Girl” and “Friends With Money.”

A closer look at film history shows that such women have been rewarded for deglamorizing their looks and for their willingness to appear drab and frumpy.  Though the performances are good, “Sunshine Cleaning” is not good or prestigious enough picture to generate Oscar buzz at year’s end. 

But consider the following examples:


Bette Davis wore padding on her legs, donned glasses, and pulled her hair back tight in one of her most popular melodrama, “Now Voyager.”


Olivia de Havilland played an ugly duckling in William Wyler’s “The Heiress,” and not a particularly attractive woman in Leisen Mitchell’s “Hold Back the Dawn.”


The stunningly glamorous Grace Kelly won the 1954 Best Actress Oscar for “The Country Girl,” as an embittered, humiliated wife, wearing the most unglamorized and unflattering wardrobe in her career. Mind you, in the same year, the stunning Kelly flaunted the most stylish costumes in three Hitchcock pictures: “Rear Window,” “Dial M for Murder,” and “To Catch a Thief,” in each of which she flaunted her beautiful figure and paraded in Edith Head’s costumes for her leading men–and for us, the audience.


As the legendary teacher Anne Sullivan in The Miracle Worker, Anne Bancroft no doubt rendered a good performance but she was also eccentric and in disguise: hair pulled back, dark glasses, heavy accent, and severe attitude toward work and employers.  Bancroft also had a requisite show-stopping hysterical scene, in which she physically struggles with the blind and deaf Helen Keller (Oscar-winning Patty Duke).


In 1966, at the young age of 34, Elizabeth Taylor portrayed an older, fatter, gray-haired, harsh and deglamorized woman in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” garnering a second Best Actress Oscar.


For a decade, Lynn Redgrave couldn’t shake her image in “Georgy Girl,” as a pathetic ugly duckling weighing 180 pounds! In 1998, Redgrave received a second, this time Supporting Oscar, nomination for Gods and Monsters, as director James Whale’s housekeeper, for which she affected a thick Hungarian accent.


In 1983, Cher was deglamorized as the lesbian roommate of Karen Silkwood (Meryl Streep) in the biopic “Silkwood.”  And for her Oscar-winning performance, in Moonstruck, she began deglamorized as a bookkeeper and ended up glamorized and in love.