Everyone has been in the situation: movie night in with your friends, eating popcorn, laughing and joking. The opening titles start and the protagonists appear. Halfway through, you find yourself elbowing the person next to you, “I recognise that actor, but I can’t think for the life of me what they’ve been in.” We’ve all had the same conversation in one way or another, and for me, the subject of that conversation on more than one occasion was Bryce Dallas Howard.
It is a real crime, because she is an actress with over a decade of experience. Her repertoire covers a multitude of genres in both film and television. Yet Howard’s talents have somehow fallen short of mainstream popularity. As the daughter of award winning actor turned director, Ron Howard, her own rise to Hollywood-level cinema has been slow and steady. This can only mean, if we stretch the unrelated tortoise and the hare metaphor, that she is soon to win the race.
Prior to M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village and Lady in the Water, Howard’s presence in the Hollywood sphere remained limited to uncredited characters. Scoring central character roles in two major movies with such an acclaimed director proved to at least boost her popularity. In The Village, Howard’s performance as the vulnerable and intelligent Ivy was met favourably by critics despite the film’s mixed reviews. Lady in the Water however, was more of a problem child. Howard’s challenge, surprisingly, was not the fact that her character is a mythical water nymph. Instead, the film’s laborious script and lazy attempts to fully establish the vital fantasy element of the plot allowed audiences to dismiss Howard’s ability to lead a film.
For Howard’s fans, it was not long before another role as a central character landed at her feet. As the protagonist for The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond, Howard delivers her most sublime performance yet. This was a polite step down for Howard, as the film was not promoted with such fanfare as her two predecessors.
The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond is certainly not for a mainstream audience in 2008, because the script was written in 1957 by the late playwright Tennessee Williams. Fisher Willow is to Loss of a Teardrop Diamond what Blanche DuBois is to A Streetcar Named Desire. That being said, despite appealing to a more niche audience, Howard does not put a foot wrong. In a story about a wealthy heiress attempting to fix the actions of her corrupt father, Fisher Willow becomes caught up in the splendour of upper-class society. Fisher Willow is a character with a mix of explosive passion and endearing fragility that begs the audience to fall in love with her. It is a true testament to Howard’s talent as an actress.
After Howard’s excellent performance as Fisher, it is apparent that all she needed was a high profile blockbuster. Hindsight tells us now that she had the capability, but she needed the platform to thrive. There always seemed to be one element of the movies she starred in that let her down. Given Howard’s fairly extensive experience, it is surprising that a role or character did not seem to strike a balance with her capacity to tell a captivating story.
2011 saw the release of Tate Taylor’s The Help. It is a film that ticks all entertainment boxes: excellent script, thoughtful characters, tear-jerking drama, all incorporated within a story drenched in history. With an immensely talented cast, Howard holds her own among the likes of Viola Davis and Emma Stone. Howard’s role as the racist socialite, Hilly Holbrook, is not a leading one, but she commands attention in every scene. She is a character delivered with such courage and creativity that the audience has no choice but to respond with sheer hatred towards her. In such a difficult role, Howard establishes herself as a mature, fully-fledged actor. It is clear her iconic performance as Hilly Holbrook in The Help was the catalyst that propelled Howard’s future successes.
When talking about Bryce Dallas Howard it is impossible to ignore the latest blockbuster: Jurassic World. From director Colin Trevorrow, the latest film in the franchise is certainly not short of action, teeth, and general destruction. Full of nostalgia, Jurassic World acts as the perfect platform for Howard to break into an entirely different genre.
The film is a lot of fun, but sadly, it is not much else. Putting the misgivings of the plot and script aside, Howard’s portrayal of Claire Dearing has far more depth than that of her slightly boring yet hunky co-star, Chris Pratt. Claire Dearing transforms from an uptight, smart, and excellently dressed woman to gun-wielding dinosaur killer in approximately half a day. By the end of the movie, you almost forget that she was once tottering around in enormous heels, squealing and clinging desperately onto the arm of her new man. Although Howard’s character is arguably the most developed, it seems insulting to have such a creative talent reduced to the likes of ‘the screaming girlfriend’. Not very feminist of you, Mr. Trevorrow.
As we all look forward to the upcoming release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, I hope the spotlight remains on the real star of the show. Howard throws herself into her roles with such conviction that nobody can accuse her of resting the fame of her father. Any actress that becomes their characters’ to such an extent is the true embodiment of talent. Some ten years on from her Hollywood breakthrough, the future looks bright for Bryce Dallas Howard.