No sooner did news break that Amy Adams is going to play Janis Joplin in the long-awaited bio-pic of the drug-bedeviled, bisexual 1960s music icon than the outcry began. Music critics and internet chatterers alike are bewailing the choice of Adams as Too Pretty, Not Gritty Enough, Not Gutsy Enough, Not Bluesy Enough, Too Sweet, Too Show Tunesy. Indeed, some of the near-misses for a biopic (Zooey Deschanel, Pink, Melissa Etheridge) do seem more readily adaptable into portraying Joplin than Adams, of “Enchanted,” “Julie & Julia,” “Junebug” and “Doubt” fame.
However, we can’t help but remember, Oscar winner Jamie Foxx had lots’a naysayers before he proved just how great he could be with his tour-de-force performance as Ray Charles in “Ray.”
How about the advance criticism over Joaquin Phoenix daring to play Johnny Cash (and doing his own singing?! What, is he CRAZY?!!). An Oscar nomination for “Walk the Line” ensued.
Leonardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes? There were complaints that Martin Scorsese should have cast someone more grown-up-looking and manly than Leo for his “The Aviator” – until the actor turned in a performance that merited an Oscar nom.
It doesn’t always work out when stars play stars, of course. James Brolin was critically crucified for his performance as Clark Gable in the film “Gable and Lombard,” for instance, Jennifer Love Hewitt’s portrayal of Audrey Hepburn in 2000’s made-for television movie “The Audrey Hepburn Story” won her a host of back-handed compliments. Hewitt was said by many reviewers to do an adequate job with the role, and even those critics admitted they were surprised and had expected worse.
Still, when performers can nail such a performance, the rewards are big.
That’s exactly what happened to Robert Downey, Jr., who had done good work in a string of movies, but had yet to prove the immensity of his gifts, when he immersed himself in all things Charlie Chaplin to play Hollywood’s supreme genius in the 1992 “Chaplin.” He astonished critics and, yep, won an Academy Award nomination.
So Amy deserves a wait-and-see, at least.