Little Woman, Big Movie Star: Winona Ryder, Hollywood’s Old It-Girl

Winona Ryder. Winona Ryder. Winona Ryder. Such a weird fandom for me to be a part of, being that today a lot of the kids that are a part of my generation don’t even know that name. What these people are missing is one of the 90s most precious stars found in film actress Winona Ryder. Even as a child, Winona had bewildered me with such fantastic film choices. Unfortunately, she has a career that soon plunged when scandal broke out in the early 2000s. But I’m not here to talk about all the bad that Ms. Ryder has witnessed. Being a big fan, I can only look back and appreciate Winona’s impressive filmography, in roles that are so memorable and cherished by cinema. I hope that one day, she could regain the respect that she once had in the 90s and become utterly great once more. She was a Hollywood Golden Girl, someone everyone thought would hit Oscar Gold so quickly. It depresses me that I never got to see that from such a talented actress. I hope that in my life time (hopefully in the near future), I will.

NOTE: I haven’t seen Winona in “Alien: Resurrection”  (1997). Okay, sue me. I’ll get to it right away!

33344Beetlejuice (1988) – Often considered as the first Tim Burton-esque kind of movie, Tim Burton (obviously) casted the young Winona Ryder (only 17 years old at the time) as Lydia Deetz, the gothic daughter of an obnoxious Jeffrey Jones and Catharine O’Hara who moves into a haunted house. Here, Winona Ryder began her trademark as the pale skinned, raven hair beauty that she is still being associated with today. As I said a million times, I’m not a really big fan of Tim Burton’s newer features, but he kicked off his career with a great ensemble cast and an entertaining storyline. “Beetlejuice” was a fresh beginning for the soon-t0-be famous Winona, and it lays as one of her most iconic roles to date.

heathersHeathers (1988) – In the same year, Winona Ryder gained critical success in the cult teen classic “Heathers”. This (so early on in her career) is the role Winona Ryder was born to play (I go back in fourth with a movie she made in 1994). It was dark, sarcastic, dramatic and funny – four faces that she can play to perfection. Though “Heathers” seems like a typical high school film, the movie’s superb writing, in-your-face direction and cast is just “to die for” (watch the movie and you’ll understand what I mean). She plays Veronica Sawyer, a confused high school student who gets associated with the popular female click of the school – The Heathers (in which all three “Heathers” call themselves, well…Heather). After a falling out with lead Heather #1 (Kim Walker), Veronica and her psychopathic new boyfriend J.D. (a young Christian Slater) device fixed suicides in their high school to teach “the popular kids” a lesson they will never forget. “Heathers” is hysterical and frightening in so many ways that it is an ultimately brilliant film set to pull all the right chords. It pasts high school movie cliches and becomes a model for movies such as “Mean Girls” (2004) and the less superior “Jawbreaker” (1999).

edscEdward Scissorhands (1990) – Winona then goes blonde for the 1990 Christmas hit “Edward Scissorhands” (also directed by Tim Burton), co-starring her boyfriend at the time, Johnny Depp. It’s great to see Winona star in a career best for the prolific director, in such a baity role no less. Kim’s (Ryder) life is turned upside down when her mother (the ever so charming Dianne Weist) brings home a different kind of teenager that Edwad Scissorhands (Johnny Depp) is. As their family goes through ups and downs with the blade limbed fellow, Winona’s caricatured character of a popular teenage blonde humanizes as she discovers the true meaning of love, understanding and eventually “snow”.

tumblr_m4psbfzIGV1qg03pro1_1280Mermaids (1990) – If you haven’t seen the movie, NO IT’S NOT ABOUT MERMAIDS. But don’t worry I thought that too when I first heard of it a couple of years ago. As magical as the title sounds, “Mermaids” actually tells the coming of age story of Charlotte Flax (Ryder), who thought she was destined to be nun, exploring her first boy crush and sexual encounters in the mid 1960s. Winona’s mother is played by the great Cher, who shares just as much screen time (not to mention screen presence) as the budding actress. The story focuses mainly on their relationship, as Charlotte goes through the most confusing time of her teen life, with a mother who isn’t so…let’s just say not a great role model. Cher and Ryder’s chemistry is off the charts. The give is a mother-daughter relationship that is so hateful but also so envied in so many the ways. Despite the films realistic subject matter, we still get a small poke at a little comedy, which is always enjoyable and welcomed. The film also features little Christina Ricci in her first film screen. Awww, what an adorable family! 

dracula-bram-stoker-coppola-beso-mina-kissDracula (1992) – By my birth year, Winona was a sought after actress that began to be noticed by big time directors. It wasn’t a surprise that when she wanted to transition to more mature roles, it was no other then Francis Ford Coppola who took notice of her. It was actually two years prior to this when Coppola first asked Ryder to be in one of his movie. That would have been the third instalment of the legendary “Godfather” series. Sadly, Winona Ryder had to drop out last minute (for reasons I’m not too sure of…research time!) and left the role to the awful Sophia Coppla (she is, however, a magnificent direct0r) to play. They made up for it in the campy adaptation of the Bram Stoker’s famous “Dracula” novel. Playing the sweet Mina Murray, the object of Dracula’s (Gary Oldman) desires, she was able to play sweet to terrifying in a unexpected character turn (if you read the novel you would know what happens). Though the film lacks substance in a lot of ways, sometimes the campiness was cringe worthy, Winona leaves a memorable performance. She was best in show and was absolutely power-house.

tumblr_m1ysmhYDdE1qelclno1_1280The Age of Innocence (1993) – Continuing her streak with big budget films and top class directors, Winona played a supporting performance in Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of “The Age of Innocence”. The film garnered her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress and launched her career as an Oscar-esque kind of actress. However, I do believe that the film is one of Scorsese’s weakest movies (trust me, that’s saying a lot because he’s my favourite director), Winona played Daniel Day-Lewis’ scorned wife a little bit too sweet. Of course, that’s what the character called for. This was an “okay” stepping stone, very “calm before the storm-esque” for the next film year which will considered as the height of Ms. Ryder’s career. 

994RBS_Winona_Ryder_120Reality Bites (1994) – Ben Stiller’s directorial debut came in the form of “Reality Bites”, a cult classic which a lot consider to be Winona’s best film role. Though she was splendid in the movie (playing a confused Generation X adult), I had a lot of criticisms regarding the film in general. I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to because I felt that most of the characters (especially Ethan Hawke) was so unlikable that the film became almost unbearable to watch for me. But as a loyal Winona fan, I decided to stick with. I do see why people may consider this a iconic role for her. She plays a woman of the 90s, a fresh college graduate, which in a way Winona was at the time. Not literally, but by this time of her career, she had just earned her right of passage into true Hollywood stardom, and for actresses on a high…they would consider that as “reality bitting” them.

winonaLittle Women (1994) – I bounce back and fourth with “Heathers” (1988) and “Little Women” as Winona’s greatest role. For me, she immortalises her cinematic soul as the iconic Jo March in the 1994 adaptation of the famous civil war novel. Sadly, Winona Ryder lost her only chance in winning the Best Actress in a Leading Role Oscar for this film, but I tell you she is deserving to the ultimate level. As the second to the eldest child in the March family, Josephine March’s life is chronicled in a story that is set throughout her youth during the Civil War, all the way to the days in which she aspires to be a great female writer in New York City. The range of emotion that Winona shows in the film isn’t too heavy for movie goers who are trying to enjoy a tale about strong females, but the film also explores perfect melodrama that involves both romantic love and love for family. The right kind of melodrama that inspires and lifts the heart. Ryder embodies the true American girl that Jo March is and produces a performance that is excellent to watch, and depressing to leave behind.

vob1The Crucible (1996) – After “Little Women”, Winona tries to challenger herself in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”. Her second collaboration with Daniel Day-Lewis sparks the same sentiments within me as their earlier work in “The Age of Innocence” (1993). But I won’t jump into rash opinions and conclusions, this deserves a re-watch from me. I’ll do that sometime this week, as a conclusion to all this Winona Mania on my blog. Set in Salem, during the time of the famous witch trials, the film tells the story of a woman accused of nothing else but witchcraft. I have nothing much to say about the film, it’s been to long. Let me get back to this one in a couple of days.

999GIT_Winona_Ryder_133Girl, Interrupted (1999) – the film shows to be the last of the “greats” of Winona Ryder’s exuberant career in the 1990s. By this time, Winona’s personal life was falling apart. A recent breakup with Matt Damon, rumoured drug abuse and an inner demon that would soon be caught by the police…and unfortunately video tape too. But I wouldn’t go as far as saying “Girl, Interrupted” was art imitating life. I’m just so happy that Winona ended the fantastic 90s with the perfect film role fitted her skill and personal perfectly. Co-starring with Angelina Jolie (in her Oscar winning role the insane Lisa), Winona plays Sussanna, a woman recently sent to a mental asylum when she falls apart after her college years. She shines bright and delivers such intensity to a performance that goes hand-in-hand with Jolie’s equally brilliant acting. James Mangold helms the direction in what can be considered as the nearest female version of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975)…but of course, it’s not as good as thaaaat. Just a disclaimer.

2002_mr_deeds_009Mr. Deeds (2002) – “Mr. Deed” comes off as paycheck movie when you watch it. But surprisingly, Winona pulls off a cute performance as Babe Bennett in the popular Adam Sandler comedy. She is of course an undercover news reporter who is trying her best to get the juicy story on New York’s newest hick billionaire, Mr. Deeds (Adam Sandler), after inheriting his Great Uncle’s money and large broadcasting empire. Everybody in Hollywood does a paycheck movie and I’m glad its this one, cause I enjoyed it immensely.

009STT_Winona_Ryder_004Star Trek (2008) – Spock’s mom. Spock’s mom!!! Who would have expected it. After a long hiatus of animated films of movies that really just aren’t so good, Winona gave us a small teaser of her wonderful-ness (I know it’s not a real world) yet again in a small cameo in the new “Star Trek” franchise. It’s funny to talk about this, but Winona is still gorgeous as old woman in a Science Fiction film, and that doesn’t happen all the time. Get back on the big screen with something as baity as this please, Winona, but of course in a role that’s even bigger.

IMG_4137.CR2Black Swan (2010) – Winona’s part two of a tease in her small but very awesome performance in Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan”. Playing the “Dying Swan” to Natalie Portman’s up and coming prima ballerina, the role shows the world how much of Winona we are missing. She is disturbing, shocking, bitch and just so good. The role was way too small, but I’m glad she did it. Psychopathic mode worked for her yet again.

What’s Next For Winona? 

1. “Homefront” which will be realised sometime in the next two months. Not so thrilled about the casting…come on Jason Statham…and it’s written by Sylverstre Stallone. I’m also not aware of how big Winona’s role is, but all I’m hoping is that it boosts her back to leading lady status.
2. Some TV movie called “Turks and Caicos”….I have a little bit more faith in writer/director David Hare. So we’ll see.

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