After gracing the cinema screens for over a decade, it’s surprising that Anne Hathaway continues to divide critics on her skills as an actress. Despite two Academy Award nominations (and one win) to her name, critics and casual movie goers still aren’t sure what to make of her talents. For every stunning performance in a film like Rachel Getting Married, there are awkward and erratic attempts like 2011’s One Day.
I recall New Republic’s own Tom Carson asking this very same question not long ago. His conclusion circled a nascent appreciation for Hathaway’s work despite her inconsistent performances. In light of the recent announcement of Hathaway’s involvement with Nolan’s forthcoming sci-fi pic Interstellar, it seems a slice of treacly amusement to reconsider Hathaway’s capacity as an actress. From the obnoxious sobriquets on Twitter to the empyrean heights of AMPAS, the topic is undeniably loaded with opinion, so by constraining my argument to a single moment of her career—a single scene no less—my aim is twofold: to consider the merit of her Academy Award winning performance in Les Misérables to address the merit behind accusations of Hathaway’s exaggerated abilities as an actress. Unfair? Certainly! Yet that objection could be voiced by both supporters and detractors; the approach works to level the playing field, as it were. Regardless of my rhetorical gambit, however, how can a performer be adequately judged by a single moment of their career? I argue that in this particular case the singular moment merits such a narrow reflection.