When you discuss “movie stars,” the real definition has to do with both commercial bankability and overall appeal, and it’s a term that can be abused wildly. I also think it’s too restrictive, because there are tons of actors who may not be the name that you put on a poster or the name that gets something financed, but audiences who love them love them wildly because, film after film and show after show, they make choices that stand out, or they take ordinary dialogue and spin it in just the right way, or because we just plain like to see what they do.
That’s Judy Greer all over. From her breakthrough role as Fern in “Jawbreaker” to memorable smaller appearances in “Three Kings” and “What Planet Are You From” and “What Women Want” to bigger appearances in “13 Going On 30” and “Adaptation” and “The Village,” she built a reputation as someone who could take even a thankless role as “the best friend” and turn it into something that stands out. I’ve been a fan for so long now that it seems crazy to me that even as recently as 2008, in “27 Dresses,” she was still considered something of a discovery for many viewers. It was her work in “The Descendants” that seems to have kicked open some bigger doors for her, and I’m always rooting for filmmakers to give her something great to do.
In Kimberly Peirce’s new take on Stephen King’s “Carrie,” she’s playing the part that Betty Buckley played in Brian De Palma’s 1976 film. She’s the one adult who seems to be genuinely upset on behalf of Carrie White, the main character, following a traumatic moment in a locker room when she gets her first period. She’s the school’s gym teacher, and she is the one who devises the punishment that unfortunately escalates everything.
I sort of forgot to mention another thing Judy Greer does that is particularly noteworthy, but I sure brought it up when I walked into the room to talk to Greer about “Carrie” last week. I adore “Archer,” the animated spy comedy that is one of the filthiest, funniest things on TV. She plays Cheryl, a venal little office drone who turned out to be independently wealthy. The things they let her say on the show blow my mind on a consistent basis. It’s fantastic writing, and Greer seems to revel in being one of the worst people ever. One of her favorite snarled replies on the show is “You’re not my supervisor!”, and while I joked with her when I sat down that I wanted to just do five solid minutes of “Archer” quotes, I didn’t expect I’d actually get to hear her drop one on me mid-interview.
Needless to say, this is now one of my favorite moments of the year.
“Carrie” arrives in theaters on Friday. “Archer” returns in January. And Judy Greer is always awesome.