By now, you’ve surely heard — or seen for yourself — that Sandra Bullock is excellent in “Gravity.” Critics who never much cared for the star in her signature romantic comedies, or her Oscar-winning dramatic turn in “The Blind Side,” are now hailing her work as an imperiled astronaut adrift in space as a revelatory breakthrough. “Who knew?” they ask.
Well, hold up a minute. Some of us knew, and not just the Academy members who checked off her name in the 2009 Best Actress race. “Gravity” may be a better, more ambitious film than the vast majority of Sandra Bullock’s output, but that doesn’t mean it magically transformed her overnight into a gifted actress. She’s always been this good, it’s just that you’ve sometimes had to look past the films to see it. Even then, not always; for every shoddy B-movie of which she’s been the saving grace, there’s another exemplary genre piece in which she has equally excelled. Nobody was calling her immaculately timed comic turn in this summer’s delightful action-comedy “The Heat” a revelation, for example, but I’d argue that it’s every bit as strong a showcase for her abilities as “Gravity.”
It may seem a stretch to apply the “underrated” label to an Oscar-winning megastar with large and devoted fanbase, but at the same time, there’s a large portion of her filmography that isn’t remembered as fondly as it should be, whether it’s because the films themselves were too commercial or too poorly received, or her own estimable skills were being taken for granted.
With that in mind, we thought this was the right moment to shine a light on a handful of her less celebrated — but nonetheless notable — performances, to prove that she’s had the goods all along. Some are dramatic, some are comedic. Some are in high-profile films; others have definitely fallen by the wayside. Some of them registered with her fanbase, others didn’t. All of them, however, are better than most of you probably remember them being — if, indeed, you remember them at all.
We’ve left out strong performances for which she received due credit: her superb Harper Lee in “Infamous,” for example, or her star-sealing sweetheart turn in “While You Were Sleeping.” A list of Sandra Bullock’s very best performances would look very different. (And, yes, would definitely include “Gravity.”) Consider this a tribute to the hard graft she puts in even when the chips — or the critics — are down.
Check out the gallery below, and share your own favorite Sandra Bullock performances — underrated or otherwise — in the comments.