Tag Archives: Actresses

Merry Christmas from MFL!

Merry Christmas to all our loyal regular readers and casual visitors. Wishing you and your families the very best this Holiday Season and a joyous, prosperous & healthy New Year!

Today we’re going (very) old school with this clip from 1954’s White Christmas. This Holiday classic featuring the inimitable Bing Crosby singing Irving Berlin’s songs ably assisted by the very funny Danny Kaye, the charming songstress Rosemary Clooney (George’s aunt) and the amazing dancer Vera-Ellen. Helmed by the great Michael Curtiz of Casablanca fame, White Christmas is a very funny musical and dance extravaganza with enough sentimentality to warm the heart of even the Grinchiest viewer. If you’re having trouble getting into the spirit of the season, this slice of 1950s post-War Americana will do the trick like the visual equivalent of turkey with all the trimmings and a cup of egg nog. Merry, merry!

Gorgeous Lady of the Week — Krysten Ritter

Once in a while an actress finds a role so perfect that it lets her punch through to another level entirely. Such is the case with the fascinating and unconventionally beautiful Krysten Ritter and her wonderful work as the title character in Netflix’s original series,  Jessica Jones. Netflix and Marvel have cleverly reimagined some of the more obscure protagonists in the Marvel Universe for TV, with Luke Cage and Iron Fist also getting their own series, and the compelling Jessica Jones shows just how satisfying it can be when relatively unknown superheroes get modernized and fleshed out in a morally complex world that is anything but black & white.

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And it is Ritter who enables Jessica Jones to reach it’s very fine full potential. At turns fragile and combative, cynical and idealistic, Ritter lets Jones’ damage show beneath the surface of her gamine good looks and her tough private eye facade. With it’s claustrophobic urban setting and her ominously dangerous nemesis, Jessica Jones inhabits a truly adult superhero demimonde, portraying sexual and mental subjugation in ways the big ticket franchises could never be bold enough to tackle. Add to that barely remarked upon interracial sex scenes between Jones and Cage, Jones’ use of her wits over her own seldom-deployed super strength and surprising eruptions of deadly, sanguineous violence, and Jessica Jones is a sophisticated vehicle that Ms. Ritter is wringing the very most out of.

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The 34-year old actress was born in rural Pennsylvania and was spotted by a modeling scout as gangly teenager in a local mall. With her throwback Coco Chanel looks, Ritter found herself in New York City in no time flat, where she was signed by the big agencies for print and runway work. With her lively and outgoing personality she made an easy transition into acting for commercials and television. She also made a concerted effort to act in theater, honing her acting chops even further.

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She had her first sustained TV work with a nice multi-episode role on the WB’s very popular hit, Gilmore Girls. That propelled her to supporting roles in features in the romantic comedies What Happens in Vegas with Cameron Diaz and Aston Kutcher, 27 Dresses with Katherine Heigl and She’s Out of My League with Jay Baruchel (all 2008) and again as the lead’s gal pal in 2009’s Confessions of a Shopaholic alongside Isla Fisher.

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But Ms. Ritter’s real breakthrough came with her remarkable portrayal of Jane Margolis during the second season of AMC’s legendary Breaking Bad. Effortlessly conveying the trademark tough-vulnerable qualities that would serve her so well in Jessica Jones, Ritter’s sexy tattoo artist and heroin-addict is a wonderful femme fatal and irresistible to the love-starved Jesse. So perfect was the role and the casting that one wishes Ritter’s Jane and Aaron Paul’s Jesse could have escaped Walt’s clutches and made their getaway to New Zealand. Instead the character’s death served to propel several profound plot twists going forward, and Ritter’s short-lived Jane Margolis was very much a vital deus ex machina. More than that, though, her performance was pitch perfect and indelible.

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An actor never likes to see a project get canceled but it was almost certainly a blessing when Krysten’s ABC sitcom Don’t Trust the B—- In Apt. 23 got the axe after two seasons. Yes the show was reasonably funny and Ms. Ritter was perfectly cast as the titular B—-. But the show’s demise created the opening for her to take her role of a lifetime in Jessica Jones. Now not only is her show one of Netflix’s top properties and a critical success but she will be featured in the multi-hero spinoff, The Defenders, slated to debut in 2017.  Alongside Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, Jessica Jones will be keeping good company as these heroes team up to fight crime and injustice. And Krysten Ritter is sure to keep doing attention-grabbing work as one of the more interesting actresses out there.

Gorgeous Lady of the Week — Rebecca Ferguson

In 2015’s surprisingly good installment of the action adventure evergreen, Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, Rebecca Ferguson didn’t just hold her own with the franchise’s superstar, Tom Cruise. She proved to be his co-equal, which is no mean feat for any actress. The 32-year-old Anglo-Swedish import’s memorable portrayal of Ilsa Faust, a morally ambiguous rogue MI6 agent, is every bit the match for Cruise’s Ethan Hunt.

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A striking beauty with remarkable martial arts, weapons and vehicle handling abilities, it is Faust’s mental brilliance that truly makes her such a confounding and alluring opponent for the Mission: Impossible team. And with a stunning choice of apparel for an opera assassination showing off her feline grace and wonderfully muscular physique, Ms. Ferguson certainly made a profoundly favorable impression on many a movie goer.

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Born in Stockholm to a Swedish father & British mother, Rebecca began modeling in her teens and had a breakout success in the Swedish soap, Nya tider, at the tender age of 17. This led to more TV and film work in Scandinavia until she came to broader attention with her titular role in the BBC’s The White Queen. While the historical drama failed to garner a huge audience, Rebecca’s portrayal of Elizabeth Woodville, scheming consort of King Edward IV during the War of the Roses, received high marks, including a Golden Globe award for best actress in a miniseries.

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In 2014 she had a good little role in the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson vehicle, Hercules, and had another miniseries lead in Lifetime’s Biblical drama, The Red Tent, where she played Dinah, daughter of Jacob and brother to Joseph, alongside Minnie Driver & Deborah Winger.

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Then came her standout work in Rogue Nation and the good news that Ms. Ferguson’s formidable Ilsa Faust should be staying on for the sequel, M:I 6, when that ramps up. With a number of other projects in post-production, as well as her own Tango studio to help keep her in nimble and muscular good shape, the multi-national, multi-talented Ms. Ferguson is primed for even more and better work. And with a winning combination of natural beauty and physical grace, she’s also likely to keep on making the kinds of impressions that only a very few talented and appealing actresses seem able to manage on a regular basis. It should be interesting to watch where Rebecca Ferguson goes from here. Our guess is it’ll be pretty far.

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Gorgeous Lady of the Week — Léa Seydoux

It’s fairly obvious that when a new Bond Girl debuts she is going to be a stunner. And in 2015’s Spectre, the ravishing Léa Seydoux most definitely lived up to the hype. But her Dr. Madeleine Swann is also tough and resourceful enough to be a match for Daniel Craig’s James Bond. And not just in the bedroom. In fact, Bond would never extract himself from his various life-threatening predicaments without Dr. Swann’s assistance taking on the title’s ultra-deadly criminal organization. And if Spectre turned the stunning Ms. Seydoux into an overnight pop culture phenomenon, the truth is that the 30-year-old French actress has been busy earning her place in the spotlight for several years now.

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Born in Paris to well-off and media-connected parents, Léa origially wanted to be an opera singer and did not start to pursue acting until her late teens. After some work modeling and appearing in short films, she broke through with 2008’s The Beautiful Person, which garnered her awards for best upcoming actress at Cannes and at the Césars. From there she was off and running, as the film world took notice of not just her natural peaches-and-cream, blue-eyed Gallic beauty but also her impressive acting chops and emotional daring.

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Ms. Seydoux had small roles in big pictures, Tarrantino’s Inglorious Basterds (2009) and Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood (2010). Then in 2011 Woody Allen picked her out for a plum role in his excellent Midnight In Paris and she landed a lead role in the latest installment of the Tom Cruise action blockbuster franchise, Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol

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She was back working in France for two big critical successes, as the servant girl witnessing Marie Antoinette’s last days in Farewell, My Queen and the controversially erotic art house smash, Blue Is the Warmest Color.

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And now she’s won the double-edged immortality that comes with being a Bond Girl. But Léa Seydoux’s steel-wrapped-in-silk portrayal of Madeleine Swann may be the most formidable member of that illustrious club since Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore… and without having to be stuck with a campy name to boot.

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It’s only fitting that she and Craig walk off into the sunset to close out this excellent era of the Bond saga. But with her wonderful abilities as an actress and a face that the camera loves and is built to melt hearts, there’s no way we’ve seen the last of Ms. Seydoux. Which is surely a good thing because we’re looking forward to her future career being as impressive and exciting as her astonishing start.



Gorgeous Lady of the Week — Annabelle Wallis

There is a moment in the enjoyably pulpy biographical BBC miniseries, Fleming, when the actress portraying Muriel Wright, Ian Fleming’s wartime flame and proto-Bond girl, walks away from the camera in her full-body tan leather motorcycle courier’s suit. She looks over her shoulder with a develish grin and a flip of her blond locks as if to say a cheerfully insouciant goodbye to her none-too-loyal lover. It’s in that moment that the viewer realizes he’s watching an actresss destined for big things. That actress is the stunning Annabelle Wallis.

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The 31-year-old Briton was born in Oxford but spent her formidable years abroad in Portugal, where she became fluent not only in Portuguese but also French and Spanish. A niece of the legendary Richard Harris and cousin to the talented Jared Harris of Mad Men fame, it seems only fitting that Annabelle joined the family business. After several small roles she broke through in Showtime’s The Tudors as Jane Seymour, third wife to Jonathan Rhys Myers’ Henry VIII.

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From there she was in the regrettably short-lived retro swinging stewardess series, Pan Am, alongside fellow blonde bombshell Margot Robbie and the always excellent Christina Ricci. Then in 2014 she was the inspiration for the archetypal Bond girl in two memorable episodes of Fleming opposite the up-and-coming Dominic Cooper in the titular role. That year was good to her, as she was also a lead in the supernatural thriller Annabelle and back on TV making a big impression with a major role in BBC’s excellent gangster series, Peaky Blinders, as the complex Grace Burgess alongside Cillian Murphy’s fierce crime boss.

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With several more features in pre- and post-production, as well as a highly publicized romance with Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin, Ms. Wallis is surely poised to keep her momentum going. And with such a diverse range of quality work already on her impressive resume can it be long before Hollywood sees what we see in the fair-haired lass and starts putting her in big time leading roles?

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True, with an attractiveness based on beautiful but not perfect features and sly wit, Annabelle is not the airbrushed, cookie cutter ingenue that makes her the “safe” pick for a leading lady. But with her impressive acting chops and that undefinable undercurrent of intrigue that she brings to every role, not to mention that fleeting, fetching smile, it seems to us that she’s the cure for the ordinary actress. We’d certainly take her in period costume or full length leather jump suit six days a week and twice on Sundays.

Gorgeous Lady of the Week — Alicia Vikander

Rising star Alicia Vikander has the look. It’s not so much the look of a perfectly polished Hollywood ingenue. It’s more intangible, more a throwback to the intriguing attractiveness possessed by those international actresses who graced the films of Truffaut and Godard in the 1960s like Anna Kerina and Jeanne Moreau. Beautiful in a soulful way and possessed of deep waters rushing beneath a placid surface, the 27-year-old Swedish actress has poise and grace rarely seen in younger performers these days, perhaps as a result of her training as a dancer. With a raft of strong performances already under her belt, Ms. Vikander is still not quite a household name yet. But she’s about to be.

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Born in Gothenburg and the daughter of an actress, Alicia spent her formative years training to be a ballerina at the Royal Swedish Ballet School. But injuries and a burning desire to act sent her on a different path in her late teens and she found success on the Swedish soap opera, Andra Avenyn, at the age of 20. Jumping off from there she made her critically praised film debut in the Swedish film Pure, garnering several prestigious European awards for that 2010 feature.

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Ms. Vikander broke through in the English speaking world with her role as Kitty in 2012’s adaptation of the classic weepy, Anna Kerenina, which starred Keira Knightly and Jude Law. And after making such a big impact in that relatively small role she was off to the races. After more work in Europe, she featured in The Fifth Estate (2013), the Aussie Son of a Gun (2014) and the British independent film, Testament of Youth (2015). But the movie that really put her on the radar of the general theater-going audience was 2015’s Ex Machina, Alex Garland’s spine-tinglingly dystopian directorial debut. Her role as a highly evolved artificial intelligence in beguiling semi-human form was one of the more interesting female characters to come along in years. While the exceptionally strong writing obviously did a lot of the work for the cast, which includes the outstanding Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleason, Vikander’s sympathetic and unsettling work as a beautiful android pitted against humans in a life or death examination for her worthiness to exist is quite simply a tour de force. Visionary as it is, Ex Machina would not have been as great without the actress’s stunning portrayal.

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Her breakthrough as Ava the Android officially cemented Alicia Vikander’s status as one of the hottest Swedish imports since Lena Olin. She starred in this summer’s big budget Man From U.N.C.L.E. and will appear in a slew of upcoming mainstream movies, such as Burnt with Bradley Cooper, Tulip Fever with Christoph Waltz, The Light Between the Oceans with Michael Fassbender, her now ex-boyfrirend, as well as an upcoming Bourne Identity sequel. Now that is a busy lady!

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Projecting a tender vulnerability wrapped around a steel core and with hypnotic brown eyes that always seem to hold you in their gaze, Ms. Vikander is also blessed with the acting chops to go far. She could well be this generation’s Juliette Binoche and should be aided by having an even better command of English than the great French actress. Only time will tell, of course. But one thing’s for certain: Alicia Vikander is a compelling actress well worth watching, especially if she continues to do smaller, independent films and doesn’t get swallowed up by the Hollywood Borg. We’re looking forward to watching what should be a stellar career for years to come.

Classic movie watch — The Big Heat (1953)

If you’re looking for the precursor to Dirty Harry and a thousand other righteous vigilante cops in the cinema look no further than Fritz Lang‘s 1953 film noir masterpiece, The Big Heat. Starring the underrated Glenn Ford as crusading homicide detective Dave Bannion, The Big Heat unspools like an Eisenhower-era nightmare, peeling away the veneer of wholesomeness from a mid-sized metropolis to reveal the festering corruption beneath. With bracingly modern use of brutal violence, Heat is one of Lang’s top crime masterpieces in a career filled with them, and the film still retains its power to shock and disturb today. Like so much of the Austrian genius’ output, which includes genre-defining classics like Metropolis, M, Fury and Scarlet Street, the phrase “ahead of its time” sticks to the The Big Heat. No matter how many times you’ve viewed it, you’ll come away astonished at the remarkable moral distance the film has traveled from start to finish.

While investigating a colleague’s alleged suicide and after talking to the seemingly bereaved widow, Ford’s Detective Bannion is contacted by the dead man’s mistress who reveals that not only was he keeping her on the side but that he was living far beyond the means of a policeman’s salary. After returning to push for answers from the now chilly dead cop’s wife, Bannion is then told to back off by his lieutenant. But when the mistress is found murdered, her body covered with cigarette burns, and O’Bannion begins receiving threatening calls at his home, he goes to the house of the local organized crime figure and Mr. Big, Mike Laguna (played by legendary voice actor Alexander Scourby), to confront him. Laguna offers to buy Bannion off but the straight arrow cop will have none of it. Seeing that Bannion cannot be deterred by the usual methods, the mob plans to murder Bannion by rigging his car to blow up. But when his wife ends up turning the ignition instead and his department continues to stonewall him, Bannion resigns from the force to begin a one-man crusade against Laguna and his fellow “thieves”.

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Chief among those accomplices is Laguna’s enforcer, Vince Stone. Played to vicious perfection by the great Lee Marvin, at the peak of his early career powers when he was one of the most badass “heavies” in the movies, Marvin’s Stone is a pure psychopath capable of truly terrifying acts of sudden violence, especially against women. Continue reading

Gorgeous Lady of the Week — Gretchen Mol

It’s not easy having a great second act as an actress in Hollywood, where 20-somethings rule and if you don’t break through by the time you’re 30 there are a dozen other fine young things ready to shove you out of the way. Which is not to say that the remarkable Gretchen Mol did not make an impact at a young age. In fact, no less than the cover of Vanity Fair asked if she was the “Next It Girl” in 1998 when she was just 26. But through no fault of her own, that seemingly instant fame led to blowback and heightened expectations that never seemed to be fulfilled. Until now.

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The 42-year-old blonde beauty was born in Connecticut and studied acting at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and the prestigious William Esper Studio, both in New York City. After work in the traditional training ground of New England summer stock, Mol was spotted by a talent agent and also photographer Davis Powell, which led to a cover on W magazine and a short-lived modeling career, as well as big buzz about her future.

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But her publicity always seemed to outstrip her achievements as an actress. Despite solid work in small budget Abel Ferrara films, some nice roles for Woody Allen and good part in the Matt Damon-Ed Norton card sharp caper Rounders (1998), Gretchen never found the broad popular success to break into the upper echelon of A-list actresses. Her lack of career momentum even led to The New York Times coining the term “Vanity Fair Cover Curse”. But she had a good small-scale success in both the stage and film versions of Neil Labute’s The Shape of Things, which seemed to give her renewed confidence.

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Finally being taken seriously as an actress and not just another pretty face, she delivered a breakout performance in 2005’s highly-regarded Indie smash, The Notorious Bettie PageHer complex, finely nuanced conception brought the infamous 1950s S&M pinup girl to life as something more than a half-remembered curiosity. With her fresh-faced sex appeal and sly humor and dressed in magnificent period lingerie and Bettie’s trademark dark bangs, Ms. Mol’s doppelgänger performance turned on a whole new generation to Page’s quirky erotic oeuvre, as well as the complex relationship between exploitation and empowerment.

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While contributing more quality work alongside Russell Crowe and Christian Bale in the throwback Western remake 3:10 to Yuma (2007) and on TV as the female lead in the American version of Life on Mars (2008-9), Gretchen still found time to start a family with husband Kip Williams. This also led to her turning down work that strayed too far afield from her New York home. Despite this proscription, she landed her best and perhaps most important role in HBO’s groundbreaking gangster epic, Boardwalk Empire. Her seemingly sweet but incredibly twisted Gillian Darmody, a sort of Prohibition-era Medea, is a jaw droopingly complex character pulled off with consummate skill and chilling depth. Quite simply, Gillian Darmody is one of the great female anti-heroines in cinema/TV history, a scheming, deceptive monster of the first degree, and Gretchen plays her magnificently. With her work in Bettie Page and Boardwalk Empire, Gretchen served notice that she’s an actress who can hold her own with anyone on the A-list. As she enters her mid-40s as a fully mature artist we could well be looking at one of the great second acts by any American actress. She’s well on her way and my money’s on Mol to pull it off.

Gorgeous Lady of the Week — Alexandra Daddario

To make the obvious point, Alexandra Daddario has looks and a body that can stop traffic. But she also has the acting chops that make her more than just another pretty face. The 29-year-old native New Yorker began as a teen actress in soaps but she quickly graduated to feature work with a starring role in the Chris Columbus-directed big budget fantasy series, Percy Jackson & the Olympians. She played the hero’s love interest, an earthbound demi-goddess, which is some pretty good casting — with her huge blue eyes, dark brown hair and curves galore, Alexandra is definitely blessed with other worldly beauty.

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But Alexandra really broke through with her brave and sexy work on the first season of HBO’s mega-dark miniseries, True Detective, scorching the screen in her love scenes with Woody Harrelson. Fearless, strong, yet also vulnerable, her nuanced performance as Lisa Tragnetti, a young woman in love with an older married cop, put her solidly on Holywood’s A-list.

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So it was no surprise to see Ms. Daddario cast as Dwayne Johnson’s daughter in this year’s big budget 3D disaster epic, San Andreas. And you can look for her career to continue to ascend with leads in the upcoming William H. Macy-helmed comedy, The Layover, alongside the equally statuesque Kate Upton; and the latest Nicolas “The Notebook” Sparks’ film adaptation, The Choice, slated for 2016 release.

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Alexandra Daddario gracing the pages of Cosmopolitan in 2013

Talented, beautiful and self-possessed, it will be interesting to see whether she can succeed in comedy. But Alexandra is surely a natural for a classic Hollywood romance. After all, when she shoots those baby blues your way what choice do you really have?

Gorgeous Lady of the Week — Felicity Jones

No, Felicity Jones didn’t win the Best Actress Oscar last Sunday. But anyone who’s seen her remarkably brave and touching performance in The Theory of Everything knows that the lovely young Englishwoman’s future is nevertheless guaranteed to be golden. Ms. Jones’ Jane Wilde Hawking opposite Eddie Redmayne’s astonishing, Academy Award-winning portrayal as her physically impaired astrophysicist husband, Stephen Hawking, gives the film its soul and its heart. Her work is subtle and never mawkish but still communicates a woman pushed to the very limit by her belief in selfless love, her sense of guilt and honor and the slow motion tragedy of taking care of a husband with incurable neuromuscular disease. By turns strong and shattered, the actress achieves that rare thing in film acting: a fully realized human being with whom anyone with half a heart can empathize.

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The 31-year-old Birmingham beauty began her career as a teen sorceress-in-training on ITV’s The Worst Witch and after 3 seasons she took time off to attend university. But acting remained her calling and she returned to it a young woman on a mission with an impressive run of supporting roles alongside major league actresses like Emma Thompson, Michelle Pfeiffer and Helen Mirren. That steady work with top notch professionals eventually led to her own star turn in 2011’s dizzyingly romantic Like Crazywhere she played a British exchange student abruptly separated from her American lover when her visa expires.

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She was also carried away by love in 2013’s critically acclaimed Breathe In, where Ms. Jones was again an exchange student, this time falling for Guy Pearce’s married music teacher and leading him astray with her vulnerability, musicianship and big blue eyes. That same year she picked up a British Independent Film Award nomination for her very moving work as Charles Dickens’ secret mistress in the ambitious period biography, The Invisible Woman. Directed with a fine, restrained touch by Ralph Fiennes while he simultaneously portrayed Dickens, it was clear that Felicity’s portrayal of Nelly Ternen and her May-September romance with the great author confirmed a major acting talent reaching full maturity. The fact that she had now held her own and then some with Pearce and Fiennes in two consecutive pictures announced to the world that this was a young lady unintimidated and ready for big things.

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And what could be bigger than her breakthrough in The Theory of Everything with its massive success and resultant accolades? Now everyone knows Felicity Jones, not just British film buffs. And with several more films in post-production and a secure spot as one of Hollywood’s new, young A-list actresses this should only be the beginning. Between those eyes, that face and all that talent we’re sure to be looking at Felicity for years to come. Which suits us just fine.