Career Peak – The point in an actor, actress or director’s career when they have given their best performance, reaching a point they will probably never match again!
This is my attempt to launch a new weekly feature to accompany 3 of the Best vs 3 of the Worst. The idea is to examine a persons film or television career and decide when their career peak was; the moment that they gave their best performance or produced their best work. This could be with their first movie; it could also be yet to come. Its designed to spark friendly debate too so if you don’t agree (or do, which would also be good) then feel free to add your suggestions below.
I thought of this when I was doing my Love Actually feature earlier in the week. It was the career of Hugh Grant that made me consider this as a feature and because I love a relevant article or theme, let’s have a look at when Hugh Grants career “peaked.”
Hugh Grant – Career Peak: Four Weddings and a Funeral
Hugh Grant found his niche and he stuck to it. He catapulted himself as a true, English gentleman star, with only Colin Firth to challenge that title in roles that resembled what Hugh Grant was doing. The success of Four Weddings was the innocent, buffoon, mumbling performance that made his character charming and made a lot of woman search for their own English gentleman.
It was a great mixture of funny and romantic, playing up to the absurd comedy in places but being a lot more subtle with some of the more sensitive moments in the film. Hugh Grant gave a performance that made him a Hollywood name (before the scandal would truly make him a household name). He could then choose to go forward with any type of role, maybe diversify into a more dramatic role or even, as the offers did come in, a more action hero role (it’s a possibility!).
Instead, Hugh played it safe. His next few roles were essentially playing on the appeal of his Four Weddings character. The biggest films that followed were Nine Months, Notting Hill and Mickey Blue Eyes. Each of these films were Grant playing essentially the same character type, misunderstood English gentleman, hopeless in love.
Many people may think Notting Hill is his career peak but his performance doesn’t change enough from what he developed for Four Weddings. Its only the presence of Julia Roberts that made this movie as high-profile and successful as it was.
I do feel sorry for Hugh Grant in some respect because the attempts to play against type only get referenced and mentioned because he isn’t being “Four Weddings Grant.” It means that in Bridget Jones and American Dreamz, you can’t help feeling like you are watching Hugh Grant pretend to be nasty, rather than him lost in the role and character completely.
Even one of his most famous roles, when he should be much more a selfish, shallow character, as Will in About a Boy, you can’t help but side with him slightly. He could be one of the meanest characters in a film but you would struggle to get away from that feeling of “awww, it’s Hugh Grant, he’s alright really.”
I haven’t seen Cloud Atlas, which in fairness is a departure from the norm for Hugh Grant, something that was made a huge deal of (in the UK at least) during some of the build-up to the movie. Maybe he does enough here to persuade people that there is more to Hugh Grant than foppish, classic, English gentleman, but to be honest, I’ve yet to see any real proof of it.
Overall, Four Weddings and Funeral was the peak of Hugh Grants career. It was Grant finding his niche and style and making his career from playing the nice guy next door. Unfortunately, it means that whenever he tries to depart from this role, it feels faked and forced. I’m not saying his career is over, just that it will never be as good as his performance in his first major movie role.