Can we take a moment to talk about Emma Watson? Cool, I’m going to take a moment to talk about Emma Watson.
Because I kind of adore Emma Watson right now. Honestly, I haven’t even decided if she’s a good actress or not. I think she is. She’s certainly capable. She was easily the best thing about Noah, emoting with more gravity than that movie deserved. She was solid in a fairly straight-forward (and easily lovable) role in My Week with Marilyn, and passable but a bit strained in The Bling Ring.
No matter what we discover about Watson as an actress over the coming decades, she will always have given us Hermione Granger. The Harry Potter movies might have been mostly regrettable (with the exception of the Alfonso Cuarón-helmed third entry, The Prisoner of Azkaban), but Hermione remains one of the most kick-ass young female characters in all of literature, and Emma Watson fully embodied her as brilliant, brave, stubborn, talented, and fiercely loyal. She’ll always have been Hermione. Was Carrie Fisher an objectively good actress? Yeah, probably. But the question hardly matters: she played her one truly iconic role with the perfect blend of vulnerability and toughness that role demanded. Carrie Fisher was Princess Leia, and Princess Leia was Carrie Fisher. They are inseparable. Emma Watson will always have been Hermione Granger.
For a new generation, she’ll always have been Belle too. My daughter and I went to see Beauty and the Beast last week, and troubling thematic elements aside, the movie was a ton of fun. Watson was perfect as the titular Beauty, though her Belle was obviously far more than that descriptor: tough, brave, bookish, resourceful. Honestly, I can’t think of more appropriate pop literary doppelgangers for Watson than Hermione and Belle.
I think she can act. I think she’s learning to act. I look forward to seeing her in more challenging roles, and I hope she goes beneath the Disney veneer to give us those in the coming years. Off screen, she’s doing some pretty compelling stuff in the name of gender equality, and she seems every bit as smart and savvy as her most iconic roles. Whether she has a long career of memorable roles or not, she’ll always have given us the cleverest witch of her age. That’s enough for now.