WCW: Rachel Weisz

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In my not-so-humble opinion, Rachel Weisz is one of the more talented actors around these days. She’s also stunningly beautiful, which helps my crush on her (I love her dark hair, pale skin, rosebud lips look). Not all of her forays into historical films have worked out perfectly, but she’s done enough — and is talented enough — to put her in my top five actress list. Let’s take a wander through her oeuvre, shall we?

 

The Scarlet and the Black (1993)

This British miniseries was only her fourth screen credit. I haven’t seen it, and I hadn’t even heard of it until I went look for Weisz’s early career … which probably means it was terrible, but I’m tempted to track it down, because: Weisz. Ewan MacGregor in early 19th-century military uniforms. And the Borg Queen (Alice Krige). According to IMDB, the plot is as follows: “The story of an ambitious but impoverished young man who seduces women of social class in order to improve his own prospects.” Also, Wikipedia tells me it is “steamy,” which, sign me up.

The Scarlett and the Black (1993)

Maybe the story is really about Adam Ant joining the Borg? Because I would totally watch that.

 

Amy Foster aka Swept From the Sea (1997)

This seems to have been the main attempt to turn Weisz into a Period Film Actress. Despite Weisz and French hottie Vincent Perez, this story was waaaaay too bleak and Victorian to succeed (it’s based on a short story by Joseph Conard). Weisz plays Amy Foster, a poor Cornish girl who is outcast by her family and town for unclear reasons. Perez is the Russian immigrant whose ship founders on the coast; everyone dies except him. The townspeople initially shun him, except for Amy, and the two fall in love … but (spoiler alert) he dies. Yeah. Not great. And since everyone is very rural/poor, the costumes are VERY much in the “serviceable” camp.

Amy Foster aka Swept From the Sea (1997)

Tragic actress is tragic.

Amy Foster aka Swept From the Sea (1997)

Weisz wears some variation of this basic black (1880s?) dress throughout the film.

Amy Foster aka Swept From the Sea (1997)

Proof that two hotties can’t save a total downer of a movie.

 

The Land Girls (1998)

This is one of those movies (not to be confused with the more recent TV series) that grows on me the more I watch it. Three English girls join the Women’s Land Army during World War II. They’re stationed on a farm, where they pitch in, become besties, and get involved in one way or another with the farmer’s son. Weisz is probably the standout of the three main characters: she plays Cambridge University graduate Ag (short for Agapanthus), who is all brains and must learn about the physical (ahem) side of life. And you really can’t go wrong with cute 1940s uniforms and hairdos.

The Land Girls (1998)

Okay so the pants aren’t super flattering…

The Land Girls (1998)

Weisz along with Catherine McCormack (Dangerous Beauty) and Anna Friel.

The Land Girls (1998)

Ag learning about the less intellectual side of life.

 

Sunshine (1999)

One of those overly ambitious, arty films — three generations of men from a Hungarian Jewish family, all played by Ralph Fiennes. The first period is set in the 1890s with Fiennes and Jennifer Ehle; Weisz turns up in the next generation, during the 1920s, while the Fiennes character deals with converting to Christianity. It’s got some nice costumes, but it would be a better film if it didn’t try to cover so much time/so many characters.

Sunshine (1999)

Sparkly evening gowns!

Sunshine (1999)

Cute cloche hats!

 

The Mummy (1999)

Can you remember why this movie was such a big hit when it came out? I can’t, except that it was both silly and adventurous and scary. But really, my one takeaway was how super cute Weisz was as a 1910s librarian adventuring around ancient Egypt, especially The Best Dialogue Ever:

Evelyn: Look, I … I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer, or a treasure-seeker, or a gunfighter, Mr. O’Connell, but I am proud of what I am.

Rick: And what is that?

Evelyn: I … am a librarian!

The Mummy (1999)

And hey, they made a vague attempt at 1910s costumes!

The Mummy (1999)

Librarians FTW

She was also in the sequel, The Mummy Returns, but my memory is that they made absolutely zero attempts at period-ish costume in that.

 

Enemy at the Gates (2001)

Weisz joins Jude Law and Joseph Fiennes in this movie about the epic Battle of Stalingrad (1942-3) from the perspective of the Russians. There’s lots of communist and military uniforms and sniper-ing, but all you really need to know is there’s a H.O.T. scene where Weisz shags pre-hair implants Jude Law in the midst of a gazillion sleeping soldiers.

Enemy at the Gates (2001)

Political!

Enemy at the Gates (2001)

Badass!

Enemy at the Gates (2001)

Who cares, let’s watch the sex scene again.

 

The Fountain (2006)

I always feel like I SHOULD watch this film, because Weisz plays Queen Isabella of Castile … but then I remember that she and co-star Hugh Jackman also play a modern-day scientist and his wife, as well as a futuristic space traveler and his lost love. And I look at the 16th-century-ISH costumes and think, “meh.” Let me know if you loved this, or if I’ve made good life choices.

The Fountain (2006)

I like the idea of Weisz as Queen Isabella!

The Fountain (2006)

But why is her costume a mash-up between 16th century and Lord of the Rings? (And that bustline — shudder).

 

Agora (2009)

Damn, this was good, and you know I mean that because the costumes aren’t the least bit shiny! Weisz plays ancient philosopher and general badass Hypatia during the destruction of the Library of Alexandria. Her performance is incredibly gripping as an incredibly brilliant and self-actualized woman, and the world-building (especially the locations and sets) are really mesmerizing. See it!

Agora (2009)

Hypatia doesn’t have time for love, she’s too busy being Smart as Fuck!

Agora (2009)

She helps save many of the Library’s works!

Agora (2009)

The costumes aren’t shiny, and I can’t tell you anything about their accuracy, but I generally liked them aesthetically.

 

The Deep Blue Sea (2011)

Whatever you do with your life, do not waste two hours of it watching this INTENSELY DEPRESSING movie. And I don’t mean depressing in a tragic, dramatic way. I mean a woman who is into a guy who is terrible for her, who knows it but still lurves him anyway, and then sits around for hours chain-smoking and waiting for him to show up in 1950s London. I’d rather stick a fork in my own eye than watch this ever again, despite the usually fabulous Weisz and Tom Hiddleston. NEVER AGAIN.

The Deep Blue Sea (2011)

You think the hair and red coat look promising, don’t you?

The Deep Blue Sea (2011)

You’re thinking Weisz plus Tom Hiddleston and arty director Terence Davies couldn’t go wrong, aren’t you?

The Deep Blue Sea (2011)

If watching depressed people chain smoke for two hours while marinating in their fuck-ups gets you off, by all means.

 

What’s Next?

The Light Between Oceans

It’s not super costume-y, but the trailer looks good! Plus, bonus Michael Fassbender.

The Light Between Oceans (2016)

The Favourite

This is the one I’m SUPER excited about! Nothing has been confirmed yet, and shooting hasn’t started, but supposedly Weisz is going to play Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough (1660-1744), favorite friend (and possible lover) of Queen Anne … with Emma Stone as her political rival Abigail Masham. PLEASE LET THIS HAPPEN. Please let there be fontange caps and mantuas!

 

What’s your favorite Rachel Weisz film?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

28 Responses

  1. Charity

    I’ve seen most of these.

    (“Deep Blue Sea” always reminds me of… sharks. I think that’s a different movie! ;)

    “The Fountain” is impressionistic abstract art, a story about processing grief and using storytelling as a metaphor for escaping reality. It’s a mind-bendy movie, very weird. I have ambivalent feelings about it. On the one hand, it’s kinda depressing. On the other, it’s kinda cool. Mostly, though, it’s just… odd.

    Reply
  2. mmcquown

    If she’s good enough for James Bond, she’s good enough for me! But seriously — I think it was Enemy that first caught my attention, and I’ve been a big fan ever since. Too bad she didn’t get to finish out the Mummy series. I really haven’t seen much of her costume epics.

    Reply
  3. thedementedfairy

    Major Weisz-maniac here, and it allll started with that there Scarlet & Black. And Alice Krige. OMG. I remember nothing at all about it other than having the hots for all the women lol. Loved her in the Mummy [especially when she gets all sweaty with Patricia Velasquez grrrr https://youtu.be/y8svNN8saeU%5D, HATE the Fountain [although the missus adores it, meh.]
    Landgirls was fun. [also cos Anna Friel who was pretty hot at that time lol]

    Reply
  4. Josi

    She’s also currently working on a new adaptation of Du Maurier’s “My Cousin Rachel” together with Sam Claflin, Holliday Grainger and Iain Glen! And the set pics (aka the costumes ;)) looked alright so far.

    Reply
  5. Trystan L. Bass

    1. Scarlet and the Black is very pretty & kind of dumb — that is, I saw it once & remember only eye candy but no plot.

    2. The Mummy makes me want to throw things. Please to not be mentioning it in my presence again.

    3. I had already saved pix from The Fountain for Snark Week!

    (None of this is Rachael Weisz’s fault, but still.)

    Reply
  6. Karen K.

    I’ve been a big fan since The Mummy. I actually recently saw Swept from the Sea, which was slow and depressing, but beautifully filmed. Don’t want to see it again. Thanks for the recommendation for Agora, which has been on my watch list forever (with the added bonus of Oscar Isaac). And I will definitely skip Deep Blue Sea.

    Reply
  7. Shirley

    As someone who has worked in a library for years, I always adored Weisz’s character in The Mummy. I thought she was adorable!

    Reply
  8. Ellira

    I love Weisz! I have to confess I adore The Mummy after I recently re-watched it. It’s a silly action film with an outlandish premise, and yet it’s funny, witty, and Weisz plays possibly the best female character I’ve ever seen in an action film. She’s smart and independent and doesn’t take any nonsense from anyone, and somehow manages to scream and be terrified without making me weep for the portrayal of women on screen. 100% would be Evie.

    I loved her in Agora too, which did make me cry, but mostly because they destroyed the Library of Alexandria, which is just NOT OK.

    Reply
  9. Isis

    The problem with her 1910’s costume in The Mummy is that it’s set in the mid-20’s. I know, because I recently watched it with my son. :)

    Reply
  10. Jutte

    Can’t say I loved The Fountain but in all fairness it was totally misunderstood and misrepresented. The Queen Isabella stuff was a very bad (both as literature and historical fiction) book that Rachel’s character was writing. She obviously slept through that class in high school. The tree of life stuff was supposed to be a glimpse inside her husband’s mind. The rest portrayed the tragedy of a doctor so intent on finding a cure for his wife’s disease that he forfeited the remaining time he could have spent with her.

    Reply
  11. kproche

    Agora was so much fun. And I still enjoy the silly movie Trystan won’t let us name.

    Reply
  12. Adina

    Now I need a crossover with Obi-Wan + Anakin and Ahsoka vs the Borg. Oh my god it would be amazing.

    I loved Sunshine. I think a lot of the reason I enjoyed it so much did have to do with the fact that I know my European Jewish history well.

    Reply
  13. LIbby Stephenson

    As a fan of The Fountain, I think her dress is supposed to be a mash-up of the 16th century and a tree. Because that movie’s really into trees. And she’s maybe immortal, like the tree…

    I’ve gone about 3 layers deep into the symbolism of that movie and I fear there are many more.

    Reply
  14. Adela

    I keep seeing anecdotes for the Fountain that Rachel was a last minute casting replacement and that the dress was fitted originally for someone else. That bodice does look like it’s proportioned for someone taller in the torso and fuller bust. Whether it’s true or not, well. I was more distracted on the tight fit of the conquistador’s leather pants. I wasn’t expecting period accuracy for a surrealism allegory though.

    Reply
  15. Sarah Faltesek

    Weisz is one of those actresses who’s presence will get me to watch a movie I might otherwise have passed on- I think she is absolutely radiant.
    I didn’t know about the film with MacGregor and Krige! Thanks for the tip, I’m going to look it up.
    Also, I proudly own the ‘unmentionable movie’. No shame. :)

    Reply
  16. ladylavinia1932

    But really, my one takeaway was how super cute Weisz was as a 1910s librarian adventuring around ancient Egypt, especially The Best Dialogue Ever:

    Actually, she was portraying a 1920s librarian.

    Reply
  17. Rachel Ost

    Her clothing in Agora was refreshingly mostly period. (plus, dude – Roman hair!) Believe me, when I see terrible Roman clothing (I’m looking at you, Spartacus: Blood and Sand) there is all the cringing. And kvetching. Maybe even cursing at my TV.

    I just love the fact that her clothing has colour in Agora!

    Reply

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