SNARK WEEK: Woeful Woman Wednesday – Carey Mulligan


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Our usual Woman Crush Wednesday actors are strong, independent, driven women who’ve taken a variety of fascinating roles during their careers. But for Snark Week, we have to take Carey Mulligan to task as one of the most woeful women in historical costume movies and TV. She’s just so boring! Unlike our women-crushes, Mulligan has the unique ability to take an otherwise interesting historical story or character and bring it down and make it dull. While her BFF Keira Knightley clomps through costume dramas like a bull in a china shop, Carey Mulligan looks alright in period costume, but she can really put you to sleep with her lethargic acting style. Let’s give it a run through, but warning, you may want a cup of coffee first.


Kitty Bennet – Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Carey Mulligan, Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Carey Mulligan’s performance wasn’t specifically one of the reasons we were irritated by this crappy version of the beloved classic, but she didn’t help either. Kitty is Lydia’s sycophant, but instead of being a distinct and amusing yes-woman, Mulligan is just a wallflower-y shadow. Bleh.


Ada Clare – Bleak House (2005)

Carey Mulligan, Bleak House (2005)

She’s a mildly bleak spot in an otherwise excellent Charles Dickens production. You could lift her wholly out of this story and it wouldn’t suffer.


Isabella Thorpe – Northanger Abbey (2007)

Carey Mulligan, Northanger Abbey (2007)

Mulligan is again the “off note,” to quote Kendra’s short review, in this generally good Austen production.


Elsie Kipling – My Boy Jack (2007)

Carey Mulligan, My Boy Jack (2007)

She plays the daughter of Rudyard Kipling and brother of Jack Kipling (pictured, played by Daniel Radcliffe), and the only review that mentions her specifically says, “her eyes are pools of inarticulate sadness.” Being sad is the most she ever brings to a flick.


Daisy Buchanan – The Great Gatsby (2013)

Carey Mulligan, The Great Gatsby (2013)

My absolute least favorite of Carey Mulligan’s roles. She’s in a torpor throughout the whole film. She drifts from one scene to the next, mouthing her lines with zero change in tone, emotion, or aspect. Her character is as appealing as wet wallpaper, making it hard to understand why Gatsby is so obsessed with Daisy. I just want to yell at him, “SHE’S NOT WORTH THE TROUBLE.”


Bathsheba Everdene – Far From the Madding Crowd (2015)

Carey Mulligan, Far From the Madding Crowd (2015)

A case of Mulligan in over her head. Thomas Hardy’s heroines are more complicated than they look at first blush, and this screenplay didn’t give any of the actors enough to work with. She dithers between three men, having little chemistry with any of them, least of all the hottie she’s supposed to have passionate sexytimes with. Even the sheep died of boredom.


Maud Watts – Suffragette (2015)

Carey Mulligan, Suffragette (2015)

I did like the movie for the general picture it paints of suffragist events in the U.K., but that was despite Carey Mulligan’s performance as the least activist suffragette ever. She merely gets swept along by history. Oh, women’s rights? OK, sure, yeah, whatever. Oh, you want me to bomb a building? OK, sure, yeah, whatever. Oh, I’m being force-fed in prison? OK, sure, yeah, whatever. Even at the end, I couldn’t tell if she gave a crap about the women’s movement or if she just felt obliged because she didn’t have anything else going on at the time.


Laura McAllan – Mudbound (2017)

Carey Mulligan, Mudbound (2017)

Coming to theaters this year, Mulligan stars in a post-World War II film set on a rural Mississippi farm. “Mudbound” — the name says it all. SIGN ME UP. /sarcasm.


Does Carey Mulligan in historical costume movies put you to sleep too?


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37 Responses

  1. Susan Pola

    Carey Mulligan needs to wake up, go back to acting school, go to school to improve her intelligence – take a pick or all. I prefer all.
    Her okay portrayal in Bleak House was maybe a C+ but her grasp of history and author’s nuances in character make her a poor choice for period films.
    I hated Baz’s Gatsby. He, IMHO, had no idea of why the book is such a classic. Mulligan’s Daisy comes across as being:
    A) a dumb blonde:
    B) on drugs:
    C) spineless
    D) all of the above & more.
    My choice is D.

    Fitzgerald’s Daisy was an intelligent woman, full of life, spunk, but doomed to her life because of class and upbringing. And that’s just my surface read of her character.

    I’d watch Reign (surprisingly addictive for seasons 1-3), the Tudors (fast forwarding Jonathan R Meyers) before watching her in a film, unless the costumes are TOTALLY AWESOME.

    • janette

      Not surprising. Baz has no idea of what makes Shakespeare so great either.

    • Kelly

      yeah, she got Daisy totally wrong.

      I used to teach HS English and the year it came out, I took my students to see it, and I was proud that they had the same reaction. Daisy isn’t supposed to be a victim. Daisy is a bitch.

    • Sonya Heaney

      Please don’t say “dumb blonde”. My God. Everyone’s a feminist these days – except when they feel entitled to insult a woman based on her hair colour.

      I thought we were past that sort of nasty misogyny…

  2. Elizabeth Merritt

    The first film I saw Carey Mulligan in was Never Let Me Go, a dystopian sci flick. Her bland, vaguely depressed attitude made sense; all the characters are trapped and basically doomed. It wasn’t until I saw her in costume films that I realized “Oh, she wasn’t acting, she’s just like that.” Ugh.

  3. amy towle

    Wowzers these comments are super personal and harsh. I actually loved her in An Education, which is also period. A lot of the films you mention also suffer from poor direction and weak scripts. In a week that’s seen millions of women march in solidarity this column and comments seem oddly off key and vindictive.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Did I call her fat / too skinny / ugly? Did I mock her personal life choices? Did I slut-shame her? No. I critiqued her job performance. That’s fair game.

      The essence of feminism is equal treatment. I want to be treated the same as any man might be treated. That means, if I do a job that’s great, give me the same pay & the same praise. If I do a shitty job, dock my pay & tell me I suck. No better, no worse. If you think a fellow woman should be treated with kid gloves when doing her job *just because she’s a woman* then you’re a sexist. Just like a man who thinks a fellow man should be treated better just because he’s a man.

      And don’t tell me about the marches — I participated in 2 on Saturday, in San Jose in the morning & San Francisco in the evening (in the pouring rain), as did both the other women on Frock Flicks, one w/me in SF & the other in our state’s capitol, Sacramento.

      • Cheryl

        Damn! What is going on with this commenters??! Perfect response Trystan. Maybe you should have a “snark-free” week so all the whiny people on here can see how ridiculous it is when you aren’t allowed to voice your opinion. I love you ladies and your snark is awesome. I also love that these people don’t see the irony is their getting pissy about your snark and instead of say, finding a different website, come on here to publicly whine about you. Ugh.

        Anyway, keep it up! It’s okay to have opinions ;).

  4. Melponeme_k

    Mulligan is a case example of studio chosen “stars” failing upward. It doesn’t matter how awful Mulligan or most of her peers are as actors. They can appear in one bomb after the next. But they will still be given lead roles because…no reason except a group of executives, managers and agents got together and chose them. Maybe they got a date out of it…or more. Or maybe it is because they fancy themselves prescient to pick winners.

    One thing that never fails is their ability to pick one loser after another. Mulligan is one of them. She has the same crooked pout/half-smile and teary eyes in one movie after another. It never varies.

    Somehow we are supposed to believe she is devastatingly attractive. Even more so than Julie Christie (the prior Bathsheba). She was woefully miscast in Gatsby, I would have believed her as Daisy’s maid not as Daisy.

    I actively avoid her. I broke this vow with Gatsby. But only to see the train wreck and laugh.

  5. Susan Pola

    You are 100% correct. Bring on the train wreck. But Baz shouldn’t be allowed to direct. Moulin Rouge was a fluke. Or was Nicole’s performance so incandescent that you forgot him?

    • Melponeme_k

      Moulin Rouge worked because it was totally a rip off of Zefirelli’s production of Puccini’s La Boheme.

      For Gatsby, Baz had no one to rip off. Hence the train wreck.

      • Susan Pola

        True, but I felt Baz added La Traviatta to the mix. Zeffirelli directed Teresa Stratos in a beautiful production Her aria ‘Addio del La passato’ literally brought me to tears.

      • Trystan L. Bass

        Moulin Rouge, yeah, sure! It was campy fun. And I actually have a soft spot for Baz’s Romeo + Juliet. But Gatsby, gag, so much wrong, so little right.

    • Kate

      Hated Moulin Rouge – Ewan McGregor bellowing all over the place – awful! Never understood the love for this film (except the Lady Marmalade cover). I like Carey in Far From the Madding Crowd & Never Let Me Go (non-historical).

  6. ladylavinia1932

    I’m sorry, but you’ve crossed the line here. You’re entitled to your opinion of Carey Mulligan, but in no way can I agree with you. Not about her.

    This whole article sounds like another one of those propaganda campaigns in which moviegoers love to bash successful actresses who began in their 20s and are still successful in their thirties.

    • Sarah Lorraine

      I’m not sure where any of that is coming from, because the tone in the post and in the comments is pretty much mellow and restrained for us. You’ve been here for a while, you’ve seen the way things can go when we really pull out all the stops on someone. Nothing in what’s been written here is “bashing” her. Pretty much everyone is in agreement that she’s just blah. I am sure there are many others who haven’t commented who disagree with Trystan’s assessment, and hey, that’s cool.

      I’m just not seeing anything close to the kind of vitriolic hatred that you’re alleging.

    • Justme

      If she is entitled to her opinion, than how had she crossed the line by expressing it? The only thing I can see, is that you feel she’s crossed a line by expressing something that “in no way [you] agree with”.

  7. amy towle

    I completely agree with your intiall comment about treating women equally when cricticing actors work. But in general I don’t think your assessment of her work is particularly accurate, rigorous or constructive. It was also not a pointed attack on your article, I patently mentioned the comments below it. As someone who, has had their picture, widely circulated in the last few days, due to participating in the Womens March and thus been exposed a quite incredible amount of abuse, I’m just sick of reading further vindictive and uninspired attacks on other women (please note this is mostly about the comments not the article).

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Ok, then

      1) you should direct your comments at other commenters — there’s a handy little “reply” button below each comment that lets you do so.

      2) I honestly don’t see any comments that were personally attacking Mulligan — so far, I’ve seen only ppl who don’t enjoy her as an actor. YMMV, but again, take it up with specific comments & what words ppl actually use.

      3) finally, are you new to Frock Flicks? did you see the title “SNARK WEEK”? this is when we purposefully SNARK about historical costume movies. deep, nuanced critique is not the point. having fun is. lord knows we all need some laughs in these dark days — this is how WE do it, by making fun of shitty historical costume movies & that can include the acting.

    • Sarah Lorraine

      I also liked her in Doctor Who. I just don’t much care for her subsequent stuff, but she was good enough for the episode to make my Top Three Favorite Reboot Who Episodes.

      • themodernmantuamaker

        Oh that’s right, she was in that one. Also one of my fave Who episodes. But, yes, there was the advantage of the great script and directing. With that one she only needed to swept along for her performance to be good.

  8. amy towle

    No I’m not new to this site, I actually work in a major costume house in the UK and have shared your previous posts on our page. And I’m not lacking a sense of humour!

    But yes my perspectives are different from working in the industry.

    I completely take your points. I was just making a general point about the tone, and you know, I generally just don’t agree.

    • Trystan L. Bass

      Disagree with the point — as in, you think she’s a great actor — FABULOUS. That’s awesome. That’s brilliant. Enjoy! She’s your cup of tea & not ours. Perfect.

      Just don’t go throwing around unsubstantiated generalizations about other commenters & attack US as not being feminists for disliking the way one woman does her job. Bec. that’s bullshit & we will call you out on it every day & twice on Sunday.

  9. Katie

    I actually liked her in Gatsby, but purely because I loathe Daisy Buchanan and she was 100% the flaky, selfish, spoiled child that I remember from the novel.

  10. Liutgard

    She’s ok as low-key, ‘supporting actress’ sort of roles, but as a lead? I keep wanting to shake her and say DRINK SOME COFFEE, WOMAN! HAVE A RED BULL! DO SOME JUMPING JACKS! Anything for a little energy!

  11. SarahV

    I imprinted upon her negatively (and probably unfairly) because my first real exposure (the first time I took notice of her, is when she played the horrible daughter in the PBS (BBC One) *The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard* about a progressive, pragmatic everywoman who manages to find herself Prime Minister (with Janet McTeer as her Chancellor of the Exchequer!).. and Carey was her silly, ridiculous daughter who kept trying to wreck her mother’s career.

    I was able to abide her well enough as Daisy because of the the wardrobe, but I always have thought that Daisy Buchanan was a terrible wretch in every version.

  12. themodernmantuamaker

    I actually did enjoy her in Northanger Abbey. As someone else mentioned I think she *can* be ok in a supporting role, but is so often “weak tea” (if I may borrow the phrase) as that that I can imagine starring roles beyond her – although I admit I haven’t seen any of the movies where she was a/the central character so I probably shouldn’t really judge.

  13. brainybrunette20

    She wasn’t awful, but still kind of blah, in An Education set in 1960’s London. Her character was a school girl who got in involved with a married man and has a sad when she finds out about it.

  14. Brenna Beattie

    Oh, thank goodness! I thought it was me! Everything I see her in is so dreary and depressing. I tried to watch Drive and had to stop midway through because she was knocking me out. I couldn’t tell why Ryan Gosling was enchanted by her. I can’t go back and watch her other stuff, even where she sort of looks like the baby faced ingenue. She might make a great Sleeping Beauty or an android heroine who discovers emotions and heartache in the plot, but she’s otherwise not very good at showing emotion. While I appreciate Gatsby for bringing Art Deco Fashions and motifs back, I took one look at it and realized that it was going to be aesthetic and miserable. And Carey always looks a bit like she’s so exhausted, she’s about to burst into tears. I feel like I should hug her and give her fistfuls of caffeine pills.

  15. Justme

    I never understood Carey Mulligan’s appeal. At least with Kiera Knightly, I can understand why people like her as an actress and want her in films (even if she isn’t my favorite actress). Carey Mulligan gets almost the same level of admiration, but she doesn’t do anything other than sit there, look pretty, and occasionally be sad. She’s cute, but she’s milquetoast and boring as fuck. And as far as I can tell, she doesn’t even appear to have a personality in real life, either! Even my parents like her, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. Maybe she gives off a “seems like such a nice girl” vibe that older British people like. I know better than that, though. Those are the ones that always turn out to be serial killers (god, I hope so! Something to make her interesting and worth all the attention, please!)