There’s always a little bit of madness lurking behind Annette Bening’s eyes. Whether this is her character or the real woman is a mystery, one that viewers have been more than happy to be wrapped up in throughout her career. Bening is an expert at pealing back the layers of characters we would normally dismiss as arrogant, shallow or bitchy. She does this either with an objective approach to a distasteful character (American Beauty) or by putting herself completely into the role (The Kids Are All Right.) No matter what her approach, though, there’s always that little bit of madness below the surface, ready to snap.
Few actresses stay under the radar and still garner as much acclaim as Laura Linney. She hit her hot streak in the 2000’s with rich, respectable roles in small movies. However, she has transcended the “indie darling,” label with struts onto the small screen in John Adams and her new headlining act on Showtime on The Big C. Linney doesn’t just pick movies to make bank. She does projects where the female characters she plays aren’t jokes, even if they tell them. She has a knack for both comedy and drama, but her real gift lies in the middle ground (The Squid and the Whale, The Savages). Few actresses can garner a chuckle and gasp in the same scene, but she does it expertly. Though she often shares the spotlight with gifted male counterparts like Liam Neeson or Phillip Seymour Hoffman, she never lets them steal it. She’s that rare actress that doesn’t try to steal scenes but still ends up doing it quite often.