Emily Blunt has tackled one of the most challenging roles of her career, if not because of its emotional weight or physical difficulty, but because of its insane amount of cultural significance and influence. In 1964, Julie Andrews became Mary Poppins, earning herself an Academy Award for her performance in the film. Since then, Mary Poppins has single-handedly become one of, if not the, most recognizable characters in film history. Now, Emily has taken the reins, starring in 2018’s Mary Poppins Returns. She has confessed in interviews of her nerves about taking on such an incredibly iconic role, but so far her performance has only garnered high praise and adoration, including a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical.
In honor of the upcoming wide theatrical release of Mary Poppins Returns, I have cataloged some of the best performances of newly-crowned Mary Poppins, Emily Blunt. Throughout her extensive career (credited in something close to 42 films), Blunt has delivered a variety of electric, stunning and talent-infused performances. She is the type of actress who does exceedingly well in almost every type of role, and who elevates each film she plays in. Below, I discuss my personal favorite roles of hers and those which I believe to be her best so far. I would also like to add that I rewatched almost all of these films under the guise of it being necessary for me to write this, but I really just wanted to watch them again because….wow! Emily Blunt is the definition of She Did That.
The Devil Wears Prada
(aka the greatest and gayest film of all time)
Turquoise eye-shadow smears across her lids and bangles dangle never far from her wrist, Blunt’s Emily Charlton was never meant to be the star of The Devil Wears Prada, yet she commands our attention every second she appears onscreen. From exasperated quips about how Anne Hathaway’s Andy is probably the least fashionable person on the planet to gossiping with Gisele Bündchen’s Serena about the latest of Valentino and Chanel, Charlton is dynamic, fierce, and endlessly entertaining. Blunt’s performance in The Devil Wears Prada is utterly fantastic and memorable (and earned her her first Golden Globe nomination). Plus, I so wish Charlton was my girlfriend.
“I’m just one stomach flu away from my goal weight.”
A Quiet Place
A Quiet Place is easily one of my favorite films of 2018 (which is probably controversial), and Blunt’s performance is at least 50 percent of the reason why it nestled its way so deeply into my heart. Evelyn is a fascinating character, but at the center, she is a mother trying to bring warmth to her children in such a brutal, horrifying world. She is a woman who protects her family with everything she has. In a movie that is almost entirely without verbal speech, Blunt communicates everything her character feels, understands and thinks perfectly. Because of the lack of sound, we focus more intensely on the facial expressions of the actors on screen. Knowing this, Blunt emotes with effortless precision and her instinctive talent shines. Despite this being one of the most difficult roles she has had to conquer in her career so far, her performance is the one that blew me away, the one that kept me engaged, and the one which most tugged on my heartstrings.
This is actually one of the only films I have on DVD; I suppose I am simply not the type to have a massive DVD collection, although I certainly understand the appeal. Sunshine Cleaning has always felt special to me. I think it is because of how human it is—how desperate and heartbreakingly real it is. One of the greatest things about Blunt is her willingness to get ugly. Tattoos spiraling up her arm, and a penchant for smoking, telling her nephew scary stories, and getting fired, Norah is certainly not a conventional woman. Norah is a messy, broken and very complex, and Blunt portrays her with deep conviction and perfectly honed instincts. Despite the broken parts, she is beautiful and genuine.
Into The Woods
Blunt excels as an actress because she wants to display every truth of humanity: the good, the bad and the ugly. The Baker’s Wife is desperate and cracked and imperfect. She would do anything for a child, but she is not so neatly committed to her husband, although she does love him. She isn’t afraid to scratch or steal or lie in order to collect the items she needs to break the curse put on her family. Despite being a character in a fairy tale, she is not always perfectly sweet and kind (she is also nothing of the evil stepmother sort). Blunt embraces both the flaws and redeeming aspects of her character and how they provide a more realistic tone and contrast to some of the more typically moral or immoral characters. Plus she SANG! And beautifully so, I might add.
“But if life were only moments, then you’d never know you had one.”
The Edge of Tomorrow
Sharp-tongued, strong as hell, and absolutely determined, Rita Vrataski (aka The Angel of Verdun and Full Metal Bitch) is another of my favorite Blunt characters. As for the film itself, The Edge of Tomorrow dodges tropes and clichés to remain excellently refreshing and potent, settling in its place as one of my favorite action films. Rita is regarded as essentially the greatest soldier in the world, and she is genuinely magnificent. Rita is the self-sacrificial type and thinks about the greater good a hundred times faster than she thinks about herself. This role is so completely different from any other Blunt has done before, yet she slips into Rita’s skin flawlessly.
The Adjustment Bureau
Starring me as Matt Damon because I too would risk my entire life for Emily Blunt. In this 2011 film, Blunt plays a talented, individualistic dancer named Elise. She first meets Damon’s David Norris in a men’s restroom while she is on the run from security guards after crashing a wedding. Giggling sweetly as she darts off down the stairs, Elise is lively, passionate and possesses a wonderful amount of emotional clarity. Blunt plays with certainty and poise and is precise in the choices she makes for her character, who is the axis around which the plot spins. She plays Elise with knowledgeable elegance and makes sure her character is as unforgettable as the other leads.
The Young Victoria
Blunt in The Young Victoria is nothing less than grand. She is a young woman who rules in a world of men and hates their games. Victoria is deeply intelligent and has a certain amount of grace around her, but she is also an 18-year-old girl, meaning she is occasionally naïve. Still, she accepts her role as queen with earnestness and is mostly successful (aside from that one assassination attempt). The most endearing thing about her is her gentleness. Of course, she is tough when she needs to be, but she is extremely kind and gentle to certain people she chooses, which is especially sweet. Blunt plays this dichotomy of character with sincerity. She fully grasps hold of every aspect of the young queen and portrays them to perfection. She is both child and queen, gentle girl and determined ruler. Blunt so delicately and thoughtfully takes on every role she is given, and it shows here, particularly because Queen Victoria is, obviously, an actual historical figure.
“I wear the Crown, and if there are any mistakes they will be my mistakes.”
Some have commented on their difficulty understanding and enjoying Blunt’s character, Kate Macer, in Sicario because she is too passive or too weak, allowing herself to be pushed around. Generally, I find these statements to be false. Kate is deliberately unsure of herself and the situation she has been thrown into, and she is reactive to her surrounds rather than constantly offensive. She confronts the illegality around her and mostly tries to do what she sees to be the honorable thing in situations where honor and morality are hardly considered. Kate herself is strong, resolute and determined, it is simply unclear how far this will get her in such a world. Blunt plays to Kate’s strengths, but she also allows her to be vulnerable and hesitant. She acts with brilliant subtlety and poignant intuition.
To help us continue to create content, please consider supporting us on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/filmera.
Jenna Kalishman is a freelance writer and cinephile based in Colorado who often focuses on female and queer perspectives as well as female-led projects. She spends much of her free time listening to Stevie Nicks and re-watching Carol. You can find her on twitter @jenkalish.