Actress Florence Pugh isn’t just having a moment, she’s having career events that seem to suggest she’s going to be around forever. With a burgeoning role in the upcoming Black Widow (opposite of course, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanov), Pugh is also poised to play a major role in Marvel’s Hawkeye TV series. With all of this pointing toward massive things for Pugh’s future, it’s well worth noting that she’s made quite a name for herself in other roles she’s played before the present hoopla in her career began.
Whether it was an unwitting participant in Ari Aster’s Midsommar or the role of Amy March in Little Women, this actress has shown a propensity to vacillate and inhabit any character she’s playing. She so embodied Saraya Knight in Fighting with My Family that it wasn’t until after I saw the movie that I realized it was her! So with Florence Pugh’s entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe about to explode in multiple mediums, it seems only fitting that a moment is taken to explore this actresses catalog so you can (if you aren’t already) saying that you knew her when.
Ari Aster’s sprawling, Scandinavia-set horror opus is everything you do and don’t expect from this iconic director. Dani (Pugh) is in a relationship with Christian (Jack Reynor) that is just about done. However, events transpire that keep them together and Dani soon finds herself visiting a Swedish village amidst a special festival that happens during the summer. Slowly but surely, this idyllic trip turns terrifying when the villagers introduce Dani and Christian to their various rituals. Things go from odd to odder as this film shows Dani becoming more involved and more in touch with her own psychosis. All of this is made more haunting because it is really disturbing at times and everyone around Dani just goes along with it. So Pugh has to play horror that is both shocking AND real at the same time. Honestly, not for everyone but if you are Florence Pugh fan than Midsommar is a must. With its blend of creepy normalcy that spills over into, “What the Hell is Going On Moments,” Midsommar is effective because it always takes itself very seriously. With it’s engulfing storyline, two and a half hour run time, and very picturesque setting, this is the kind of film that really showcases all the facets of this tremendous actress.
Fighting With My Family
Pugh is so good in this film about a family of wrestlers that it wasn’t until after I’d seen this movie, then watched the actress in a few more films, that I even realized it was her. Saraya (Pugh) and her brother Zac (Jack Lowden) are diehard wrestling fans and participants along with their wrestling family. When the chance to try out for the WWE presents itself, the siblings seize this opportunity even if it sort of breaks them up. In the end, things work out the way you imagine they might, but it’s very easy to see how Pugh’s work in this film played against the trajectory of her career. Up until this point, she really hadn’t been afforded a breakout role. Saraya was a great vehicle for her because she’s strong-willed, tough, but also has a firm moral compass that is certainly going to be needed as she makes her way through the WWE. There is a physicality to this role (it is a wrestling movie after all) that the actress literally throws herself into with careless abandon. As a result, she totally inhabits Saraya to the point (in the best way possible) of becoming unrecognizable. There is also a physicality in this role that really asks a lot from the actress. Not only does she rise to the challenge to be totally believable, Pugh seems to be invigorated by the strength that Saraya imbues in each scene. Honestly, it feels like Pugh has been waiting her whole life to play a part that simply lets her kick some ass.
Continuing to shake up and shatter expectations, Florence Pugh again shines in this period piece that comments on the present day. The film centers around Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) as a writer trying to get her work published in New York. To be there she had to leave her family in Massachusetts. Each one of them lives a different (almost opposite) life to the one Jo has chosen. However, her closest competition, at least in the creative department is her sister Amy (Pugh) who goes on to study painting in Paris. All their lives intersect when they must return home to care for their ailing sister Beth (Eliza Scanlen). Truthfully, Little Women is more along the lines of the material for which Pugh is probably known. By that I mean that the film is dramatic and more of a performance piece. It also shows that she can hold her own with other strong actors in a way that probably made companies like Marvel realize she could do their films. While there’s nothing really physical for Pugh to do here, the dramatic, and comedic moments are equally impressive. Hers is a character who moves through different worlds and Pugh never misses a beat.
With a cast that includes Anthony Hopkins as Lear, Emma Thompson as Goneril, Emily Watson as Regan, Jim Broadbent as the Earl of Gloucester, and many other fine thespians, Pugh as Cordelia does fine work in this Shakespearean classic. This story follows Lear as he is getting on in years and about to leave his thrown. He is due to step down and he asks his daughters to tell him how much they love him. Goneril and Regan tell him what he wants to hear while Cordelia claims to have no words for such a question. The King flies into a rage and is cast out but, as this is Shakespeare, we know that this isn’t the end of the story. What ensues is a lot of back room deals and skullduggery but ultimately things end up as they must in this tragedy. Pugh is again on screen with cinemas top actors and actresses and at no time does she seem in over her head. To the contrary, because she isn’t as well known as the others, it makes her performance stronger because we don’t have the knowledge of her that we do of the other actors. As Cordelia she brings a radiance, charm, and soulfulness that stands her character in good stead. Lastly, any thespian will tell you that Shakespeare isn’t easy, yet Pugh has no issues chewing the scenery in this classic.
Angela (Pugh) and Jackson (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) play a brother and sister team of ghost hunters who are running a game on all their clients. Their perfect world of deception gets upended when they get a job looking for ghosts at an old foster home. Suddenly, this game of ghosts they have been playing gets turned on them and it’s Angela who is particularly susceptible. Soon she can’t tell reality from non-reality, she goes nights without sleep, and she literally starts hearing voices. As you can guess, she and Jackson get everything that’s coming to them (and more) in this horror, mystery thriller. As a straight thriller, Malevolent isn’t the greatest movie in the world. However, if you want to see Florence Pugh in one of those “actress coming apart roles” than this is it. Be warned, it isn’t as if Angela is the most layered character to ever be put on the silver screen. She is more of a departure for Pugh who has shown an adeptness at handling drama. This is what makes her turns in the upcoming Marvel Franchises so tantalizing. If she can tap into that for her roles in Black Widow and the Hawkeye TV series, there’s a strong chance she’s going to present something on screens big and small that we’ve never seen before.
In this small role, Pugh shed the prim and proper look she had cultivated for other parts and traded them in for fake tattoos and a nose-ring. In this Liam Neeson potboiler (with a bit of a Hitchockian twist), Neeson plays a man who has just lost his job and is offered a lot of money to find somebody on a train for a mysterious woman. As you can guess, Neeson simply isn’t going to do this and he sets about kicking ass all while solving the dilemma of providing for his family. Pugh’s role in this movie is, admittedly, not that large but it’s what she does with it that is the most impressive. As I have mentioned her look is different and thus her tone is different. Everything for her is just off enough to add nuance and make this role stand-out. Pugh also seems very comfortable in this the thriller milieu. She has a presence that keeps you guessing and that always seems to benefit movies of this ilk. Are you going to watch The Commuter if you’re looking for a Florence Pugh movie? Probably not, but if you’re a fan (and there are many) this is certainly a performance to watch and savor even though it is fairly brief in regards to her other roles.
Chris Pine leads this Netflix tale about Robert the Bruce who used his skills and superior mind for warfare to defeat the British Army in the 14th Century. As Netflix threw their weight behind this project, it is all spectacle all the way with incredible performances from Pine, Rebecca Robin (Queen Margaret) and Stephen Dillane (King Edward). Okay, you might be asking, where in the world is Florence Pugh in this whole thing? Well, in the role of Elizabeth Burgh, the wife of Robert the Bruce, she is one of the film’s major players even if she isn’t the star. The impact that she has on the main character, and thus on the film as a whole, is palpable. However, don’t think that she’s simply there to pick up Pine’s character when he’s down or encourage him to keep fighting the good fight. Pugh plays Burgh as a strong-willed character who can get down and dirty if need be. There is a great deal of duality in this role and Pugh handles all of it effortlessly. When you consider the scope of this film and where the actress was at this stage of her career, it should surprise nobody that she gave such a mesmerizing, breakout performance.
Set in the mid 1800s, Lady Macbeth sees Pugh in the role of Katherine. She is in a very unhappy, arranged marriage to Alexander (Paul Hilton) and spends her days steeped in boredom. Things get interesting fast when she starts spending time with Sebastian (the excellent Cosmo Jarvis). Their relationship soon turns hot and heavy and suddenly Elizabeth’s stalled life becomes much more interesting and dangerous. Pugh is radiant in a role that seems to recall such works as Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and even Tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie to a certain degree. There is a richness that Pugh brings to this role, a depth of sorrow and longing, that is matched perfectly by the performances of the other cast members. This film came out in 2016 and really showed just how talented and special of an actress Florence Pugh is. With her ability to literally disappear into her characters, to make the audience believe that she is legitimately going through these various trials on screen, it isn’t surprising that she is finding the success that has washed up on her doorstep. Pugh will no doubt ping pong between big budget projects and labors of love, but something tells us her performances will always be worth watching.
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