Annette Bening's Award-Winning Career

The Kids Are All Right (2010): Golden Globe Winner

On January 16, 2011, Annette Bening won a Golden Globe award for Best Actress [Comedy/Musical] for her performance as Nic, the sharp-tongued, no-nonsense mom trying to bring up two teenage kids with her partner Jules (Julianne Moore).  In his rave review for New York Magazine, David Edelstein highlights Bening’s unique talent, demonstrated so stunningly in The Kids Are All Right: “Annette Bening has a genius for a kind of 'existential' acting—for illuminating the chink (or moat, or abyss) between a person’s front and the quivering creature underneath, desperately trying to hold the mask in place.” Edelstein was not alone in his appreciation. Bening has so far won a Best Actress award from New York Film Critics Award and Women Film Critics Circle, as well as the Hollywood Award for Actress [of the year]. She has also been nominated for Best Actress for various awards––yet to be handed out––including Screen Actors Guild Award, Spirit Award, and the BAFTAs.

The Grifters (1990): Sexy and Comic

As soon as Annette Bening started acting in films, she started getting noticed and awarded. In 1990, her appearance as the femme fatale Myra Langtry in Stephen Frears neo-noir The Grifters brought a new spotlight on her talent. The New York Times’ Vincent Canby gushed “Miss Bening has something of the angelic looks of Michele Pfeiffer and the comic style and low-down sexiness of Kathleen Turner. It is a terrific combination.” The National Society of Film Critics awarded her Best Supporting Actress that year. And Bening received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress––her first of many.

Bugsy (1991): Tough and Vulnerable

In Bugsy, when it came to capturing the tough glamour of classic Hollywood, Annette Being’s portrayal of Virginia Hill, the sultry girlfriend of the film’s titled gangster, was stellar. The Washington Post’s, Hal Hinson picked up on the depth of her performance, noting that Bening’s Hill “reveals both the uncompromising toughness of a woman who's used sex to get what's she's wanted out of life, and the vulnerability that comes from knowing you can go around the track only so many times before the mileage starts to show.” The Golden Globes agreed nominating Ms. Bening for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture [Drama].

The American President (1995): Luminous

As Sydney Ellen Wade, the effervescent environmental lobbyist who happens to collide romantically with President Andrew Shepherd (Michael Douglas) in Rob Reiner’s political romantic comedy The American President, Annette Bening reveals a new dimension—her vulnerable, human side. Having mastered tough-as-nails and sultry-as-hell, Bening’s portrayal of a woman surprised by love is utterly endearing. Roger Ebert summed it up: “Bening is simply luminous; I had hoped to conduct my career as a film critic without ever once writing that a smile "illuminates the screen," but something very like that happens here. Looking around, I noticed the audience smiling back.” And the Golden Globes also smiled back, nominating her for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture [Comedy/Musical].

American Beauty (1999): Scathingly Funny

In Sam Mendes’s American Beauty, Annette Bening plays the fiercely driven, perfectly coifed, realtor wife of Kevin Spacey. She is the perfect anchor in this satirical portrait of a family emotionally and morally adrift. Janet Maslin in her New York Times review applauded her as “scathingly funny, and also quite graceful, as a walking monument to despicable values.” Others saw her performance as equally monumental. San Diego Film Critics Society Awards made her Best Actress, the American Comedy Awards selected her “Funniest Actress,” the BAFTAs voted her “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” and the Screen Actors Guild awarded her twice––first as “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role” and second as part of a “Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Theatrical Motion Picture.” In addition she received her second Oscar nom (this time for “Best Actress in a Leading Role”) and her third Golden Globe nomination (Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture [Drama]). 

Being Julia (2004): Beauty, talent and charisma

In István Szabó’s Being Julia, Annette Bening embodies the title character, a ebullient first-rate London actress, that it would be impossible to imagine anyone else playing. As Rex Reed gushed, “"Beauty, talent and charisma are such rare commodities these days that we are lucky to find an actress with even one of them. In Being Julia, Annette Bening miraculously displays all three at the same time.” Audiences, critics and award groups were equally mesmerized by her performance. The Golden Globes voted her Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture [Musical or Comedy], and she was picked as a top actress by a range of other groups around the world, from the Bangkok International Film Festival to the National Board of Review to Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards. In addition she received her third Academy Award nomination (Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role).

Running With Scissors (2006): "precise, pitiless tracing of her character’s decline"
In Ryan Murphy’s adaption of Augusten Burroughs’ memoir of growing up absurd, Annette Being plays the elegantly deranged mother of the lead actor. It’s a role that Bening makes both hilarious and heartbreaking. In his review for the New York Times, A.O. Scott singled her out: “Ms. Bening’s precise, pitiless tracing of her character’s decline from feisty defiance to pathetic, overmedicated self-delusion gives the film an emotional weight…” The Golden Globes again applauded Ms. Bening’s comedic and theatrical range, nominating her for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture [Musical or Comedy].
Mrs. Harris (2006): "Brittlely Accurate"

The same year that Annette Being was nominated for her film work in Running with Scissors, the Golden Globe acknowledged her exemplary work in TV, nominating her for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for Television for Mrs. Harris. Phyllis Nagy’s docudrama about Jean Harris, the woman made infamous in Diana Trilling’s true-crime account Mrs. Harris: The Death of the Scarsdale Diet Doctor, cast Bening in the title role of the elegant lady and murderer. Once again Bening demonstrates not so much her talent for playing arch and deranged, but making such characters, who could easily come across as camp or cruel, truly human. As Robert Abele notes in his L.A. Weekly review:  “This kind of brittlely accurate performance is something to watch in the hands of an actress like Bening, who seems incapable––even during the film's most blackly humorous moments––of a false, Fatal Attraction–like note.”

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