Florence Pugh’s Best Roles
9/3/2020 • 4 min read
At 24, Florence Pugh is one of the most exciting actresses in movies today. She’s already built a small body of highly influential work, with performances that reveal her personality, intelligence, and inner strength. Few performers are as much fun to watch on screen as Pugh is, even in dark material. She seems utterly fearless and totally self-assured. (And this isn’t even factoring in the charming cooking videos she puts on social media.)
And while Florence Pugh has been a critics' favorite and art-house darling up until this point, she’s about to break through to the mainstream in the splashiest way possible, by co-starring alongside Scarlett Johansson in BLACK WINDOW, from Marvel Studios.
As Yelena Belova, a fellow Russian spy in the Black Widow assassin program and colleague/sister figure to Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanov, Pugh will be drawn into a world of espionage and super-heroism, starring alongside David Harbour, Ray Winstone, Rachel Weisz, and William Hurt. It is going to be so cool. But while we wait to see her run into action on the big screen, you could always catch up on her enviable filmography. Here are a few of our favorite Pugh movies (and one TV series).
Florence Pugh first made waves in this British independent period thriller. She plays a woman who is entombed in a loveless marriage to a much older man and … decides to do something about it. (We would say more but we don’t want to give anything away and half of the fun of watching this movie, which leaves a huge impression, is watching it gracefully unfold.) Pugh is totally hypnotizing and haunting in the title role; it’s the kind of thing that you can imagine a much older, more experienced actress struggle to get her arms around. But Pugh makes it seem easy, like putting on a soft old sweatshirt. She’s tough as nails and tender too; it’s a miraculous performance that you can’t help but be dazzled by. And the movie itself, a slow-burn arthouse thriller, will cast its own spell over you. Seek this one out. It’s very much worth your time.
The Little Drummer Girl
If you didn't catch Pugh in "The Little Drummer Girl," a BBC/AMC co-production, you're not alone. The show didn’t get nearly as much attention as it should have. In the miniseries, directed by Park Chan-wook, a titan of South Korean cinema, Pugh plays a young actress and activist in the late 1970s who meets a mysterious and handsome man on holiday (played by the most mysterious, most handsome man there is, Alexander Skarsgard), who later reveals himself to be an operative for Israeli intelligence. Michael Shannon, typically intense, is his handler. The exact plot mechanics are pretty complex, as it’s based on a novel by John Le Carre, who also penned the source for the similarly terse and hard-to-follow TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY. Pugh is an absolute dynamo in the role, oscillating between distress and shock to steely determination, and the entire miniseries is a lot of fun to watch and to try and figure out. With so much to watch, it’s understandable that things can get lost. It’s just shocking when something this good does.
Fighting With My Family
Pugh starred in three very different movies in 2019. The run began with the true story of a young woman born into a wrestling family who achieves WWE stardom after overcoming obstacles and expectations stacked against her. Pugh plays the real figure Saraya Knight, who eventually became known as Paige. FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY is warm and funny thanks to a supporting cast that includes Nick Frost, Lena Headey, and director Stephen Merchant, while Jack Lowden provides essential counter-notes as Saraya's brother Zac, who also aspires to be a superstar in the ring but washes out just as his sister is getting started, leaving him to cheer her from outside the ring. In addition to making the movie's drama work exceptionally well, Pugh also nails the physical demands of a wrestling movie. She doesn't do all the stunt performances, but makes for a convincing persona in the ring nevertheless, making her BLACK WIDOW role seem like a great next step on her action resume.
Last summer Pugh became our forever May Queen. In MIDSOMMAR, she plays Dani, who is stuck in a truly horrifying relationship with a deadbeat boyfriend (Jack Reynor) when she loses both of her parents and her sister in a tragic, ghastly murder-suicide. Instead of taking time to recuperate, she decides to follow her boyfriend and his questionable friends to a "festival" in the Swedish countryside. What starts out as an idyllic vacation soon turns into a bloody nightmare – literally – as the facade around the community starts to crumble. As in many of her other roles, a lot is asked of Pugh. Her character deals with a lot, and is constantly barraged with emotions before she finally ascends as the May Queen. MIDSOMMAR might not be for everyone — it is intense and disturbing — but Pugh’s tender, multilayered performance might get you through it even if you find yourself squeamish about horror movies. It’s truly unforgettable.
Pugh ended her very big year 2019 with LITTLE WOMEN, a warm adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott novel by LADY BIRD filmmaker Greta Gerwig. Pugh is surrounded with the very best actors in the business. Not only her peers like Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Timothy Chalamet and Eliza Scanlen, but powerhouses like Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper and Bob Odenkirk. Pugh clearly relishes the role of Amy, every conflicted, bratty moment, and her joy is infectious. What’s even more miraculous about the performance is she makes a character we’ve seen countless time on screen before seem vital and new. That’s the beauty of the kind of electrical power she brings to every role. She was a little woman in a very big role and she knocked it out of the park.
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