From dramas to horror films to psychological thrillers, there doesn’t seem to be a genre in which Vera Farmiga cannot succeed. In glitzy roles like Lorraine Warren in Conspiracy frankness or support like Dr. Emma Russell in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Farmiga’s consistently stellar (and critically acclaimed) performances prove there’s no small role.
Before she became a household name with In the air and The dead, her breakthrough performance came when she starred as a drug addict in to the bone followed by appearances in films like Nothing but the truth, The Manchu Candidate, and The boy in the striped pajamas. Now Farmiga continues to produce quality work no matter the genre or size of the role. After all, his Emmy and Oscar nominations don’t lie. She’s currently set to star in (and produce) the next horror movie poor flowering, as well as appearing in the mystery thriller The salamander lives twice and the Apple TV+ miniseries Five days at the Memorial. But until then, here are Vera Farmiga’s seven most pivotal film and TV roles in her 25 years on the big and small screen.
Norma Bates (Bates Motel)
Farmiga’s longest performance may also be his best. We never saw much of Norma Bates, Norman’s mother, in the original psychology film or novel, but she figures prominently in her prequel series, Bates Motel. Farmiga pours every drop of herself into the role and manages to bring the complicated Norma to a beautiful three-dimensional life. Scenes with Norman (Freddie Highmore) who swings captivatingly between love, grief, and anger, to quiet, lonely moments of deep sadness and regret, Farmiga clearly understands the character. Her commitment to the demanding role makes the Bates matriarch feel completely real and lived in, giving audiences a beautiful and rugged arc for a character that’s easy to fall in love with, even when we’re aware of some of her unsavory decisions. . .
Alex Goran (In the air)
Farmiga brings a real sense of reality and humanity to Alex, a businesswoman who begins a relationship with a corporate downsizing expert (George Clooney) whom she meets while travelling. Alex is charming and easy to like, and Farmiga’s natural performance makes the audience love her and are disappointed with her during the film. Farmiga’s chemistry with Clooney is palpable, and she manages to bring both seriousness and humor to the story of two people eager to escape their “real” lives. In the air features a startling third-act character reveal and it’s a testament to Farmiga’s acting chops that she manages to deftly and convincingly deliver and sell – not to mention her Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a supporting actor.
Corinne Walker (higher ground)
Corrine Walker is one of Farmiga’s quieter, more understated roles, but it’s one she’s completely dedicated to. According to the memoirs of Carolyn S. Briggs, higher ground is a story of the complicated and messy nature of religious faith, and Farmiga deftly brings a beautiful humanity to Corinne as she struggles with her belief in God while navigating life in a very religious community. She manages to be a compelling and likeable character full of skepticism, curiosity, and grace. It’s also a credit to Farmiga’s performance that the film’s themes of faith and the denunciation of authority manage to be delivered deftly rather than brutally. It’s an even more impressive feat considering she also directed the film in her directorial debut.
Lorraine Warren (Conspiracy franchise)
In the hands of a lesser actress, the role of a true clairvoyant Lorraine Warren could have easily become a clichéd horror movie character. Instead, Farmiga manages to take the role just as seriously as some of his most award-winning dramatic roles. She brings a deep humanity to Lorraine and the series’ horror proceedings, instilling in her doubts, fears, hopes, and a pure, honest desire to help others experience demonic activity. Farmiga’s impassioned performance and deeply expressive face completely sell it, her big eyes oozing Lorraine’s love and compassion. It’s also a testament to her candid portrayal that Lorraine’s chemistry with her husband Ed (Patrick Wilson) shines so brightly. Whether in the show’s more overt horror sequences or in quieter contemplative moments with Ed, it sizzles on screen, especially in The Conjuring 2, where their love and relationship are on full display. Lorraine Warren’s character may be one of Farmiga’s best known, but the way she beautifully builds all facets of the character also makes her one of her best.
Kate Colman (Orphan)
In her role as Kate Coleman, Farmiga deftly disrupts the horror-movie cliche “crazy mother” by creating a tough, smart, and capable character whose dark instincts about her daughter (Isabelle Fuhrman) are 100% accurate. Farmiga is no stranger to the horror genre and with Orphan she once again manages to bring a sense of authenticity and deep emotion to the film’s darker elements. The result is a dynamic character that you can’t help but root for. It’s a juicy role that gives Farmiga a lot to do, and it completely sells Kate’s fluctuating emotions and mental state with her performance and commitment to the material.
Abby Cairn (Joshua)
On the flip side of his performance in Orphan is her role as Abby Cairn in the psychological thriller Joshua. Abby’s depressive state is compounded by fear when she begins to fear her own son’s sociopathic tendencies. As Joshua begins to take (and deny responsibility) actions that make Abby think she’s going crazy, Farmiga plays the frazzled mother to perfection. She dives deep into Abby’s character and skillfully portrays the grief, panic, and horror of her increasingly terrifying situation. Thanks to Farmiga choosing to play her as realistically as possible, Abby’s character bypasses the over-the-top melodrama and instead becomes a likeable protagonist.
Dr. Madolyn Madden (The dead)
Farmiga’s share in Martin Scorseseit is The dead is a small one, but one that she sells. She gives herself completely to the role of police psychiatrist Madolyn Madden, and her honest performance allows the character to successfully serve as an avatar for the audience in the film’s latest developments. Madolyn manages to be an intriguing, strong, and emotionally honest character, and Farmiga’s chemistry with actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon feels authentic and easy on the eye.
If she has to fight demons, let her do it in style.
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