Five best roles of the beloved actress.

Lukasz Budnik

22 May 2023

Natalie Portman’s acting career has been going on for nearly 30 years. An impressive result, especially considering that the actress herself is still 41. During that nearly quarter of a century, we’ve seen her in blockbusters and independent films. In comic book adaptations, dramas, science fiction movies and comedies. Portman is not afraid of challenges, and although her performance is not always the brightest side of the film, she has managed to impress us many times. Below is a selection of her five roles that I liked the most.

Léon: The Professional (1994)

Natalie Portman w filmie Leon zawodowiec

Portman’s first role was her career launch for a reason. At only thirteen, she showed exceptional acting maturity – she created on the screen the fascinating character of Mathilda, torn by fear, sadness and revenge, the neighbor of the title character. After the death of her beloved brother, the girl seeks solace in the company of Léon, constantly fighting the storm of her own emotions and strengthening her friendship with him. Portman and Jean Reno form an unforgettable, iconic duo, and the young actress is not inferior to him and older, experienced colleagues. With her last scene – which is also the end of the film – it’s hard not to be moved. A beautiful beginning of the acting path and proof of the great potential of the actress.

Garden State (2004)

Kadr z filmu Powrót do Garden State

In Zach Braff’s directorial feature debut Portman stars as Sam, an eccentric girl met by the main character in the titular Garden State. It is this acquaintance that becomes a catalyst for change and pushes him to take actions that he could not do before, which makes Sam the most important person he meets on his way. Portman perfectly portrays the unique nature of his heroine, successfully combining a note of positive madness with great sensitivity and good nature. Whenever I watch Braff’s film, I always believe that Sam is the perfect partner for him – full of understanding, charm and a smile that can chase away even the darkest clouds.

Closer (2004)

For Portman, the role in Closer is certainly particularly important, because it was for her that she won the first Golden Globe in her career. The then 23-year-old actress played the role of Alice, a young girl entangled in difficult relationships with the other three main characters. Alice shuns telling the truth about herself and often simply hides behind a mask woven of lies. At the same time, it is difficult for her to reveal her feelings, she is lost and hurt. The actress effectively portrays all these layers of emotions tormenting her character, who, moreover, stands in the center of the quadrangle presented in Mike Nichols’ film. She attracts the most attention, and the shot of Alice marching across the street is the film’s staple. It all started with her and ends with her.

The Black Swan

Kadr z filmu Czarny łabędź

The role that brought Portman his only Oscar to date. This is a well-deserved award – the actress, of course, shines on the screen, but it is also worth appreciating the hardships she went through in the training room, preparing for the role of a ballerina. Nina herself is a character that requires a huge commitment – I have no doubt that in order to convincingly show the overwhelming paranoia and slowly sinking into the darkness of one’s own mind, a percentage of these emotions must be felt on oneself. I don’t know exactly what Portman felt when she left the set every day, but considering the fact that even from the viewer’s perspective it is not difficult to immerse yourself in the dark world of her character, I will venture to say that it was not a pleasant experience.

Jackie (2016)

Kadr z filmu Jackie

The role in Jackie was difficult for two reasons. First, playing a real character on screen always involves unavoidable comparisons to the original, especially if the original has some unique characteristics (in this case, mainly voice). Secondly, in Jackie the camera is almost constantly focused on Portman. It embraces her from every perspective, approaches her very face, registers the slightest twitch of muscles and every tear flowing from her eyes. In creating this intimate portrait of a woman mourning her husband, Portman could not afford a single false note. She succeeded – not only did she put herself in the shoes of Jackie Kennedy, without becoming her caricature, but also perfectly reflected the weight of the burden that fell on her after the death of JFK. She is the pillar on which the whole film rests.

An honorable mention goes to the role in V for Vendetta, where Portman proved her talent for dramatic performances in a beautiful style (a scene in the rain is guaranteed to give you shivers), and also proved that she is no stranger to sacrificing herself for the role – in this case, shaving her head. Also noteworthy is the performance in Annihilation – despite the wonders shown on the screen by Alex Garland, I remember the most from the screening was the great role of Portman.

Do you agree with these choices? Would you add any more roles? I invite you to the discussion.

Łukasz Budnik

Lukasz Budnik

He loves both silent cinema and contemporary blockbusters based on comic books. He looks forward to watching movie with his growing son.

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