We all know there are certain “low-brow” actors (Sandra Bullock used to be one of them, for example). And then there are the pop stars that convert to acting, which never has a favorable result (see: Britney Spears, Mariah Carey et. al.) But, with Mandy Moore, maybe it was her general obscurity as a pop star that allowed her to transition so seamlessly from music to film. She wasn’t quite as distinctively branded as other rivals of her time like Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson. Her pop homogeneity is, inevitably, what spawned such a successful movie career.
In 2001, Moore achieved recognition for her role as the resident bitch cheerleader of Mia Thermopolis’ (Anne Hathaway) high school. Her believability as a total cunt is what first captivated her with audiences, particularly those fond of the high school genre. To follow up the reception of this role, Moore starred in 2002’s A Walk to Remember, wherein she plays the total antithesis of a cheerleader–smartly showcasing her versatility as an actress.
While A Walk to Remember may not have snagged any Academy Awards, it at least caught the attention of the second best awards show: The MTV Movie Awards. Moore had officially solidified herself as a bankable actress capable of carrying the lead in a film. Soon after, with this newfound sense of confidence, she chose to be in a movie with Elijah Wood and Franka Potente (of Run Lola Run fame).
So naturally after her brief bout of “serious” acting, Moore fell into the faux serious How to Deal in 2003. But because Allison Janney is in it and Cat Stevens plays near the end of Act Three, all is forgiven. With Chasing Liberty in 2004 (one of Moore’s most underrated films), her status as an actress to be reckoned with was made apparent by the fact that Katie Holmes, too, starred in a movie with a similar plot called First Daughter (far worse by Chasing Liberty standards).
Moore made a bold move after making so many safe ones by opting for the role of Hilary Faye in 2004’s Saved!, a parody of a religious high school that championed “the good Christian girl.” Showing off her comedic sensibilities, Moore proved, once again, that her ability as an actress was comparable, if not better than, most of her contemporaries (e.g. Lindsay Lohan).
Because I Said So (with Diane Keaton), American Dreamz (with Hugh Grant) and License to Wed (with Robin Williams) served to stabilize Moore’s reliability as an actress to be trusted at the box office. But it wasn’t until 2007’s Dedication co-starring Billy Crudup that Moore came to her pinnacle of greatness. Written by musician David Bromberg and directed by Justin Theroux, all of the artistic elements came together to make Dedication easily one of the best films of the 00s. But, of course, it went largely under the radar.
After the late 00s, Moore’s films seemed to become more forgettable, with the exception of Tangled, one of Disney’s princess movie behemoths. Perhaps Moore has lost her enthusiasm for acting or is simply more concerned with a paycheck (she recently starred in a Hallmark movie, after all). Whatever the reason for her filmic atrophy, one can only hope she’ll return to a role deserving of her previously established acting chops.