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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

June 26, 2009 at 9:14 AM

Hey, who’s that?

It happens all the time. You’re sitting there watching a movie, caught up in its world, and suddenly — hey, who’s that? Some actor turns up who’s familiar, but not Meryl Streep/Tom Cruise familiar; just somebody you’ve seen before, but can’t place. And it takes you out of the movie, though it’s not the filmmaker’s fault, while you ponder: who the hell is that? Where have I seen her before?
In the past couple of days I’ve seen Woody Allen’s “Whatever Works” and Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies.” Like one a lot, didn’t like the other so much, and for the moment I’ll leave you to guess which is which. (Reviews coming next week; “Public Enemies” opens Wednesday, “Whatever Works” on Friday.) But both were absolutely crawling with Hey-Who’s-That actresses. Here are a few, and why we know them:
— Lili Taylor, who turns up in “Public Enemies” as an Indiana sheriff. You’d think I’d recognize Taylor, who’s appeared in numerous movies, but she looks a bit different every time. I loved her on “Six Feet Under,” and will always remember her as Lloyd Dobler’s supportive pal Corey in “Say Anything.” (She was the one who sang the unforgettable song “Joe Lies.” And yes, that was 20 years ago. I feel old now.)
— Branka Katic, the husky-voiced Serbian-born actress, who plays a small but crucial role (that I won’t reveal) in “Public Enemies.” She had me asking myself “who the hell?” for a good 20 minutes, until I remembered: Ana, in “Big Love.” Also Tanya in “Breaking and Entering.” Nobody else on screen speaks exactly like that.
— Jessica Hecht, a wonderfully unactressy-looking performer (meaning, she’s beautiful but looks like a real person), plays somebody’s true love (again, not telling you who) in “Whatever Works.” She’s been working in television for 15 years, but I first noticed her as Paul Giamatti’s lost love in “Sideways,” and later in “Dan in Real Life” and “Starting Out in the Evening” (which, as coincidence would have it, also featured Lili Taylor).
— Leelee Sobieski, that Helen Hunt-lookalike who seems to have fallen off the radar a little bit after getting lots of notice as a teenager in “Eyes Wide Shut” and “A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries” in the late ’90s. She’s got a small role in “Public Enemies,” and has recently turned up in “88 Minutes” and “In the Name of the King.”
And, while we’re taking about actresses, Patricia Clarkson and Marion Cotillard do remarkable work in, respectively, “Whatever Works” and “Public Enemies.” But I recognized them. More on both movies later.

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