If the reviews are any indication the best thing about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is the chemistry between its two leads, Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. Stone, for her part, has been doing the challenging work of elevating iffy material for years now.
Stone is an interesting breed of movie star. She's a genuine talent, who is beloved off-screen as well, her goofiness translating easily into internet ephemera. But while she and Jennifer Lawrence have that in common—they give good GIF—Stone, a more inherently comedic actress, hasn't yet made a movie that has lived up to her talents in every way possible. And since starting the Amazing Spider-Man franchise, she hasn't been seen in anything else of note. In a summer movie preview, Vulture's Kyle Buchanan wrote that she's had a "rough time of it." Stone has some things cooking, however, that might give her career the jolt it needs.
Emma Stone got her first credited role, a pilot called The New Partridge Family, via reality show. She then had a couple of TV roles—stints on Malcolm in The Middle and Lucky Louie, as well as Tim Minear's short-lived but well-cast Drive—but everyone took notice along with Jonah Hill in Superbad. Stone was effortlessly cool as Hill's love interest, Jules, the girl throwing the party that inspires the entirety of the movie's antics. The role could have easily been thankless, but Stone was always able to seem like more than the typical hot girl. She followed that up with some roles in less memorable movies: The Rocker, for one; The House Bunny, for another. It wasn't until quirky horror comedy Zombieland in 2009 that she found another role that gave her a lot to work with and a chance to showcase her clearly outsized personality.
Easy A was a good choice for Stone. A low stakes romantic comedy with a twist, and she was front and center. While the movie got mostly good reviews and did admirably at the box office, its most significant contribution to the Emma Stone canon comes in GIF form. Specifically, this GIF:
Yes, this is the movie that made Emma Stone an Internet hero—she knows this to be true—and it didn't hurt that she added her first SNL hosting gig to her resume that same fall. Her big followup to Easy A—we're not counting what was essentially a cameo in the Timberlake-Kunis rom-com Friends With Benefits—was Crazy, Stupid, Love, featuring none other than Internet obsession, Ryan Gosling.
This was around the time Stone started exercising her dramatic muscles. She ostensibly had the lead role in The Help, but was handily overshadowed but co-stars Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Jessica Chastain, all of whom received Oscar nominations. It didn't help that no one liked her hair in the movie, or that she had to embody the frustrating White Savior trope either.
Gwen Stacy Prison
Though Stone locked down a franchise with The Amazing Spider-Man, appearing in the movies marked the start of something of a drought for her. As great as her chemistry is with her costar and boyfriend Andrew Garfield, Stacy isn't an especially exciting role. She is, after all, very much a damsel in distress, despite Stone's typical warmth and toughness.
Her next film, Gangster Squad, wasn't necessarily a bad choice on paper—a period piece starring Sean Penn that would re-team her with Gosling—but it got pushed to January after a scene closely resembled the Aurora movie theater shooting, and when it did hit theaters, reviews were abysmal. After that was released, her only intervening films before the next Spider-Man movie were star-studded Razzie-bait Movie 43 and voiceover work in The Croods. (It should be noted that she did more work in this period than Garfield, who has appeared in zero non-Spider-Man movies since the franchise launched.)
Stone's next projects perhaps tell a different story. She has three films in post-production, all with major directors. Still, despite the fact that she is working with boldface names, they are names and projects that don't immediately inspire a lot of confidence. The first film up is Woody Allen's Magic in the Moonlight, which should raise a number of red flags. For one, Allen's once-a-year formula tends to breed off years. With Blue Jasmine a success, Magic in the Moonlight could be a From Rome With Love-style dud. But on a more serious note, this is the first Allen movie to come out after the renewed accusations brought against him by Dylan Farrow, and audiences may decide not to flock to the theaters out of protest. Still, the role of a "phony mystic" sounds like a juicy one for Stone, who plays opposite the, yes, too old for her Colin Firth.
Stone then has two movies with release dates that could portend awards hopes. Birdman, from Alejandro González Iñárritu, is the director's attempt at comedy, about an actor known for playing a superhero working on a Broadway play. It is scheduled to open October 17. Then there's the Untitled Cameron Crowe Project, dated for Christmas of this year. Maybe it will be a return to the director's glory days. Maybe it will be an heir to We Bought A Zoo. Here's hoping the former.
Stone has the chance to break out again with these three films. There may, however, be a more interesting path she should consider taking. It would be thrilling to see Stone working her stuff in an indie with a more unknown director, a project that would give Stone a chance to shine without seeming like a cog in the Hollywood machine.