Known For: “This is 40,” “Knocked Up,” “George of the Jungle”
Snubbed: Knocked Up, Funny People
Hollywood is a place where nepotism is pretty common among all areas of the industry. However, I don’t think we can fault Judd Apatow too much for casting his wife in a majority of his movies when his wife is Leslie Mann. Mann is one of the most consistently strong comediennes of her generation, and while most of her past performances are no where in the realm of what most would consider Oscar bait, she has still given some fantastic supporting performances that deserved some more attention.
Mann’s career truly began when she landed the female lead in the 1996 comedy “The Cable Guy.” It would be the first time that she would work with her future husband, Apatow, as the two would be married in the next year. Though her early career is made up of films like “George of the Jungle,” “Big Daddy” and “Orange County,” all of which are rightly silly but have their group of fans, she was always reliable to bring a strong and funny performance to each.
But when Apatow’s career started to skyrocket after the success of “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” which Mann did have a cameo in, he brought his wife along for the ride. 2007’s “Knocked Up” is Mann’s best work to date as she plays the uptight older sister and mother of two to Katherine Heigl’s lead. Mann is a wealth of comedic gold in this film, between her brilliant chemistry with Paul Rudd and great scenes where she calls Craig Robinson out for being a doorman. Mann is probably the sole reason that “This is 40,” the “Knocked Up” spinoff, ever even happened. The Academy’s phobia of straight out comedy prevented her performance of any real consideration, but Mann definitely deserved to be in the conversation.
She would follow “Knocked Up” with another strong performance in “Funny People,” a film that many thought would be able to cross the barrier and make a play with the Academy. The film’s third act ended up being a mess though and preventing any awards consideration from happening, but by no means was that Mann’s fault. While Adam Sandler’s character ended up all over the place after a strong start, Mann’s journey works and is handled extremely well by the actress as she must choose between her husband and this old flame. Once the ship went down on “Funny People,” though, it took Mann with it.
Thanks to those two strong performances, Mann doesn’t need to rely on Apatow to land prominent roles. She starred in the comedy “The Other Woman” earlier this year alongside Cameron Diaz, and will play Ed Helm’s wife in the reboot of “Vacation.” She also has been a valuable part to a few indies over the last few years, including “I Love You Philip Morris,” “The Bling Ring” and voice work in “ParaNorman.”
Mann is one of Hollywood’s most underrated assets, but that is starting to change and we all will benefit from her getting more work, because it is sure to be fun to watch. Whether or not an Oscar nomination awaits down the road for her is really hard to say, but you never know. Who ever would have thought Melissa McCarthy would have earned a nomination for a role like “Bridesmaids?” Mann is a veteran character actress, and it would be great to see her wind up with some form of career recognition at one point or another.