She is a wonderful actor, an enduring icon and the face of many of Generation X’s transformative cinematic experiences.
Yet it somehow seems as if Winona Ryder never quite gets the credit she deserves for the bevy of riches she’s given us, for her memorable, essential work in movies such as “Beetlejuice,” “Heathers,” “The Age of Innocence” and so many others.
That’s a big part of the reason Quad Cinema programmers decided to feature her in the Utterly Winona series, which begins Friday and runs through Sept. 1.
“We’re always trying to think of people who haven’t been highlighted before, who maybe have been overlooked,” says director of repertory programming C. Mason Wells.
“A lot of what constitutes great screen acting tends to be bigger and more emotive,” he adds. “And what Ryder does that I think makes her special is she draws in a bit, is more insular, she forces you to come into the movie alongside her, in a way. That’s not the kind of acting that often gets celebrated by retrospectives or awards.”
While Ryder has plenty going on in 2018, including her starring roles on “Stranger Things” and opposite Keanu Reeves in the romantic comedy “Destination Wedding” out Aug. 31, the series focuses on the glory years of the mid-’80s through the late ’90s, during which her impact on the zeitgeist reached its peak.
That includes the crowd-pleasing standards like “Reality Bites” and “Edward Scissorhands,” renowned indies such as Jim Jarmusch’s “Night on Earth” and little-seen fare such as “The House of the Spirit,” “1969” and the Jerry Lee Lewis biopic “Great Balls of Fire!”
These are some of the highlights returning to the big screen in the coming weeks that feature the full range of someone who Wells says “is interesting enough as a performer” to keep doing quality work for a long time.
‘The Age of Innocence’
Martin Scorsese is so closely associated with a specific type of movie that his masterful Edith Wharton adaptation is often overlooked. Ryder gives a performance of great depth and intelligence as May Welland, the woman betrayed by the affair of her fiance (Daniel Day-Lewis) and cousin (Michelle Pfeiffer).
This timeless comic horror classic from Tim Burton, the sort of gleefully demented movie the big studios simply do not make anymore, would just not be the same without a teenage Ryder, hilarious as the goth Lydia Deetz.
Ryder’s second classic collaboration with Tim Burton finds her falling for Johnny Depp’s tortured eponymous figure. She once again shows herself to be a perfect match for the filmmaker’s stylishly macabre vision.
‘Night on Earth’
The star opens Jim Jarmusch’s feature-length series of vignettes set in taxi cabs across the globe as a tough-talking, chain-smoking driver for Gena Rowlands. It’s a performance rife with magnetic confidence, perfectly calibrated opposite her Hollywood legend screen partner.
Ryder fought hard to bring this movie to the screen and while this adaptation of Susanna Kaysen’s memoir about life in a psychiatric institution, circa the late ’60s, is most remembered for Angelina Jolie’s Oscar-winning supporting work, Ryder is characteristically first-rate as the protagonist.
The star shines opposite some big-time talent in this 1990 dramedy, in which her teenage Charlotte struggles to adjust to her new home with single mom Cher and sister Christina Ricci, nearby a Massachusetts convent in 1963, and becomes increasingly obsessed with Catholicism.
A stone-cold black comedy classic, this movie transformed the high school genre forever and remains extraordinarily effective in its satirical depiction of the cutthroat brutality of life in that fishbowl. Ryder excels at the center of it all.
Quad Cinema’s Utterly Winona series runs Friday though Sept. 1, 34 W. 13th St., quadcinema.com