Rose Byrne has been entertaining audiences ever since her 1994 big-screen debut in the Australian film Dallas Doll. Just six years later in 2000, she nabbed the coveted Volpi Cup Award for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival for her performance in The Goddess of 1967, and this was just the beginning of a magnetic career, as she would later be nominated for a variety of eclectic awards, ranging from an Emmy and Golden Globe for Damages to winning Best Actress at the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards for Insidious. Plus,he contended with mutants in both X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Apocalypse and battled a fraternity and a sorority in the Neighbors films (which is arguably more difficult than dealing with mutants).
Even today, Byrne continues to build quite the resume. Last year she starred in the workplace comedy Like a Boss alongside Salma Hayek and Tiffany Haddish in addition to portraying legendary activist Gloria Steinem in the FX limited series Mrs. America. This year, she can be seen reprising her role of Bea in the Peter Rabbit sequel Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway and playing frustrated housewife Sheila Rubin in the new 1980s dark comedy series Physical on Apple TV+. Whether she’s making you laugh or making you cry, Byrne’s performances are sure to leave you wanting more.
Let’s break down the 7 essential performances of Byrne’s career and see why they made the cut!
7. Penny Moore, This Is Where I Leave You
The 2014 comedy-drama This Is Where I Leave You examines grief and the unpredictable directions that life can take you. Right after finding out his wife is having an affair, Judd Altman (Jason Bateman) is urgently brought back to his childhood home to mourn the sudden death of his father. In addition to being reunited with his unique group of siblings (played by Adam Driver, Tina Fey, and Corey Stoll), he runs into Penny Moore (Byrne), an old flame whose warm personality and sunny disposition reminds him of a simpler time in his life. Throughout the film, she proves to be the only reliable source of comfort for Judd, whose family’s supposed grieving period is constantly being consumed by everyone else’s problems. Byrne’s character symbolizes the innocence and naïveté of youth that people desperately cling to as they get older.
6. Ellen Parsons, Damages
We now switch from a more optimistic performance to the psychological thriller and crime series Damages, which debuted in 2007. Byrne plays the fresh out of law school Ellen Parsons who is assigned to no nonsense lawyer Patty Hewes (Glenn Close). Over the course of five seasons, Byrne is thrust into a myriad of grueling circumstances while trying to take down corruption and criminal behavior at the highest levels and wrestling with family problems. Her harrowing performance earned her several nominations, including the Emmy for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series and the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress. All episodes are currently available to stream on Hulu.
5. Rayna Boyanov, Spy
Byrne re-teamed with her Bridesmaids co-star Melissa McCarthy and director Paul Feig in the 2015 action-comedy Spy, this time playing stone-cold villain Rayna Boyanov, who is up to no good with terrorist Sergio De Luca (played by Byrne’s real-life partner Bobby Cannavale). In addition to maintaining her elegant appearance, Boyanov is avenging the death of her father, a nuclear weapons dealer and all-around baddie who was accidentally killed by the CIA. Bumbling new spy Susan Cooper (McCarthy), convinces Boyanov that she was sent by her late father to protect her.
In the film, Byrne dryly delivers crude and offensive insults to her scene partners while delicately sipping champagne. When she’s not slinging orders to her underlings, she’s brandishing one of her guns and yelling about the imbeciles that surround her. Always several steps ahead of her opponent, proving that there is an impressive mind behind her stern exterior, Rayna’s perfect posture, stylish wardrobe, and posh British accent come together to form the quintessential foe.
4. Annie Platt, Juliet, Naked
Juliet, Naked is a beautiful hidden gem that did not get the attention it deserved. Based on the book of the same name by writer Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy), this film follows Byrne’s Annie, whose stale relationship with Duncan (Chris O’Dowd, who worked with Byrne in the hit comedy Bridesmaids) is in constant flux due to his growing obsession with washed-up rocker Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke). When Annie is finally fed up with her boyfriend’s constant praise of the musician, she writes a biting critique of Crowe’s work. Annie’s attempt to bring down her partner’s idol does the exact opposite, as Crowe is actually so delighted to read an honest review that he strikes up an email relationship with Annie.
The film explores an unconventional love triangle strongly anchored by Byrne’s performance, as she is able to convey so much heartache, frustration, and exhaustion with just a handful of looks. As the story progresses, Annie morphs into a free spirit while still clinging to her true self. Though her character’s circumstances are quite unique, she perfectly captures what it’s like to feel unsatisfied and unfulfilled in a relationship. Byrne’s performance reminds audiences that life is filled with chance encounters and unexpected moments.
3. Kelly Radner, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising
This sequel to the 2014 hit comedy Neighbors is hilarious for several reasons. Seth Rogen’s love-hate relationship with Zac Efron as the obnoxious frat brother next door, along with a cast of comedic heavy hitters including Beanie Feldstein, Hannibal Buress, Ike Barinholtz, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse are sure to guarantee a few laughs. But the real star of this raunchy comedy is Byrne, who reprises her role as Kelly Radner, the wife of Seth Rogen’s character who, like him, is determined to take down the rowdy college students that continue to infiltrate their lives. Byrne’s performance is a refreshing combination of dorky and cool as she balances pulling pranks and going to house parties with being a good mother; her comedic genius truly comes out in a scene where she, Rogen, and Efron argue over the proper spelling of the word “sorority.”
2. Gloria Steinem, Mrs. America
The FX limited series Mrs. America tackles the struggle to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. The show is jam-packed with some of Hollywood’s most talented actresses who each take a turn portraying iconic figures from the time, including conservative Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett), politician and educator Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba), and congresswoman Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale), to name a few. But Byrne’s take on the journalist, activist, and all-around feminist leader Gloria Steinem cannot be beat. Even without the iconic straight long hair and wide rimmed glasses, she would still perfectly embody Steinem’s calm yet assertive demeanor and strong personality. All episodes of Mrs. America are available to stream on Hulu.
1. Helen, Bridesmaids
The R-rated comedy Bridesmaids, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, is home to Byrne’s most impressive performance to date. She plays the devilishly divine Helen (her character is so flawless that she doesn’t even need a last name), who competes against Annie (Kristen Wiig) for their mutual friend’s affection as they plan her wedding. Byrne navigates the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with planning an elaborate wedding. She effortlessly makes the other bridesmaids feel inferior and completely underdressed, all while flashing a perfectly white smile. The character’s confident facade is eventually shattered when she confides in Annie about her insecurities, because while Helen is a character you will love to hate, by the end, you want to hug her.
Feel the Byrne and check out her new series Physical, airing Fridays on AppleTV+.
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