Holliday Grainger has done a ton of period pieces so I won’t be able to focus on all of them. But, a few do stand out and they’re the ones she’s best known for. There will be MAJOR SPOILERS in this post so don’t read any further if you don’t want to be spoiled.
The Borgias is the first thing I ever saw Holliday in. It wasn’t the best show ever. Okay, it was trash, but I still miss it. I loved Holliday’s performance as Lucrezia Borgia. What I really struck me was that Holliday brought a lot of understated personality to the character. Lucrezia could have come across as either a bland pawn without any agency, or she could have been flat out conniving and two-dimensional. But Holliday managed to strike a very good balance. Lucrezia seemed very sweet and innocent, but there was a lot going on beneath the surface. People – men especially – underestimated her and she used that to her advantage. Lucrezia was my favorite character on The Borgias and even though I wasn’t crazy about the whole incestuous story line with her brother Cesare (played by François Arnaud) I probably would have stuck it out. Plus, I loved Lucrezia’s costumes and Holliday seriously looked like a Renaissance painting on the show – she was perfectly cast. It’s a shame it didn’t get another season.
Bonnie & Clyde
I saw the Bonnie & Clyde (2013) miniseries on TV several years ago. I wasn’t crazy about the older Bonnie and Clyde movie (1967) but I did at least enjoy the performances. This miniseries was a thousand times worse and the only thing that kept me going was Holliday as Bonnie Parker. The writing was lackluster, the plot was a mess. The only memorable thing were the costumes and Holliday. And that’s not saying much because Clyde Barrow (Emile Hirsch) disappeared into the background. I guess it’s fitting. I remember images of Bonnie, not Clyde. I remember Holliday in this, not Emile Hirsch. Worse, I watched a Bonnie and Clyde documentary at around the same time and it was far more interesting than the historically inaccurate mess of a miniseries the audience ended up with.
I have to admit, when Holliday was first cast as one of the ugly stepsisters in Disney’s live-action redo of Cinderella, I was confused. I thought it made more sense to cast her in the title role, not as an inconsequential stepsister. When I eventually saw the movie nothing changed my mind. I like Lily James a lot, but she was disappointing as Cinderella. It’s not that her performance was bad, it just felt like Ella had no personality. Ella was nice, wonderful, and totally bland. Most onscreen fairy tale princesses have no personalities and I think the problem comes down to writing and casting. Holliday can do a lot with bland writing – I suspect she did a lot with material on The Borgias because it really wasn’t the best written show. She’s the kind of actress who can make something out of nothing, and casting her as the ugly stepsister was a waste of her talent. It’s such a shame – she would have made the perfect fairy tale princess.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
I haven’t seen Holliday in Lady Chatterley’s Lover yet but it sounds like my catnip. Early 20th century, romance (kinda?), Richard Madden and James Norton. Anyway I’ll hopefully get a chance to see it and then give it a review.