400 Screens, 400 Blows is a weekly column that takes an in-depth look at the films playing below the radar, beneath the top ten, and on 400 screens or less.

Considering Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married (133 screens), Sally Hawkins in Happy-Go-Lucky (60 screens), Penelope Cruz in Elegy (21 screens) and Vicky Cristina Barcelona (52 screens), Kristin Scott Thomas in I've Loved You So Long (20 screens), Meryl Streep rising above the ineptitude of Mamma Mia! (178 screens), and several others, it has been an exceptionally good year for roles for women -- all except The Women (164 screens). To date, I've spent a good deal of time railing against that movie, without ever asking: what happened to some of those amazing actresses that they should end up here?

Meg Ryan, for example, was once a top star -- one of a trinity of "America's Sweethearts" (with Julia Roberts and Sandra Bullock) -- and a sure thing. She was irresistibly adorable, and she mastered a kind of self-conscious, nervous eye-flick that won over audiences time and again. And she made her debut in the final film by George Cukor, for goodness sake! Her highest point was probably When Harry Met Sally... (1989), where her effortless performance was not as easy as it looked. She had a hard time branching out into serious films, mainly because her cute, sweet, funny quality made it seem as if she had a lack of depth, and she looked out of place in hardcore, delirious movies like The Doors (1991). Her last ten years has given us a string of flops. But I maintain that her best films are the ones that nobody understood.

categories Columns, Cinematical