Katie Holmes (Almost) Tapped Her Way Into An Acting Renaissance

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katie_embedPhoto: Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival.
Katie Holmes is on the verge of a comeback, but don't call it that. She hasn't really ever been gone. She's just never taken off. Past roles have notoriously flopped, but her bubbling girl-next-door personality prevails — even when she's putting bullets through a sex offender's neck. For the first time since Dawson's Creek, Holmes has found a role that fits her personality but challenges our perception of what a "Katie Holmes movie" is.

Karen Leigh Hopkins' directorial debut, Miss Meadows, is not your typical Katie Holmes film. On the surface, the prim and proper woman who's carved a fairy-tale-like world for herself in a crime-filled suburb seems very Holmes, but the pistol she hides in her purse suggests otherwise. Meadows is an elementary-school sub by day and a do-good vigilante by night. She tap-dances down sidewalks, talks to CGI animals, and says "toodle-oo" instead of "bye" or "see you." Her life is a Pulp Fiction Disney movie. It's a shame the odd-for-oddball's sake of a plot had to overshadow Holmes' charming performance, for this could've been the role that kicked her relatively safe career into gear.

Holmes' last major role was Bruce Wayne's romantic interest, Rachel Dawes, in 2005's Batman Begins. But, she was replaced with Maggie Gyllenhaal in the 2008 sequel. (She later told MTV that she turned it down for a role in, of all things, Mad Money.) Whatever the real story may be, Holmes' career hasn't taken off.

Why, though? She's kept herself in the limelight between a Broadway production (a show that closed early with mixed reviews) and becoming a face of Bobbi Brown. Her role as Jackie Kennedy Onassis in The Kennedys, one that seemed right for her, wasn't well received. Hell, the series didn't even make it to prime time. So, what gives? Perhaps it's because when she does have an opportunity to challenge herself, the project either fails to deliver or she, herself, plays it too safe. Or, perhaps it's because she hasn't found the role that highlights her complexity while still playing her as a pretty face.

That's why the role of Miss Meadows is ideal for her. She's no mother, but she's looking out for a classroom of students. All Holmes had to do was play up the vanilla personality so it became a caricature of herself. Holmes' approach to the lighthearted, dark-humored Belle-like character is endearing. There's a difference between a plot with an absurd character and an absurd plot. Holmes plays the former with aplomb. And, it's because of this role that Holmes appears to finally have found her footing in Hollywood. It's a shame the movie itself wasn't more character-driven. Maybe then Holmes' star would begin to shine brighter.