Amanda Bynes retired from acting in 2010 at the ripe old age of 24. From there, the actress descended into what can only be described as a downward spiral: a DUI arrest, reports of erratic behavior, speculation about her mental health, bizarre tweets, and, in 2013, drug charges. When you hear Bynes’ name these days, it’s typically in reference to this period of tabloid fascination. But why dwell on that when March 17 is the 10-year anniversary of Amanda Bynes’ greatest ever contribution to film? A decade ago, Bynes starred in a little comedy turned cult classic called She’s the Man. She gives a sneakily brilliant dual performance as Viola Hastings and Viola pretending to be her brother, Sebastian. And I'm not the only one who thinks so — the late, great Roger Ebert said Bynes "achieves greatness" in the movie. It's time to revisit She's the Man and remember Bynes at her best.
In case you need a refresher, here’s the gist of the 2006 comedy, which is loosely based on the plot of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night: The high school girls’ soccer team that Viola plays for gets cut. When the boys’ coach refuses to let her on the team, Viola devises a plan to impersonate her MIA brother, Sebastian, at the new high school he’s supposed to attend. As Sebastian, Viola befriends a girl named Olivia (Laura Ramsey) on whom Sebastian’s roommate, Duke — played by a then-unknown and oft-shirtless Channing Tatum — has a major crush. The twist? Olivia starts falling for “Sebastian,” and “Sebastian” starts falling for Duke. Mistaken identities and love triangles always make for funny fodder, and the script is surprisingly witty. But it’s Bynes who is responsible for about 98% of the entertainment value in this film. As the bumbling Sebastian, she toes that elusive thin line between joyfully silly and flat-out ridiculous that so many iconic comedic actors masterfully blur. Bynes gives her all to the character, without overplaying the role into a loud, obnoxious caricature. She's freewheeling, goofy, and not afraid to look ridiculous or "not pretty." And don't forget about that unplaceable, inexplicable, makes-everything-10-times-funnier accent she takes on as Sebastian. In short, she proves her comedic chops — and then some. But perhaps the biggest indicator that Bynes killed it in She's the Man? I can't imagine a single other actress pulling it off. Here are some of the highlights of Bynes’ performance. The impeccably delivered one-liners:
The inimitable facial expressions:
The attempted “dude” vernacular:
Classic moments like this:
Even more impressive? Between all the laughs, Bynes manages to deliver on the more emotional aspects of the role. She is equally convincing when she’s playing Viola straight-up: a tough-ass woman and natural-born feminist. Viola firmly believes the women’s team needs to be respected and funded like the boys’ team. She breaks up with the guy who can’t support her views on equality. And she subverts the system altogether when the administration can’t get on board. Here are some other ways Bynes makes us laugh while kicking ass.
Giving zero fucks about appearing “ladylike” (and expertly handling a chicken drumstick):
Bucking expectations of feminine propriety and getting comfortable with her own bosom:
Helping others get comfortable with the female form in a non-sexualized way:
Skewering the superficiality of the objectifying male gaze — in all its teenage, testosterone-soaked glory — by embodying it all too well:
And not least of all, understanding the insidious, 100% historically accurate origins of painful stilettos:
God bless, Amanda Bynes, and thank you for making a movie that will never fail to make me laugh. You really are the man.