Since 1998, Oscar winner and LGBT ally Julianne Moore has played queer at least seven times, which we believe is more than any other A or B-list star. And we may have even missed one (Clarice Starling in Hannibal could likely go any way).
While actresses including Sarah Paulson, Evan Rachel Wood, Natasha Lyonne, and Clea DuVall have all played queer multiple times, Moore really wins the prize for queer representation on the big screen, even landing an Oscar nomination for one of the roles.
With the big screen release of Freeheld (starring Moore and Ellen Page as girlfriends/partners) today, we thought it was time to rank Moore’s queer roles in terms of representation. The following seven roles feature Moore playing characters who are on a spectrum of sexuality. We have not included queer-themed films in which Moore has starred but played straight, like A Single Man and Far From Heaven.
What’s your favorite queer-themed Moore role?
7. Havana Segrand in Maps to the Stars
Director David Cronenberg loves to explore the liminal space of the human body. He’s used bodies as VHS players in Videodrome and as video game portals in Existenz, just to name a few. In his latest film, which came out last spring, he trains his camera on Hollywood’s underbelly – the self-absorbed world of actors, agents, publicist and backroom deals. And Julianne Moore’s solipsistic has-been actress Havana Segrand clawing her way back to fame is the perfect vessel to erode the space between the world and the human body. Havana is so horrific that she’s rotting from the inside out, and Moore sheds every ounce of humanity in the role. A philistine and climber of the highest order, Havana not only forms an unusual bond with her new assistant (played by Mia Wasikowska), but she also joylessly enters into a threesome with the man she’s been seeing and a woman they pick up for the night. The film depicts Havana having the most meaningless, pleasureless sex imaginable. It is of course a metaphor for her character’s ability to never be fulfilled.
The good: Moore is as fearless as she’s ever been.
The bad: Havana is such a stupendously ugly character that we don’t care about her, and we’re not supposed to.
6. Lila Crane in Psycho
Of course there never needed to be a shot-by-shot remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, but that’s exactly what Gus Van Sant did with his 1998 remake, which was kind of like a really ambitious student project on a big studio budget. Moore plays Lila Crane, the original “final girl,” played by Vera Miles in Hitch’s film. While there’s no telltale sign that Moore’s Lila was a lesbian, she told Out at the time that she played Lila as a “movie butch” lesbian. Considering that the Final Girl has always been the most savvy, self-sufficient character in a slasher film, it’ a compliment that Moore played Lila with that under the surface. It’s just too bad that audiences who hadn’t read Moore’s interview likely didn’t know, so that’s why Lila lands at #6.
The good: The idea of the original ‘final girl’ as a lesbian.
The bad: There’s really no way to know how Lila identifies (which is also kind of good?).
5. Catherine Stewart in Chloe
When Moore’s character, Dr. Catherine Stewart, suspects her husband (Liam Neeson) of cheating on her she hires an escort to seduce and entrap him. Amanda Seyfried plays Chloe, the sex worker who ultimately seduces Catherine in this psychosexual thriller from Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan. The film, a remake of the 2003 French film Nathalie, is a bit abstract for general audiences, but Moore is perfectly at home in the art house thriller genre.
The good: Moore’s Catherine is completely vulnerable and open to possibility in her physically and emotionally intimate scenes with Chloe.
The bad: It’s a tale of ultimately obsessive love, so they are doomed from the start.
4. Jules in The Kids Are All Right
Considering that The Kids Are All Right was directed by out lesbian Lisa Cholodenko (High Art, Laurel Canyon) and written by a gay man (Stuart Blumberg), it’s a shame we couldn’t place it higher on the list. While straight critics nearly universally adored the family drama about a lesbian couple whose kids seek out their bio dad, the film failed to resonate with queer women. In fact, the plot turn in which Moore’s Jules (an avowed lesbian in the film) repeatedly cheats on her wife Nic (Annette Bening) with the kids’ bio dad (Mark Ruffalo), had many gay women up in arms. Still, that plot point could have been forgiven if the sex between Nic and Jules weren’t dependent on being aroused by gay male porn (which is fine), but then also, just awful, painfully awkward.
The good: Moore and Bening are such terrific actresses that when they work, they really work.
The bad: Stilted dialogue, lesbian clichés…
3. Kat in The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
Robin Wright and Blake Lively play Pippa as an adult and as a teen (respectively) in this quirky flick with a stellar cast from writer/director Rebecca Miller. Pippa flees her rocky childhood home and her unstable mother (Maria Bello) to live with her Aunt Trish (Robin Weigert) and Trish’s bohemian photographer lover Kat (Moore). The relationship between Trish and Kat is purely authentic and believable. But things get a bit dicey when Kat pulls Pippa into a Betty Page-esque S&M photo shoot with a female model. She passes is it off as something that should be freeing to young Pippa, but there’s no getting around the exploitation factor.
The good: Moore and Weigert are absolutely believable as a couple
The bad: Kat’s morals are seriously in question for exploiting Pippa.
2. Laura Brown in The Hours
Moore’s depressive ‘50s-era housewife Laura Brown is just one of three main characters in the Stephen Daldry film based on Michael Cunningham’s update on Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, but Moore manages to hold her own and pretty much steal the show among the likes of Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman. Laura is the dutiful wife to John C. Reilly’s affable but clueless husband. She cooks, cleans, bakes him a cake for his birthday, and cares for their young son, all while dreaming of taking her own life.
Laura’s pivotal scene arrives when her friend and neighbor, played by Toni Collette, has just admitted she’s been diagnosed with cancer. Laura comforts her neighbor with a kiss on the mouth that truly carries the weight of the world with it.
The good: The character is complex, troubled, fragile… It’s truly one of Moore’s greatest cinematic turns (up there with Far from Heaven).
The bad: We don’t get to see what it would look like if Laura actually explored her slight predilection for women.
1. Laurel Hester in Freeheld
Based on the true story of partner benefits that helped spur the marriage movement in New Jersey, Moore plays Laurel Hester, a tough, savvy, closeted Freeheld, N.J. police detective who falls in love with the younger Stacie (Ellen Page). The pair makes a pretty good life together until Laurel is diagnosed with stage-4 lung cancer. Admittedly a non-activist, Laurel requests that her pension goes to the woman she loves with whom she also shares a house.
Moore is fierce and vulnerable as a woman simultaneously fighting for equality and for her life. The relationship between the couple is loving, kind, and truly for the ages.
The good: From courtship to buying a house together to dealing with imminent death, Laurel and Stacie are a beautiful, loving couple.
The bad: We don’t get to see more of the good times before the story moves to illness and survivor benefits.