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Six definitive films: A beginner's guide to Emma Watson

“I don’t want other people to decide who I am. I want to decide that for myself.” — Emma Watson

Quite often, when actors and actresses reprise the same role for a long time in a franchise, they become synonymous with the characters they play and often find it very difficult to break out of that shell. Emma Watson, however, has successfully done that by portraying each and every role assigned to her with the required amount of grace, subtlety and charm. Watson, who can be called the real-life Hermione Granger due to her extensive knowledge and the constant pursuit of that understanding, is a feminist book clubber and an ardent advocate for a wide range of social issues. She is inspirational to young women worldwide and has always emphasised the importance of knowledge and education whenever possible.

Born in Paris on April 15, 1990, Watson grew up in Oxfordshire. Although she spent most of her schooling life shooting for Harry Potter, this young and brilliant actress would take breaks between shoots to keep up with her lessons. She also graduated from Brown University as soon as she could take some time off her hectic schedule to study more intently. Even Greta Gerwig, who worked with Watson in 2019 on Little Women, said that she loved what Watson “did with the character [of Meg March], she has so much open-heartedness and so much love combined with that much intelligence, it’s heartbreaking and potent. Because she’s herself with understanding the struggle of who that character is.”

Emma Watson is a philanthrope who has always been passionate about the causes she advocates for. On her 31st birthday, we take a look at the six definitive films from her career, which would help us understand how brilliant she is away from those cause in her primary role as an actress. 

A 6 definitive film guide to Emma Watson:

6. The Bling Ring (Sofia Coppola, 2013) 

Based on real-life events, a gang of teenagers hungry for fame uses the power of the Internet to break into the homes of celebrities and rob them of their wealth. They even break into the ’00s icon, Paris Hilton’s house and steal some jewellery — this gang was known as the Bling Ring. 

Emma Watson shed off her good-girl image and played the role of Nicki Moore, the character of whom was based on the real-life Alexis Neiers. Watson watched Neiers’ reality TV show to understand and study the character to execute the role with perfection. She also had to learn the Calabasas dialect as her English accent was not suitable for her character.  

“Let’s go to Paris’. I want to rob.” 

5. Colonia (Florian Gallenberger, 2015) 

Embroiled in an unexpected Chilean military coup, a young couple named Lena and Daniel find themselves torn apart. The police abduct Daniel, and Lena desperately tries to track him down. This journey takes her into the infamous sect of Colonia Dignidad, which seems to be a charitable mission on the surface, but is a sinister cult. Lena decides to join the cult to find him, but things go awry soon. 

With shocking scenes of violence and sexually intense and frightening moments, the film sees Watson portray an adult role in the thriller film with her noted poise. Her fear amidst the alien land is palpable. She lends the film the appropriate amount of subtlety and calm. The film was not well constructed, but Watson and Daniel Bruhl shoulder the film forward. 

“You passed every inspection. But I still need to search you.” 

4. Beauty and the Beast (Bill Condon, 2017) 

Based on the popular children’s fable, Belle is the daughter of a merchant who goes to save her father from the Beast’s evil clutches. The Beast imprisons Belle instead, and although she is initially scared of him, she warms up to him as she sees how misunderstood and miserable he is. He even allows her to quench her thirst for reading by giving her access to the library. However, the misogynistic Gaston, who is in love with Belle and wants to wed her, plans to kill the Beast and “rescue” Belle. Unbeknownst to him and Belle’s father, both the Beast and Belle have fallen for one another. 

Emma Watson portrays the character of Belle and looks ravishing in the classic yellow gown. She is resplendent in her role as the courageous Belle who is willing to undertake mammoth risks to save her father’s life. She helps uncover the goodness that lies shrouded within the gruff exterior of the Beast. Watson even took singing lessons for her role in the film. 

“He’s not a monster, Gaston. You are!”

3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky, 2012) 

Based on Chbosky’s eponymous 1999 novel, the film is a coming-of-age drama that unfolds via the epistles that a teenager named Charlie writes to an unnamed friend. It revolves around his battle with depression as he deals with his friend’s suicide and the post-traumatic stress disorder that results from childhood trauma. During the story, he also experiences the first pangs of love as he falls in love with his senior Sam and realises the meaning of the emotion. This film shows Charlie finding his way through high school as he experiences life and makes new friends.  

Brutally honest and emotionally stirring, this film reeks of nostalgia and tragedy at the same tie. It upholds the turmoils of teenagers as they try and understand the unknown. Emma Watson played the role of Sam, whose character Chbosky based on the various girls he met throughout his life. This was the first big role that Watson took up after Harry Potter, and she was keen to embrace the transformation. Watson chopped off her auburn locks to achieve that indie-pixie heartthrob vibe and embodies the character who has various insecurities, shedding her decade-long image of Hermione Grangertag in the process. 

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

2. The Harry Potter saga (Chris Columbus/ Alfonso Cuaron/ Mike Newell/ David Yates, 2001-2011)

Adapted from J.K. Rowling’s seven eponymous novels, the Harry Potter saga is based on the story of a young wizard named Harry Potter whose parents are murdered by a cold-blooded and ruthless xenophobe named Voldemort during the First Wizarding War, as he tries to gain power over the Wizarding World.

Harry miraculously survives the attack and gets a scar which reduces Voldemort to nothingness. He goes on to study at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where he, not only befriends Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger, but also learns his true purpose of being the Chosen One. with Voldemort’s return as well as the onset of the Second Wizarding War; he has to embark on a quest with his two other friends to destroy the Horcruxes that shall end the vicious ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’ once and for all. 

Emma Watson had bagged the role of the headstrong, spirited bookworm Hermione Granger at the mere age of 10. Her incredible talent was palpable on-screen as she blended beautifully into her role with the charm and confidence of a veteran actor, despite only having acted in school plays previously. Watson went on to reprise this role for a decade and became synonymous with the character itself. It took her a great deal of effort to finally shed the skin of being the ‘real-life Hermione’.  

“I’ve learned all the course books, by heart, of course. I just hope it will be enough— I’m Hermione Granger, by the way, who are you?”

1. Little Women(Greta Gerwig, 2019)

Adapted from Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic Little Women, the film is based on the lives of the four March sisters namely Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. along with their neighbour, the wealthy Laurie, who is haplessly in love with Jo, the girls experience the pressures of being a woman in the 1860s — marriages, love and constant quarrels, untimely deaths as well as the joys and sweet nothings of sisterhood.

A period drama with the American Civil War as its backdrop, the varied qualities of the sisters are juxtaposed to one another as they try and find their way in life.

Emma Watson plays Meg March in the film and this is perhaps the best role of her career to date. Amidst a talented cast comprising Meryl Streep, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Timothee Chlamet and more, Watson stands out in her role as the eldest March sister. Meg is content with her life as she gets married to a school teacher named John. She does not have too many aspirations and upholds the characterisation of Meg as perfect as it could be and, perhaps most importantly, in tune with what Alcott wanted of her character.

As Gerwig herself was quoted saying, to her, Watson “embodies everything that I was interested in, in terms of who the March women were,” Gerwig says. “She’s just smart. She’s on multi-governmental organizations that speak to the U.N., and she’s so thoughtful and present. She is way out there trying to do everything she can.”  Gerwig praised Watson for always having a lot to contribute in their meetings due to her extensive research and reading. “She is all-in, not just as an actor, but as a mind.”

“Just because my dreams are not the same as yours doesn’t mean they’re unimportant.”