Where Would Blake Lively Rank Among Steven Soderbergh’s Leading Ladies?

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Steven Soderbergh’s having kind of a crap week, what with disappointing numbers for his latest action flick, Haywire, and the news that Annapurna Pictures backed out of one of his next projects, Side Effects. But we feel more sorry for Blake Lively, as some industry sources are speculating that backers aren’t so sure she can handle the role of a young woman caught in a love triangle with her doctor (Jude Law) and her paroled husband (Channing Tatum). It sounds like a heavy step up from Gossip Girl and Green Lantern, but it wouldn’t be the first time Soderbergh has managed to make a movie star into a serious actress. (One of those actresses, Catherine Zeta-Jones, has signed on for another role in Side Effects, giving ol’ Steven a vote of confidence.) Then again, he’s also had a few misses in that category too. Let’s take a look at what the critics have said about five of his leading ladies’ performances:

1. Jennifer Lopez in Out of Sight: “At the center of the film is the repartee between Jennifer Lopez and George Clooney, and these two have the kind of unforced fun in their scenes together that reminds you of Bogart and Bacall. There’s a seduction scene in which the dialogue is intercut with the very gradual progress of the physical action, and it’s the dialogue that we want to linger on.” — Roger Ebert

“Lopez, for all her Latina-siren voluptuousness, has always projected a contained coolness, and this is the first movie in which it fully works for her. As Sisco is lured into a romance with Foley, you can see her resolve melt in spite of itself.” — Entertainment Weekly

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2. Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich (for which she won an Oscar): “After proving, for about 40 minutes, what a marvelous actress she can be, Ms. Roberts spends the next 90 content to be a movie star. As the movie drags on, her performance swells to bursting with moral vanity and phony populism.” — The New York Times

“Roberts has never been better as she glares and swears her way through the movie.” — The Associated Press

3. Catherine Zeta-Jones in Traffic: “Zeta-Jones is another standout as a privileged wife turned mama lion. When her husband is thrown in prison and she’s left with the residue of his life — she has to come up with $3 million — she crosses the border and confronts a lowlife Tijuana dealer (Benjamin Bratt). Zeta-Jones is sensational in that scene through sheer conviction: She electrifies a moment that could have been absurd.” — The San Francisco Chronicle

4. Gina Carano in Haywire: “Gina Carano has a face that can hold a Hollywood close-up and a fist that can hold your nose until it comes clean off.” — Dallas Morning News

“Though Carano isn’t without a certain glowering charisma, her flat line readings and apparent discomfort with dialogue-heavy exchanges make her seem like a refugee from a different, schlockier movie, the kind of low-budget, straight-to-video MMA rock-‘em-sock-‘em that might pop up on late-night basic cable and charm you with its rough-hewn amateurism and animal high spirits.” — Slate

5. Sasha Grey in The Girlfriend Experience: “But she’s so bland and low-key that it’s difficult to care about her travails, which are more tedious than provocative. She is consistently blasé and relies on a strange system of ‘personology’ to determine her compatibility with clients. She’s calculated and detached, yet we’re expected to believe she’s upset when a new customer backs out of a rendezvous at the last minute.” — USA Today

[Photos: Relativity Media, Getty Images, Universal Pictures]