I recently saw “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” and while a lot of the movie is very good, my first comment walking out of the theater was, “Man, I wish Aunt May [Marisa Tomei] was in it more.” And it’s not the only time that Tomei has had a (small) part in a movie, done a lot with it, and left the audience wanting more. In fact, let’s take a look at her IMDB page. You may be like me and forget in just how many roles she’s been really excellent.
“A Different World” – Maggie
Totally forgot this was the first role in which I saw her act. But she was great! Seems as though she was a victim of the show retooling after the first season (when Lisa Bonet also left).
“My Cousin Vinny” – Mona Lisa Vito
Such a tour de force performance that she won an Oscar. Hilarious, and still holds up all these years later.
“Seinfeld” – Marisa Tomei/Object of George Costanza’s Affection
A performance so convincing, she made us believe that she loves, “short, quirky bald men.”
“What Women Want” – Lola
A movie rendered unwatchable by its anti-Semitic leading man, but Tomei’s is the performance I remember.
“In the Bedroom” – Natalie
Now here’s where Tomei rejoined the conversation of great actresses. There was an awful rumor that Jack Palace had read the wrong name at the Oscars the year that she won for “My Cousin Vinny,” and that rumor seemed to dog her career for years after. But “In the Bedroom” reminded everyone of why she (deservedly) won the Oscar in the first place.
“Someone Like You…” – Liz
Literally the only part of the movie I remember, other than Ashley Judd had a thing for cows. (This is not a joke.)
“Anger Management” – Linda
The only believable person in this (terrible) movie about Adam Sandler learning to control his anger.
“Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” – Gina
In a Sidney Lumet film starring, among other people, Albert Finney, Ethan Hawke, Philip Seymour Hoffman and greatest living actor Michael Shannon, Tomei shines as the unsatisfied and cheating housewife. Bonus points for Rosemary Harris also being in this movie – two of the three cinematic Aunt Mays!
“The Wrestler” – Cassidy
Seriously, how good is Marisa Tomei in this movie? There’s a scene in “The Wrestler” where Randy the Ram is going through the curtain, and Cassidy goes through hers as well. The way Darren Aronofsky shoots the scene, it’s a perfect juxtaposition of two people older than their peers, holding on for a few last moments of glory. Tomei is fearless in this role, and while people remember it for Mickey Rourke’s performance, she is every bit the star. (As a side note, when I saw “Black Swan,” I thought it was a companion piece to “The Wrestler,” in that it was another movie about someone literally dying for her art. That said, I wonder how much of “Black Swan” is really Cassidy’s story taken to the nth degree, rather than Randy the Ram’s.) (Second side note: the most SFW image/video from the movie that I could find is below.)
“Crazy, Stupid, Love.” – Kate
Confession: this is one of three Tomei movies I watched within the last week, and that inspired this post. While she’s only in a handful of scenes, she is terrifically funny playing against Steve Carell. The ditzy, recovering-alcoholic teacher is in her wheelhouse, but then when she finds out [spoiler alert] she slept with the father of one of her students, and he never called her…Tomei plays that rage splendidly, up through the final scene at graduation.
“The Ides of March” – Ida
My parents and I saw this as a play when it was called “Farragut North,” after the Metro station in D.C. I had high hopes for the movie: Ryan Gosling and George Clooney, with Clooney directing. And for the most part, it was just OK. But Tomei as intrepid reporter Ida was great.
“The Rewrite” – Holly
So a good 90% of this movie is trash: The slumming-it Hugh Grant, the one note “comic relief” of the character whose whole life is “Star Wars,” etc. But Tomei plays a cagey, scrappy mother who’s not yet ready to throw away her dreams of doing more than working in the college bookstore. Tomei is literally the only reason I didn’t turn this movie off halfway into watching it.
“Trainwreck” – Dog Owner
One of the funny running bits in “Trainwreck” is the idea that Daniel Radcliffe has made an insufferable art film about him as a dogwalker. Tomei plays opposite him, and while it’s about 20 seconds, it’s a pretty funny cameo.
“Captain America: Civil War” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming”
I love this version of Marisa Tomei. It’s this not-quite-young, seen some things but also still fresh faced, aunt who acts like Peter’s sister kind of thing, and it. Just. Works.
So there you have it. A thrice-nominated (and once victorious) Oscar actress who’s been pretty great for the past 25 years, and seems to have only gotten better the past 10.
Any other favorite Marisa Tomei roles I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments.