Is Emma Stone America's New Sweetheart?
Emma Stone won an Academy Award last night for her role as Mia in La La Land.
Stone took to the stage, hiking up the fringed skirt on her champagne-gold Givenchy gown as she ascended the stairs to kiss Leonardo DiCaprio and accept her statue. The 28-year-old Scottsdale, Arizona, native and Valley Youth Theatre alum formerly known as Emily gave a breathy speech. She thanked the musical film's director, Damien Chazelle, and her costar, Ryan Gosling.
Wearing Tiffany earrings and a Planned Parenthood pin, she called the win "a huge confluence of luck and opportunity," promising to "hug the hell out" of people who helped her get there.
The 89th Academy Award had a messy ceremony, helmed by Jimmy Kimmel. It ended in a surprise switch-up, with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty accidentally awarding the best picture Oscar to La La Land because they were given the wrong envelope. The awards wrapped with director Barry Jenkins and his team accepting the best picture award for Moonlight.
That was a twist no one could've predicted. Stone's win, though? It felt like a foregone conclusion.
Although she was up against Ruth Negga, Meryl Streep, Isabelle Huppert, and Natalie Portman, Stone had already racked up wins for her La La Land performance at the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes.
She plays an aspiring actress with a Shitty Musician Boyfriend in Chazelle's love letter to creative perseverance, a musical that's light on song but has heart. La La Land is, at risk of sounding like Statler and Waldorf, a movie whose best part is the ending.
In it, Stone isn't Ginger Rogers by a mile, but she is lovely, does the heavy lifting in trying to convince us that she and Gosling are in love, and sings better than most people can. Some have been eager to point out that they just don't make Hollywood stars like they used to. You know, those triple threats who worked through the frustrating, shady Golden Age studio system that's been obsolete for decades.
But Emma Stone is the movie star we've got. Meet America's Sweetheart, newly crowned and rebooted.
Stone's from Arizona, but left as a teen to pursue her acting career in Los Angeles, mom in tow. And as glossy profiles will tell you, she worked in a dog bakery, went on auditions, and, like Mia, held out hope that her big break would come.
Pop culture scholars might be tempted to call her a "cool girl." It's a role her peer Jennifer Lawrence inhabits to a T, embodying a sexy carelessness that teeters between so relatable and falling down in heels. But the persona's tough to maintain. The public starts to question how true those loud proclamations of french fry love really are.
That's not Stone, though. She, instead, has that perfect blend of humor, romance, likability, and emotive eyes that makes people fall in love with her. It's not a sexy, messy love. It's a stable, thoughtful, measured one. It makes sense, and it's easy.
Her audience has had plenty of opportunities to fall for her. She sang Meredith Brooks' "Bitch" in a reality show competition to star in a Partridge Family reboot, she was stellar and so funny in Easy A and Superbad. Stone's something of a Saturday Night Live regular (a self-proclaimed mega-fan, too) who loves theater and took an acclaimed turn in Cabaret on Broadway. But you won't find the actress on social media, at least not in a capacity that's publicly viewable. She's seemingly immune to scandal, fiercely private.
The only vaguely annoying incident that comes to mind is when she and ex-boyfriend Andrew Garfield, whom you might remember as the least good Spider-Man and a best actor nominee for his work in a movie Mel Gibson made, staged a paparazzi protest during which they were photographed obscuring their faces with signs promoting charities. And see? It's not remotely a scandal. It's good natured, if a bit pretentious.
And the trick of it all is, instead of appearing like a difficult diva for being guarded, her laugh, wit, and big smile get her everywhere. All that plus inherent likability, and we have the heiress to the Julia Roberts throne.
Stone has hawked Revlon and covered Vogue. She brings her brother and mom to awards shows. None of it ever seems extra because she's not offering unfettered access.
Perhaps she truly crossed into "People I'd Like to Have Beers With" territory, for me anyway, when she lip synced DJ Khaled's "All I Do Is Win" for a bit on Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show back in 2014. In the segment, Stone doesn't miss a word. Besides being a fan of the song, the actress has clearly rehearsed it inside out, even coordinating camera angles when T-Pain sings "up, down, up, down." She lets it fucking rip and tears into Ludacris' motormouth verse.
When it's all over, she laughs it off like it came from nowhere.
For better or worse, she did not rap during her acceptance speech. Given her streak this awards season, she could've rightly quoted the Khaled banger. "All I do is win, win, win no matter what." But she didn't. Beyond that subtle pin she wore, Stone didn't make the occasion political. She didn't court controversy, only reinforced her public persona. Cool, smart, and — if you know where to look — engaged on important issues. While others used the platform to make grand statements about moviemaking and society, Stone did what she does best.
She was sweet.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Phoenix art and theater scene.