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Why Is Olivia Thirlby Still a “Nobody”?

August 23, 2012

For a stunning 25-year-old woman, Olivia Thirlby inexplicably always seems to get overshadowed. She was honest-to-blog hilarious as the titular pregnant teen’s chatty BFF in Juno, but all the acclaim (and the Oscar nomination) went to Ellen Page. As Josh Peck’s girlfriend in the ’90s period comedy The Wackness, she was upstaged by a jive-talking, ganja-smoking Sir Ben Kingsley. And as Paul Dano‘s live-in lover in Being Flynn, she mostly stayed at home while he grappled with his homeless dad (Robert De Niro).

Now Thirlby’s finally got a movie where she’s front and center—Nobody Walks, an indie dramedy cowritten by Girls creator Lena Dunham that debuts on VOD early next month in advance of its theatrical release. And while the movie has some problems, her performance is simply flawless. Thirlby radiates pansexual charisma as Martine, a film student who moves into the pool house of a successful L.A. sound designer (John Krasinski, moonlighting from The Office) and his therapist wife (the always-impressive Rosemarie DeWitt) and unwittingly blows the place apart.

Maybe I was expecting Nobody Walks to be funnier based on Dunham’s other work, but it’s told in the drearier voice of cowriter-director Ry Russo-Young. Krasinski impressively plays it straight, but Weeds/Animal Practice vet Justin Kirk phones in another sleazeball role as a patient who gets too close for comfort with DeWitt. American Horror Story‘s Dylan McDermott is miscast as her rock-star ex-husband, and suburgatory‘s Jane Levy and Treme‘s India Enenga are wasted in stereotypical teen-girl roles. But none of that matters whenever Thirlby’s on screen.

Thirlby shoots for stardom with Karl Urban in “Dredd”

Nobody Walks‘ limited theatrical release may not be enough to turn her into a star just yet, though. She’ll soon be seen in a higher-profile flick, the 3D reboot Dredd, but encased in a metal suit for much of the film, that may not be her ticket to super-fame either. Nor was her costarring role with Emile Hirsch (another one who should be a star!) in last year’s little-seen sci-fi misfire The Darkest Hour. If only Dunham or Juno‘s Diablo Cody could write a vehicle just for her, Thirlby might not be the second most famous Olivia making movies anymore. Wouldn’t that be Wilde?

Did Thirlby catch your eye in films like Margaret or No Strings Attached? Comment!

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