The Fierce, Fearless Love of Carrie Coon

We tip our hat to the queen of prestige TV. But beyond 'The Leftovers,' 'Fargo,' and 'The Sinner,' gripping big-screen projects await.
Carrie Coon The Leftovers

Welcome to Filmographiesa column for completists. Every edition brings a working actor’s resumé into focus as we learn about what makes them so compelling. In this entry, we spotlight the filmography of Carrie Coon.

Carrie Coon has curated a resumé with the beguiling wisdom one would expect from actors with twice as many credits. For years, the irresistibly compelling actress cut her teeth on the stage. She eventually netted a coveted Tony Award nomination in 2013 for her Broadway debut in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

Coon boasts a comparatively modest but motley compilation of screen work. Her projects collectively reflect the eager, earthy immediacy of stage performance. She has a penchant for building versatile lived-in characters and fostering spellbinding chemistry with her co-stars.

From the actress’ numerous successes in prestige television to her burgeoning big-screen experiments, here is a breakdown of the quintessential Carrie Coon experience.

The Leftovers (2014-2017)

Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta’s dazzling apocalypse drama The Leftovers provides Carrie Coon with one of her richest female leads: Nora Durst.

After losing her entire family during the Sudden Departure, Nora deals with singularly insurmountable grief that informs her sobering — practically utilitarian — worldview. Her haphazard rediscovery of life and love subsequently hinges on a grueling search for forgiveness, especially of herself.

Coon’s masterfully flexible performance imperceptibly ebbs and flows as Nora’s emotional wounds close and (oftentimes forcefully) reopen. She imbues Nora with extant sarcasm and stoicism that cuts a distinct and quietly powerful silhouette.

As a result, we acknowledge Nora’s strength in all of its grace and disarray. Indeed, she is the most endearing pigheaded person I’ve ever seen onscreen. Coon guarantees that her character’s complexity is as multifaceted and unsolvable as The Leftoversartful and elaborate storytelling pursuits.

Gone Girl (2014)

Carrie Coon’s anxious, acerbic Margo Dunne is a crucial player in David Fincher’s Gone Girl. The Gillian Flynn adaptation follows the perturbing trials of Amy and Nick, a couple whose marital dynamic fractures after the former abruptly vanishes. When foul play is suspected, every aspect of Nick’s life — including his twin sister, Margo — comes under intense scrutiny from police and the media alike.

In a narrative so concerned with duplicitous identities, Margo is refreshingly honest and straightforward. She nurtures an organic, buoyant connection with Nick, borne from her own perceptiveness and sharp tongue. Her generosity and reactive zeal inject a great deal of heart into the movie.

Margo feels like a sibling anybody would be lucky to have. She’s unafraid to call bullshit the moment she sees it, yet is so fervently supportive and undeniably loving. Her petty eye rolls and pointed glares elicit side-splitting laughter. Moreover, Coon ensures that Margo’s emotional investment in her brother’s well-being is palpable, not cloying.

In the end, Margo may not be as shocking and unnerving as Gone Girl‘s devilishly enterprising protagonist. Nevertheless, thanks to Coon, she arguably demands our affection and empathy just as much, if not more.

Strange Weather (2016)

In Strange Weather, Carrie Coon finds herself donning the part of a best friend. But she leaves a more striking impression than the archetype would typically demand. She plays Byrd, a caring and self-assured confidante of a single mom struggling to grapple with her son’s suicide.

The film’s sheer magic comes from its commitment to depicting regular, flawed women who resist static caricature. Bubbly, outgoing, and sensual, Byrd sports a romantic outlook on life. She exists to reveal the fallacy of the protagonist’s eccentric free-spiritedness, frequently challenging the character’s desire for control.

Thankfully, Coon’s genial, sweet, and deeply compassionate performance feels concurrently freeing and good-natured. Byrd’s messier qualities juxtapose and uplift her counterpart, drawing together Strange Weather’s overarching thesis of catharsis through acceptance.

The Keeping Hours (2017)

In the supernatural drama The Keeping Hours, Carrie Coon plays a woman who loses her young son. Soon enough, a ghostly apparition of the boy begins haunting her, beckoning for his now-divorced parents to get back together.

On the outset, the film’s use of distinct horror tropes and plot devices permit Coon to tap into her propensity as a frazzled scream queen. However, The Keeping Hours gladly switches up its own formula, opting to instead embrace sentimentality rather than harp on the technicalities of the paranormal.

Coon lets her character’s steely forbearance dissolve freely and quickly the moment mother and son reconnect. Furthermore, her infectious, emphatic grasp of happiness exhibits the character’s warmest and wittiest side. She substantially personifies the movie’s emotionally charged thesis that respects the intricacies of loss and sorrow.

Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town (2017)

Carrie Coon has a relatively minor role in Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town, but she is no less impactful. While on an intercity odyssey to settle a petty score, the film’s titular protagonist (Mackenzie Davis) must face off with a myriad of colorful characters. This includes her estranged, judgmental sister Virginia (Coon).

Coon and Davis are two incredibly charismatic personalities who evoke plenty while saying very little. This is extremely valuable when a sizable chunk of their screen time together involves them performing a song in lieu of dialogue.

Through the vector of music, Virginia’s snark towards Izzy melts away into tentative fondness. Both parties steal hesitant glances that gladly transform into doting gazes.

The film’s limited exploration of the terse history between the duo is a shame when the actresses are this magnetic. In truth, Coon and Davis’ chemistry crystallizes this sisterly dynamic as one of the most memorable and thematically relevant relationships in the movie’s fleeting, riotous ride of self-love.

The Post (2017)

There are few projects as decidedly star-studded as Steven Spielberg’s historical whistleblower thriller The Post. The film retells the discovery of the incendiary Pentagon Papers. The eponymous Washington DC news outlet wrestles with the ethical quandaries and social responsibilities of publishing these documents in favor of the public’s right to know.

Carrie Coon demonstrates authority and candor when playing one of the few women spearheading the paper’s newsroom, the assertive editorial writer Meg Greenfield. Sharp, confident, and to the point, she is a treasured asset at the Post with a go-getting nature that is downright inspiring.

To Coon’s credit, Greenfield’s unruffled countenance irrevocably makes her stand out despite the broadness of the role. That hardiness even presents an observable contrast to the film’s otherwise muted portrayal of women, aptly complementing the movie’s subtle commentary about gender in a male-dominated industry.

Fargo (2017)

Carrie Coon fully commits to her determined, doggone heroine, Gloria Burgle, in the candidly strange third season of Fargo. The actress finds her sturdy, well-meaning law enforcer spearheading an inquest into some grisly murders in small-town Minnesota.

Gloria is an old-school, salt-of-the-earth woman who feels incontrovertibly left behind in the analog era. Her good intentions are often thwarted by a slew of personal and professional problems. Unsurprisingly, she harbors the concerted belief that she is invisible.

Coon depicts Gloria’s perceived immateriality with subdued melancholy. She supplements the character’s optimism with a ponderous undertone — grit that threatens the integrity that drives Gloria at her core.

Ultimately, Gloria’s wholehearted virtue signifies the very best of humanity — an uncommon sight in the gruesome Fargo universe. She makes a robust case for Coon’s ability to delicately embody protagonists of all sorts, including the most likable ones.

Widows (2018)

Steve McQueen’s Widows is a mobster movie masterclass in every sense of the word. Carrie Coon only briefly pops up in the film. Still, the adeptly intentional deployment of its glittering cast assures us of her importance to the narrative.

Widows follows four women who violently lose their husbands during a heist gone wrong. They must reluctantly join forces to complete a lucrative job to erase their mounting debt.

All except Coon’s shy Amanda opts into the caper. When we finally hear from this elusive widow, Coon’s gracious and mild-mannered demeanor immediately inspires sympathy.

Amanda stays on the fringes of the movie for an illicit reason. This astonishing twist only reinforces Coon’s impressive chameleonic unreadability as an actor. She so effortlessly lures us in with such genuine tenderness that any revelation of her grimmer attributes hits home hard.

The Sinner (2018)

Carrie Coon completely flips the script on maternity in The Sinner. The anthology’s admittedly uneven second season sees her portray Vera Walker, a secretive commune leader who claims to be a teen killer’s mother.

Initially combative and uncooperative with the show’s central murder investigation, Vera appears to languish in the discomfort of others. She notably draws demons out of the darkest recesses of the protagonist’s psyche.

Coon and series star Bill Pullman shine opposite one another during these brutal exchanges. They patiently — excruciatingly — tug at each other’s sensitivities with disturbing ferocity.

Eventually, Coon cracks Vera’s ruthless protective shell open, revealing a hardened woman prone to bouts of recklessness. Many of her most unforgettable characters give off this similar sense of intimidating pragmatism.

Still, with Vera, Coon elevates that inexplicable frightfulness to an unconventionally antagonistic territory. This is undoubtedly her most unhinged role to date.

The Nest (2020)

The bulk of Carrie Coon’s film work culminates in her acutely commanding lead role in Sean Durkin’s The Nest. She plays Allison O’Hara, an outspoken American whose enchanted marriage to intrepid English engineer Rory (Jude Law) falls on hard times after they unexpectedly move from New York to Surrey.

The film astounds in its endeavor to seamlessly situate audiences right in the middle of such an established dynamic. No less due to the easygoing domesticity shared between Coon and Law. They dig deep into Allison and Rory’s intimate daily routine, epitomizing the comfort and monotony that greatly informs the spontaneity of their later decisions in the film.

On her own, Coon turns in an absolutely electrifying, full-bodied performance. We are primed to root for Allison when she is impertinently herself — a chain-smoking pottymouth with a snorty laugh.

Coon also exquisitely teeters between Allison’s obstinate resolve and her sincere desire to put aside any misgivings to support her partner’s ambitions. She delivers the very definition of a powerhouse performance as this ultra-intuitive matriarch whose circumstances are crushingly relatable.

What’s Next for Carrie Coon

More often than not, Carrie Coon seeks out narratives that are already accessible due to the humanity of their archetypes. She enhances our experience of such stories through her pertinent acumen, extricating the difficult inner life of every character she inhabits.

Frankly, the potency of Coon’s realistic portrayals should easily amplify even her most mainstream projects. Unfortunately, The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter and Kin waste her in tiny parts. I have a bone to pick with Disney for casting Coon in Avengers: Infinity War — one of the biggest movies ever — and giving her scraps.

But I am enough of an optimist to hold out hope for the Julian Fellowes-created HBO drama The Gilded Age and Jason Reitman’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife. Coon’s constant reinvention of feminine strength and passion engenders our trust. She flaunts an impeccable range whenever she crafts indelibly grounded women for us to fall in love with.

Sheryl Oh: Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)