Holliday Grainger is a woman out of time. Her beauty harkens back to classic film stars like Grace Kelly. She is such a poised, intelligent woman with some serious acting chops to boot. Her performance in The Finest Hours is a pleasure to watch and she brings a strength to Miriam’s portrayal that honors women both then and now. Holliday portrays Miriam, Bernie’s girlfriend and then fiancee, who seems a woman out of time herself. Miriam is a woman with 1950’s sensibilities but a 21st century attitude. She is willing to defy social convention for her love of Bernie. She asks Bernie for his hand in marriage instead of the other way around, and when she deduces that Bernie might be in danger, she goes to the Coast Guard station to demand his safe return. One of Bernie’s friends tells her, “the other girls just don’t do this, Miriam.” But she is a woman who doesn’t define herself by what other people do.
Holliday is both warm and strong at the same time. She is able to balance successfully this tension between society’s expectations of women in the 1950’s with an inner strength that Miriam seems to have in abundance. During our interview with her, I was able to ask her if this was a challenge in portraying the character. “Yes, massively to be honest. The first couple of times I read the script I couldn’t initially see how I would play Miriam. I was finding the two quite difficult to balance and it was really until I met Miriam’s daughter, Patty, and she took me on a tour around Chatham and introduced me to a woman…She introduced me to sort of a contemporary of Miriam that knew Bernie and Miriam, and it was listening to this woman talk that kind of just – it totally opened my eyes to the kind of mindset of that time and the strength being, yeah you don’t have to be a completely independent woman to be strong. There can be a strength in your instinct and a standing by your man that doesn’t mean that you are any less strong or self-confident as long as you know that that is right, then that is right for you.”
Holliday deftly portrays Miriam so well, accent and all, that you would never know she was from across the pond. She has a beautifully appealing British accent yet she is able to tackle the specifics of a Boston lilt just right. “I spent most of my time trying to tune my ear into the accent before I could even start working on it which I’ve never had to do before. So there was a lot more practice and it didn’t come as naturally to me as most accents always kind of have. It was just a lot of like listen and repeat and we had a great voice coach, Wendy Overly, who really helped me hone in on certain sounds that were sticking out. I feel so sorry for my drivers and my boyfriend and my mom and anyone that was around me in the months before that because I was just repeating the same passage.”
In the production notes for the film, Producer Jim Whitaker made such an astute observation about Holliday’s character. “The movie is as much about the rescue mission as it is about the challenges of a relationship and how one makes the decision to fully commit to be with someone,” says Whitaker, “and so in a way, what’s happening at sea is like a metaphor to what’s happening on shore, and Miriam is the anchor of that emotional journey, both for Bernie and herself.” Holliday is able to deftly handle the gravity of that role and pull it off convincingly. She is such a joy to watch and adds new depth to an already character-driven, action-packed film. Be sure to take the time to see The Finest Hours.
The Finest Hours opened on 1/29 in theaters nationwide.
- To read about Holliday’s on screen love interest, Chris Pine, go to our blog post
- If you’d like to read about Casey Affleck’s amazing performance in the movie, find out more on the Disney Nerds blog
- Read a spoiler-free review of The Finest Hours