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Anne Hathaway.

the star market

The Star Market: One Day, Will Anne Hathaway Rule Hollywood?

Anne Hathaway keeps excellent company: Julie Andrews and Meryl Streep, Jonathan Demme and Christopher Nolan. She's graduated from kiddie fare to indie prestige to summer blockbusters, from princesses to train wrecks to super-villains. With One Day, out in theaters today, the 28-year-old actress is revisiting the ostensible romance of the underperforming Love and Other Drugs, this time with a substantially less famous co-star. That means this one's all on her (and her British accent). Early in her career, with films like The Princes Diaries, Hathaway showed she could open a movie: Does she still have the knack? Or have the Oscars and her type-A cheeriness put audiences off? If Anne Hathaway were a stock, would you buy, sell, or hold?

Stock History: Hathaway got her start in 1999's ill-fated Fox series Get Real (alongside Jesse Eisenberg), but she got her big break in 2001's The Princess Diaries, which made an unexpected $165 million, with Hathaway lending a believable gawkiness and humane elegance to the dork-gets-a-makeover plot. Princess Diaries 2 did well, but after Ella Enchanted went nowhere ($23 million) Hathaway made a concerted effort to move on from family fare. The fist step was a supporting part in Brokeback Mountain, as Jake Gyllenhaal's wife Lureen, which showed off a depth and maturity audiences hadn't seen before. The Devil Wears Prada and Get Smart once again proved her blockbuster credentials, but it was Hathaway's Oscar-nominated role in Rachel Getting Married that solidified her spot in the League of Serious Actresses, and has seen her reputation through a string of follow-up rom-coms both okay (Love and Other Drugs, for which Hathaway got a Golden Globes nod) and not so okay (Bride Wars, Valentine's Day).

Market Value: Solid. Hathaway launched her career with The Princess Diaries, and that film and its sequel raked in a combined $203 million. Since then, though, her movies' successes are harder to attribute strictly to her: Get Smart was a known quantity in 2008, and Alice in Wonderland's huge draw in 2010 can be chalked up to Johnny Depp, Tim Burton, and a familiar story. The Devil Wears Prada pulled in $125 million in 2006, but the movie's not called The Sort of Smug Assistant Who Wears Blah Workwear; it's more Meryl Streep's movie than Hathaway's, though it's hard to picture another young actress nailing the part as well as she did. Love and Other Drugs and Bride Wars underperformed, but Hathaway had high-profile co-stars in both cases — Jake Gyllenhaal and Kate Hudson, respectively — to help shoulder the blame. She'll have no such cover on One Day, the first movie that's come out since this past February's Oscar debacle. Hathaway didn't get the brunt of the criticism (her co-host James Franco did), but her Tasmanian Devil routine may have long-lasting effects on moviegoers' perception of her, if not a direct impact on her box-office power. Still, with her high-profile part as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises coming up — a movie we have a hunch is going to do okay, money-wise — Hathaway will have some time to recover from the Oscars no matter what One Day's haul.

What Hollywood Says: "When she started out, the thought was, ‘She’s dorky, and not a great actress,’" says a manager. "But I think she’s worked her way up to it and grown into her own looks." Plus, "she seems to get better with every movie. That, and when there's a risk out there, she takes it: Brokeback Mountain. Love and Other Drugs was a risk, too; she did a lot of nudity there. I didn’t care for the script, but thought she did well in it."

An agent sees a different trajectory. "She’s a good actress," the agent says, "but it’s almost the same problem with Nicole Kidman: a great actress who seemed to get less likable as she got older. You know, you don’t necessarily want to ‘go on the journey’ with her." You might have rooted for her in The Princess Diaries, the agent says, "but lately, the more your see of her, like, with hosting the Oscars, the more you think: Ugh, is she this over-the-top theater kid?"

That possible ugh factor isn't a deal breaker, says a studio marketing chief. "You have to have her in something where you can show people, 'This is the Anne Hathaway we know and like!'"

What Hollywood Says: "When she started out, the thought was, ‘She’s dorky, and not a great actress,’" says a manager. "But I think she’s worked her way up to it and grown into her own looks." Plus, "she seems to get better with every movie. That, and when there's a risk out there, she takes it: Brokeback Mountain. Love and Other Drugs was a risk, too; she did a lot of nudity there. I didn’t care for the script, but thought she did well in it."

The Analysis: Hathaway can definitely act, and her apparent commitment to all projects is admirable — whatever the opposite of "over it" is, that's Hathaway. She's enthusiastic on late-night shows, she's effusive in interviews, she even looks poised in tabloids. But the aroma of failure hasn't quite worn off from her ill-fated Oscar-hosting gig: The weakness of the show doesn't seem like her fault necessarily, but her panicky desperation to Sell It onstage was strange to see, especially after two successful SNL gigs. (It's probably good that her long in the works dream project — a Judy Garland biopic — is on hold. Talk about a theater-kid vibe.) It's not totally clear yet that Hathaway's naughty enough to sell the sultry badassery of Catwoman, but her worn-out misery in Rachel Getting Married proved she contains multitudes. If, as suggested above, she can return to the comedies that have always been her most successful films — Hathaway famously turned down Katherine Heigl's role in Knocked Up, and it's hard not to have that Sliding Doors consideration for what could have been — but go a little more silly, goofy, and foul-mouthed, while mixing in a few very well-considered smaller dramas, and she should be able to stay on moviegoers' good side.

The Bottom Line: If Hathaway can endear herself to audiences a little more, by being just a little less, her post-cat-suit has plenty of potential.

Buy/Sell/Hold: Strong Hold.

Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images