The Perez Family (1995)
Based on the 1991 novel of the same name, this comedy paired Tomei with the talented likes of Anjelica Houston and Alfred Molina.
They play Cuban refugees who all band together to pretend to be a family. Tomei is Dottie Perez, a former prostitute who meets Juan Perez (Molina) at an airport. Opportunely, US Immigration officials believe they are a married couple because they share the same surname. But can pretending lead to real feelings?
Award Worthy? A fun caper, but not really award worthy.
Four Rooms (1995)
Four different stories set in a Los Angeles hotel collide on New Year’s Eve. Each of the four segments was directed by a different filmmaker, with Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Allison Anders and Alexandre Rockwell each taking a segment.
Tomei plays Margaret, a full-on stoner, which leads to the line “an oven full of witches?” Tomei’s deadpan delivery reigns.
Award Worthy? Kudos definitely due for playing a realistic stoner.
Tomei is now so well-known that she’s appearing as herself in top-rated sitcoms like Seinfeld . Guest-starring in two-part episode ‘The Cadillac’, she becomes the unwanted object of George’s lustful affection. He’s meant to be engaged, but then Elaine’s friend lets slip that she’s friends with Marisa Tomei.
Apparently Tomei even has a thing for short bald men – a fact that prompts George to become obsessed with the actress. Sadly, despite landing a date with her, George reveals he’s engaged and ruins his chances.
Award Worthy? Hilarious, definitely should get some kind of guest star award.
Unhook The Stars (1996)
Critical acclaim met this drama, in which Tomei plays Monica, a single mother who lives across the street from lonely old dear Mildred (Gena Rowlands).
When Mildred’s troublesome daughter moves out, Mildred grows close to Monica and her son J.J. (Jake Lloyd), who inadvertently teach their new friend invaluable life lessons.
Award Worthy? More nomination-worthy, as Tomei receives a nom from the Screen Actors Guild for Outstanding Supporting Female Actor.
Welcome To Sarajevo (1997)
British war film from Michael Winterbottom based on the book Natasha's Story by Michael Nicholson.
Tomei plays American aid worker Nina, who helps ITN reporter Michael Henderson (Stephen Dillane) during a 1992 trip to Sarajevo. Together, they attempt to evacuate children out of the besieged city.
Award Worthy? It’s definitely dramatic enough for it.
Slums Of Beverly Hills (1998)
It’s cult time again! Tomei’s first cult-y role in The Toxic Avenger may have gone almost completely unnoticed, but her second appearance in a cult classic has her front and centre.
She’s 29-year-old Rita, a rehab runaway who is completely clueless about what to do with her life, and who often speaks with her cousin Vivian in complete gibberish. “This coming-of-age story is first and foremost a comedy, and a hilarious one at that,” wrote the San Francisco Chronicle .
Award Worthy? The fluency in gibberish should be rewarded somehow.
Happy Accidents (2000)
Tomei mixes her love for romance with a dash of futurism in this drama. She plays another woman unlucky in love, this time as Ruby Weaver, a woman who meets Sam Deed (Vincent D’Onofrio), who claims to be from the year 2470.
Concerned about Sam’s sanity, Ruby takes him to see her therapist, where Sam sticks by his assertion that he’s a ‘back traveller’, and is attempting to change Ruby’s life for the better. But can it possibly be true?
Award Worthy? Schmaltzy and silly, not really worthy of an award.
The Watcher (2000)
Tomei gets a PHD as a therapist in this daft crime thriller. Her Dr Polly Beilman is the only real point of human contact for retired FBI agent Campbell (James Spader), who failed to capture a serial killer and has become a depressed recluse as a consequence.
Then the killer Campbell was unable to stop starts sending him pictures of the woman who'll become his next victim, and Campbell must renew his search - or watch the murderer take another innocent life.
Award Worthy? She convinces as a therapist, but that’s about it.
What Women Want (2000)
One of Tomei’s most commercially successful films, this Mel Gibson comedy revolves around Gibson’s chauvinistic executive Nick, who begins to hear women’s thoughts.
Tomei plays the coffee shop worker who Nick seduces. A rumoured sequel titled What Men Want starring Cameron Diaz is apparently being written by The Proposal ’s Pete Chiarelli.
Award Worthy? Yep, Tomei received Blockbuster and Satellite nominations for her performance.
In The Bedroom (2001)
Emotional drama starring Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek and Nick Stahl. The film, inspired by Andre Dubus’ short story Killings , won widespread acclaim and landed five Oscar nominations.
Tomei plays Natalie Strout, whose husband Richard is violently abusive. When Richard kills a young man named Frank Fowler after an argument, the death sends shock waves through Frank’s and Natalie’s families.
Award Worthy? The Academy come knocking again, this time endowing Tomei with another nomination, but not another win.