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Todd Mc Carthy of Variety criticized her break from the big screen but felt that, despite a performance of "tender feeling", "her natural vivaciousness and spontaneity are straightjacketed" by the film noir format.Afterwards, Mc Adams starred with Tim Robbins and Michael Peña in the road trip comedy-drama The Lucky Ones, a story about three Iraq War soldiers on a brief road trip back in the United States."Here she is feisty, vulnerable, plucky, warm, funny ...Watch the poignancy of the scene when she meets her boyfriend's family." In 2009, Mc Adams starred with Russell Crowe, Helen Mirren and Ben Affleck in the political thriller State of Play, based on the BBC drama television series of the same name.Mc Adams began figure skating when she was four years old, but turned down an opportunity to move to Toronto when she was nine years old for pair skating training. She also made her Canadian film debut that year in the comedy My Name is Tanino.
Her performance qualifies her for heavy-duty roles." In late 2005, Mc Adams starred with Sarah Jessica Parker and Diane Keaton in the seasonal family comedy-drama The Family Stone, which gave Mc Adams an opportunity to play a dishevelled and sardonic sister, rather than the usual "obvious" girlfriend or wife roles.
She starred with Pierce Brosnan and Chris Cooper in the 1940s film noir Married Life where she played Kay Nesbitt, a young widow who wins the affections of Brosnan and Cooper's older characters.
In preparation for the role, Mc Adams studied old films, particularly those of Kim Novak.
Tina Fey, who co‑starred in the film and wrote the screenplay, has credited Mc Adams with teaching her how to act in front of a camera rather than an audience: "She's a film actor. And so I kind of learned that lesson from watching her." Later in 2004, Mc Adams starred opposite fellow Canadian Ryan Gosling in the romantic drama The Notebook, based on Nicholas Sparks' novel of the same name.
She played Allie Hamilton, a wealthy southern belle who has a forbidden love affair with Gosling's poor labourer, Noah Calhoun.