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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

8 Great Performances In Not So Great Movies This Year

While this year offered a variety of great films (many of which fell under the radar), we also saw our share of stinky ones. Some are completely unremarkable, but others at least had a singular performance that made it more bearable to watch. These are just a few of those performances:

CHRISTIAN BALE AS "RUSSELL BAZE" IN OUT OF THE FURNACE: I joked about it in one of my earlier posts, but I was stunned to see Bale transmit such vulnerability as he did in this otherwise problematic film. Although the movie doesn't bother with trying to connect with its audience, Bale's performance of a man's struggle to retain some sense of stability in his life is compassionate, and it is certainly one of his most accessible even while his character is hunting down a deranged addict in the middle of a field.

JAKE GYLLENHAAL AS "DETECTIVE LOKI" IN PRISONERS: Even as Hugh Jackman's character goes completely off the rails, Gyllenhaal's calm portrayal of a detective lured by the spiraling case of two missing children is nothing short of riveting to watch. Unless you count his spontaneously twitching eye and countless nondescript tattoos, we know very little about Loki. But Gyllenhaal has a way of making you want to know more, stealing every scene he's in with very little dialogue.  

COLIN FARRELL AS "TRAVERS GOFF" IN SAVING MR. BANKS: I feel like Colin Farrell is often very good in a bad movie, or very good in a decent movie, but rarely gets the chance to be great in a great movie. While some Mary Poppins fans may be more partial to Emma Thompson's nettlesome alter ego in Saving Mr. Banks, I found Farrell's more complicated yet more realized smaller character far more fascinating to watch.

ROONEY MARA AS "RUTH GUTHRIE" IN AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS: This increasingly winding movie failed to resonate on so many levels. But even as it struggles to find its way, Rooney Mara commits herself to a very delicate yet remorseful portrayal that rises above the film's rather uninteresting premise.

KRISTIN SCOTT THOMAS AS "CRYSTAL" IN ONLY GOD FORGIVES: Out of the nightmare of color coded scenes, successive wild antics and Ryan Gosling's perpetually battered face emerges the take-no-sh*t, slightly incestuous Kristin Scott Thomas as a mother with only one thing on her mind--revenge, at any cost. Thomas is calculating yet absurd at the same time, a truly scary combination.

BRADLEY COOPER AS "RICHIE DIMASO" IN AMERICAN HUSTLE: Imma let you finish, but American Hustle is not a great movie. It's wildly entertaining and very funny indeed (I'll probably watch it over and over), but it lacks the execution it needs to truthfully convey the themes it pretends to (greed, deception, dominance, self-importance, etc). But Bradley Cooper as a nearly delirious FBI agent in way over his head is most identifiable to the themes of the film in both characterization and  portrayal. With the help of Cooper, Richie becomes the most complete character in the film.

NAOMIE HARRIS AS "WINNIE MADIKIZELA" IN MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM: With its ripped-from-Wikipedia plot and Idris Elba's somewhat uninspired lead performance, it is hard to love Mandela. But Naomie Harris brings a certain freshness to both the character and the movie with a genuine, increasingly captivating portrayal of a complex woman.

JAVIER BARDEM AS "FATHER QUITANA" IN TO THE WONDER: Boy, does this movie go through some dry spells. But Javier Bardem--and to an extent, Olga Kurylenko--help elevate the movie to its highest degrees with a rather pensive and wistful portrayal, even if it is reduced to the margins of the main story.

So there you have it; the hard core truth. Who would you add to this list?


Jason H. said...

"I feel like Colin Farrell is often very good in a bad movie, or very good in a decent movie, but rarely gets the chance to be great in a great movie."

^This. It amazes me that Farrell still hasn't had that huge, look-at-me-and-marvel-at-my-talent role yet. He's so undervalued.

As for a great performance in a not-so-great movie, 42 was a fairly mediocre biopic, but Chadwick Boseman was just terrific as Jackie Robinson. There was so much unexplored depth to that performance.

Kevin Bechaz said...

I need to see more movies! I've only seen American Hustle in which the standout performances for me were from Christian Bale and Amy Adams.

Candice Frederick said...

Thanks for reading! Yes, Colin needs more see-me roles! I've seen 42 but I didn't love it, and I wasn't really impressed by the performances. Maybe because I didn't think the writing was very inspired.

Candice Frederick said...

I liked Christian and especially Amy in American Hustle but I thought Bradley was more consistent.

Anonymous said...

"Imma let you finish, but American Hustle is not a great movie." HAHA A+++++ here with that introduction to American Hustle, and you and I are both in agreement with this one. Bradley Cooper definitely impressed with me this one and so did Amy Adams. Great list.

Brittani Burnham said...

Great list! I actually liked Ben Foster best in Ain't Them Bodies Saints. He was so subtle, but Mara was fantastic as well.

Candice Frederick said...

i actually liked ben foster too. rooney is very hit or miss to me, so i was happy to see her in something that flexed her talent a bit more.

Daniel said...

Really great list Candice, there have been some great performances this year. Gyllenhaal really left an impression on me with his performance in Prisoners even if the film left me rather empty.

iluvcinema said...

Great list Candice. I agree with your general assessment of American Hustle. I need to do my writeup soon but I just came from the film.

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