Guest Post by EMAS Community Member, Joanna Enright
2017 is coming to a rousing conclusion as far as great film performances go. The year got off to a slow start, but it is building up great momentum as the big films of the year come through in time for the end of the year holiday season. This year, the competition for awards will be fierce, especially in the Best Actor category, as we’re seeing some major (and new) stars taking on highly challenging roles and bringing them in with everything they’ve got.
I’ve singled out a few of my favorite performances from 2017 (so far) to highlight here. The actors in these roles are all, in varied ways, with different approaches and styles, working at the top of their game, with passion for what they do and calling on their highest intelligence and craftsmanship. All of this is why each of these actors can offer a lot to those who love and are inspired by the art of acting.
Dustin Hoffman, The Meyerowitz Stories
Academy Award-winner Dustin Hoffman (Tootsie, The Graduate, Midnight Cowboy) is back in top form in Noah Baumbach’s ensemble comedy about a family that comes back together after years of dysfunction to celebrate their artist father’s career retrospective. Working with a script (by Baumbach) that is both hilarious, trenchant and at times painfully heartbreaking, Hoffman offers a singular character performance as the ego-driven yet utterly emotionally unaware patriarch of the Meyerowtiz clan. The tiny details in Hoffman’s performance, as he glides through fractured interchanges with his sons, wives, and (secretly envied) artist friends are hilarious. Hoffman wonderfully captures the quiet egomania of a New York artist who keeps propping himself up in the face of his failure as an artist and a father, and yet keeps on going. This highly watchable film also features uniformly great performances by the ensemble cast, including Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler as Hoffman’s estranged sons, who are unable to stop competing for their dad’s attention, even in middle-age.
Gary Oldman, The Darkest Hour
Gary Oldman (Sid and Nancy, Immortal Beloved, The Dark Knight) delivers a towering performance as Prime Minister Winston Churchill in director Joe Wright’s The Darkest Hour. The film is the riveting story of Churchill’s leadership in the stark early years of the Second World War, as France was being overtaken by German forces and England was beginning to realize the enormity of the threat they were facing. Oldman’s character work in this film is indelible, as he captures Churchill’s persona as a brilliant yet eccentric leader who was tasked with leading the English public (and parliament) towards support for entering into war with Germany.
Oldman, wearing heavy prosthetic makeup and extra weight, comes through with incredible emotional force as Churchill, from the high moments of his great speeches to the English people, and also in the small moments when he faces his fears over England’s possible fate. This stirring performance by one of the best actors of our time is a must-see for any actor working today.
Mark Rylance, Dunkirk
Mark Rylance is one of the most arresting and skilled actors working today, and this Academy Award Winner (Best Supporting Actor-Bridge of Spies) brings an emotional center to the searing story of Dunkirk. Christopher Nolan’s rendition of this key battle during the early days of World War II (in events also covered in “The Darkest Hour”) is a fast-paced epic that offers few breaks from the unrelenting tension of the story. As the film cuts between scenes of the war’s horrors on land, sea, and in the air, Rylance brings a feeling of emotional stability to the story. As an Englishman who sails a small yacht to the village of Dunkirk to help with the rescue of British troops, Rylance, with minimal dialogue, offers an emotional gravity and sensitivity in his scenes that is brilliant and heartbreaking. This is another must-see performance in a year of great ones.
Timothee Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
Timothee Chalamet delivers a breakout performance in the sensitive and ultimately heartbreaking love story, Call Me By Your Name. As the teenage Eliot, a student and musician in 1981 Italy, Chalamet captures the painful longing of first love, as he and the graduate student living with his family (Armie Hammer) fall into a forbidden love affair they know must ultimately come to an end. Hammer and Chalet are gorgeous together, and their tasteful love scenes together are beautifully rendered.
There’s no doubt this year will be remembered for a host of great films marked by amazing writing and cinematography, but more than anything, it’s the performances by some of the best actors working today in these films that will leave a lasting impression on me.
– Joanna Enright