Cinema 2017 Half-Time Report: Performances 2/2

Acing. Star quality. Going above and beyond. Breaking through. Genuinely surprising us. However you want to spin it, there have been some illustrious screen presences over the last 6 months from various men and women. Here are the rest of just a handful of those that stayed in our thoughts: 

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Emma Booth in Hounds of Love

Suburban dreams with the man you love simply can’t be fulfilled with a clear conscious and wits about you when you team up to kidnap girls and deflect the relationship you might have with your own absent spawns. While John White (Stephen Curry) is a vicious, haphazard nutter, his wife Evelyn (Emma Booth) has a deep-seeded longing to escape the shackles of a life caving in. But it is not easy, swaying back and forth between the psychotic lifestyle and the pure need to be happy, Booth is nothing short of brilliant in every frame. Edgy emotions, layers of thoughts plastered across her face, actions of a desperate woman. Her actions are unforgivable, but you’re not human if you don’t sympathize with her before the end. —– Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

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Gal Gadot in Wonder Woman

After glimpsing a taste of her in “Batman v Superman”, fans get to see the legend (finally) get her close-up after 75 years of waiting, and it was well worth it. Gadot doesn’t just look like Diana of Themyscira, she really understands who this character is: whereas Batman is a man who lives within the shadows, Wonder Woman is defined by her compassion, as well as being a demigod who can absorb energy through her cuffs. When we see her trying to convince Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) that Ares is behind World War I, or fawning over a baby in dreary London, you buy her sincerity, her naivety because we believe her; a feat that’s very difficult to pull off, but she does it almost effortlessly. Like with Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man, or Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, Gadot was born to play this role and she is Wonder Woman. —– Jonathan Holmes @MisterBrown_23

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Breeda Wool in Erasing Eden

Beth Dewey’s indie drama Erasing Eden attempts to throw a bride-to-be onto the intoxicating tracks of a journey to something resembling self-discovering or finding her moral strength. Breeda Wool as Eden is something of a surprise here, and I say that given the peanuts budget (to which Dewey achieves some dazzling images), the actress appears to leap out of her depth, delivering a truly endearing, engaging performance. Even more impressive given that following what would seem to be a beating, Eden can hardly speak let alone find her way home. —– Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

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Catherine Keener in Get Out

To think that the woman from the 40-Year-Old Virgin attempting to make Steve Carrell sell his action figures would turn in a performance in Jordan Peele’s Get Out that would be my nightmare fuel for the past few months is not lost on me. In fact, I welcome these role reversals from actors who seem to be type casted, it’s refreshing. Catherine Keener plays at first what seems to be a fun loving and approachable mother turns quickly into a cold and bone numbing hypno-therapist with a far more insidious agenda. Lead actor like Daniel Kaluuya is effective directly because of the powerful character take from Keener and both work well of each other. Keener evokes much like the rest of the cast a sense of unease and tension that explodes in the climax. I hope to see much more of this strong supporting role from Keener as she is perfect in Get out. —– Mike Austin @MuzakWeeWoo

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Adrian Titieni in Bacalaureat (Graduation)

We are in familiar territory here, or should I say familial, with Graduation, the latest gritty, social drama from Romanian maestro Cristian Mungiu. Wanting the very best for his daughter in tough economic times, the father (Adrian Titieni) begins a journey with ethics and good intentions, but as we discover his own infidelity, and eventually losing his morals as he becomes more and more desperate, he finds his path is now bumpier than ever. Titieni is in pretty much every scene (not unlike the Dardenne’s Rosetta perhaps), brandishing both a determined energy, and something of a stubborn vitality – bleak, of course, but compelling to watch. —– Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

Cast Ensemble in It’s Only the End of the World

Xavier Dolan’s latest shines the spotlight on Gaspard Ulliel, Nathalie Baye, Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard, and Lea Seydoux; Pierre, mother, brother, sister-in-law, and sister, respectively. After countless years, successful playwright Pierre’s homecoming throws this insignificant small-town family into a tailspin. Cotillard quails and mediates; Cassel explodes from frictive insecurities; Seydoux reaches out to the brother who was never around, and Pierre’s mother cautiously adores her returned son. Igniting flames of emotions, the cast holds their audience captive to blistering explosions and crippling intimacy. The film itself has its demons in pacing and blunt metaphors (like, really really obtuse), but its ensemble is a human-made wonder. —– Ian Nichols @iantilnic

Florence Pugh in Lady Macbeth

Florence Pugh’s dominant performance in Lady Macbeth (this is more Emily Brontë than William Shakespeare by the way) is reminiscent in tone and delivery to the cold, front-line kind of role we use to see the likes of Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck et al chew up in their day. It’s a compliment, sure, but the subtlety and under-lying repression and suffering that Pugh’s character has to endure requires a certain poise and grace – necessities which the young actress seems to carry under her wing so seamlessly, it’s an impressive display even at her most wicked and vengeful. —– Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

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Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 2

Just because an action movie character is a man of few words and lets his fits do the talking, doesn’t mean the performance isn’t considered fine or even great (see: Matt Damon as Jason Bourne). In the tradition of Clint Eastwood’s Will Munny or even this year’s Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, John Wick has an ugly history associated with his profession that he is trying to escape. When he buries his guns, his suits, his currency underneath cement in his home, he’s trying to bury his demons, his past life; only to have to dig up his old ways and return to the life of an assassin at the behest of Italian crime boss Santino D’Antonio who has him under a “marker” or a blood oath. It’s the kind of role that relies on how a character reacts to each situation he or she is faced with, rather than speaking about it, and Reeves has never been better as ex-hitman who wants peace, but knows that he’ll have to spill more blood to do so. —– Jonathan Holmes @MisterBrown_23

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Riley Keough in Lovesong

The last time I saw Riley Keogh in action was Andrea Arnold’s American Honey last year (and she was a scene-stealer I might add), proving once again this young actress has an effortless range in her arsenal. Miles away from that magnetic turn, with the natural acting muscles alone, Keogh shows a character in Lovesong that carries the weight of a swelling heart on her sleeve, all the while struggling with an absentee husband and coping with motherhood. Pining for a long-time girl buddy (Jena Malone in another memorable supporting role), Keogh is now verified leading lady material, strolling her way closer to the front of the queue of that generation of actress domination. —– Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

So that’s the performances wrapped up for another half-year. Go on, then, what did we miss?

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