As Actober heads furiously into its second half, we’re throwing another 50 performances your way. This time we big up the acting, but in films of a lower calibre. These are all great performances from not so great films, but the degree of worthiness might well range from terrible to pretty good actually. Making the best of a bad situation, as our very own Shannon put it. So here are the first five, feel free to have your say in the comments section.
Vincent Cassel / It’s Only the End of the World
Now, It’s Only the End of the World is not a bad film. But in the flourish of excellent in several feature films, Canadian wonder-kid, Xavier Dolan, was considered to have tripped up slightly here. The jury at Cannes loved him once again, but the critics not so much. One thing I will say, is that the change of pace, slowing things right down with an adaptation, will turn off fans, but it is still a well-executed film.
To attract this kind of cast is a remarkable feat, with the likes of Marion Cotillard, Lea Seydoux, and the best, most fierce of the bunch, Vincent Cassel. A very ground, patient take on a broken family, Cassel’s built up rage, resentment, almost turn him into a monster. Dolan shoves the camera in the actor’s face, you see every ounce of anger and cutting wit in Cassel’s eyes. Cassel is generally brilliant, though, whatever he turns his hand to. – – – – – Robin @Filmotomy
Jennifer Aniston / Cake
When you think of Jennifer Aniston’s film career, you probably think “rom-com star.” You definitely don’t think “Academy Award nominee” (because, well, that wouldn’t be true), yet she nearly was. Her turn in Cake, as someone struggling with chronic pain looking into the death of one of her support group members, had critics and moviegoers alike talking about her as a serious contender. Aniston delivers an acerbic performance, without a hint of showiness, that keeps the lackluster story afloat through every aimless beat.
Uninspired direction, and a fair amount of hackneyed plot devices, don’t do much to elevate Aniston, but she has no problem getting the job done without any help. Although she didn’t end up receiving Oscar recognition, Aniston was up for a Golden Globe and a SAG Award that year. Probably because the Hollywood Foreign Press and the Screen Actors Guild were looking at the actor, not the mediocre film, when nominating the performance. – – – – – Brandon @BrandonStanwyck
Julianne Moore / Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Last year we were treated to the second instalment in Matthew Vaughn’s spy franchise, Kingsman: The Golden Circle. With “treated” being used fairly liberally there, as whilst this particular writer may enjoy its vibrancy, it is undoubtedly a messy piece of Hollywood filmmaking. Stars thrown in, then thrown away, a paint-by-numbers plot, set pieces prioritised before character development, etc. There are many problems to be found in this action extravaganza, but that doesn’t stop some wonderful silver-linings popping up now and again – one of which being Julianne Moore’s antagonist Poppy Adams.
This psychotic drug kingpin with a flair for 1950s American culture is a flimsy creation, a good concept holding millions of rough edges, and yet with her years of experience Moore manages to bring a twisted vivacious aura to the character. Not only does her talent add a layer of terrifying mania to this personification of ‘style over substance’, but she also elevates Poppy into being a genuine threat, that only a few actors alive could portray with such limited material. In a film that prides itself on homages to the early Bond films, with unaddressed sexism and an outdated use of its female characters, Moore stands out pushing her basic crazy corporate baddy through into a believably frustrated fighter against gender inequality and aggressive drug politics. – – – – – Jon @jonnbridges
Gary Oldman / Bram Stoker’s Dracula
There’s a bit of a campiness to be found in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it’s a film that feels all over the place. Francis Ford Coppola was going for big broad strokes, stylistic imagery, and an operatic vision. He somewhat succeeded, but the film is hampered by a frenzied pace that doesn’t slow down, as well as a cast who for the most part feels adrift among Coppola’s wild vision. The exception of this cluttered film is Gary Oldman, who plays the infamous Count Dracula in this iteration of the story. Unlike the previous versions, Dracula here is given a prologue as the film takes real life inspiration from the life of Vlad the Impaler.
We see how he renounces God once his true love is taken from him, and embraces evil incarnate in order to live forever and find her. It’s truly the most romantic Dracula we’ve ever seen, and Oldman isn’t afraid play up the tragedy and melancholy of the character, as well as leaning into the imposing stature of such an iconic character. Oldman (along with Anthony Hopkins who is clearly having a ball as Van Helsing) seems to understand the fully expressive nature of Coppola’s vision, not being afraid to connect with big emotion and soulful feelings, something this film needed more of. Overall “Dracula” works in bits and pieces, but would’ve been better if everyone took Oldman’s lead and embraced their inner monster. – – – – – Jeremy @jeremytwocities
Margot Robbie / Suicide Squad
I am a huge Margot Robbie fan, I adored her performance in The Wolf of Wall Street (personally, she’s the best thing in that movie), and she should have won the Oscar for her performance in I, Tonya. When I first saw the stills from Suicide Squad, I was hopeful that it was going to be a decent film. Robbie certainly looked the part of Harley Quinn, sexy, slightly crazy and kick-ass. The film was a bloated mess, and the writing was so poor that it was painful to watch. The plot went nowhere, and the majority of the characters were forgettable.
Somehow, Robbie managed to bring life to the film, and her scenes are the most enjoyable even when they are slightly borderline perverse and humiliating. There’s something about Robbie’s performance that makes it memorable, perhaps it’s the fact that she’s the only actor that is actually having fun and is doing her best to deliver a decent performance, whereas Jared Leto is too busy mailing rats to his co-workers, and Will Smith is too busy day dreaming about his big fat pay check at the end of the shoot. Robbie is full of life in this film which was dead on arrival. Regardless, of whether you’re a huge DC fan or not, you can’t help but admire just how dedicated Robbie was in bringing such an iconic character to the big screen. – – – – – Bianca @thefilmbee