And finally, we close the curtain on our series on those acting performances in films that didn’t live up to them. Nothing artificial about these five greats, some artistic, emotional, courageous, motherly, beautiful. We finish with a flourish, then, and head off into a new month, where no doubt we’ll talk film some more.
Hong Chau / Downsizing
If you remember Superman II, the great hero loses his powers and we see him as a mere mortal. The same thing happened to Alexander Payne in 2017. A writer-director at the top of his game for years and years now, one of very few who can blend drama with comedy in such a life-life way. With Downsizing, the comedy and drama are quickly muddled, and there is, among other problems, no return in sight. Downsizing drifts off into a dark social climate that just does not engage.
When Matt Damon is abandoned last minute by his wife Kristen Wiig right before the shrinking process of the premise, the film also kind of belittles itself. Only Hong Chau, in a devastatingly great performance, keeps you watching to the film’s seemingly dice-roll ending. As a Vietnamese political activist, forced into the downsizing procedure, Chau revives the movie’s pulse, and within the messy narrative, only she is worth the journey. Her “going to Norway” monologue is magnificent, creeps up on you with an enormous injection of emotion. – – – – – Robin @Filmotomy
Timothee Chalamet / Beautiful Boy
I know that Timothee Chalamet and Steve Carell are almost universally beloved, I know that addiction dramas are timely and important and apparently huge this year, but Beautiful Boy is a uniquely disappointing cinematic experience. It’s frustrating for the things that it isn’t able to accomplish. In trying to merge two separate memoirs into one cohesive story, it ends up with both sides of the narrative, the perspective of the father and the perspective of the son, somehow feeling slight and underdeveloped.
That said, Timothee Chalamet is incredibly compelling to watch. He is (as the title suggests) beautiful and tragic throughout the entire film, and we genuinely feel for him as he can’t seem to find a way out of his addiction. It’s rare to find an actor with such a strong screen presence who is also capable of allowing himself to be so vulnerable, especially one who’s all of 22 years old. His work in the film elevates it into territory that the narrative hasn’t quite earned, and keeps the Chalamet hype train going, preserving hope that his next project will be more in line with his talent. – – – – – Audrey @audonamission
Timothy Spall / Mr. Turner
Mr. Turner may be something of an acquired taste, an enduring tale of a tormented artist, awash with a truly bleak social landscape. This is Mike Leigh, so what did you expect? I, for one, don’t rank this high among the filmmaker’s back catalog. That’s not so much a negative, given the quality and quantity of Leigh’s work.
But with some rather inspiring technical nominations with AMPAS, it still left a few scratching their heads with the absence of more prominent mentions – specifically Best Actor winner at Cannes, Timothy Spall. A Mike Leigh regular, Spall was remarkably strong in the central role. He devours every scene he walks in and out of, but also those scenes with little action or dialogue. An impacting presence, but also brings to the performance some real gritty emotion, pain, and passion. – – – – – Robin @Filmotomy
Kristen Scott Thomas / Only God Forgives
We are used to seeing Kristin Scott Thomas in films such as The English Patient and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, however she is almost unrecognizable in Only God Forgives as Crystal, a foul mouthed American matriarch to a drug empire with long blond hair and nails for days. In all honesty, her scene-stealing performance is the best thing about the film, and she delivers her lines of dialogue with such spite and menace that she strikes fear into the hearts of the viewer.
Perhaps her most memorable line is the following: “How many c*cks can you entertain in that cute little c*m dumpster of yours?” which is how she greets her son’s new girlfriend, Scott Thomas’ manages to deliver this awful line without making it appear comedic, but deeply disturbing and unsettling. The film is a neon nightmare, and Crystal is the queen of this twisted world. Scott Thomas even went as far to have Botox (”I had the whole thing completely frozen. I went to the dermatologist and said, ‘I want you to give me an American forehead.’ It was so weird not being able to raise my eyebrows.”) to prepare for this role. And her hard work pays off, as she is the only saving grace in perhaps one of the most unpleasant film I have ever had the misfortune to watch. – – – – – Bianca @thefilmbee
Anya Taylor-Joy / Morgan
Still on the crest of her promising breakthrough wave, Anya Taylor-Joy was quickly proving to have a remarkable acting range. With an absorbing turn in The Witch, and then in tense thriller Split, the young actress is popping up everywhere it seems. With Morgan, a kind of science fiction drama, the first feature film from Luke Scott, Taylor-Joy plays the title character – an artificial being of sorts with genetic-engineering DNA. The fact the film is no Ex Machina, and does not quite ignite enough fascination on the subject, the actress thrives throughout.
She is in good company too, with Kate Mara, Paul Giamatti, Michelle Yeoh, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Toby Jones, Rose Leslie. Yet it is Taylor-Joy that steals the show, her immersion into the enigmatic character is intoxicating. The actress has a unique look, a youthful face, but one of a piercing nature that sucks up the environment. Clearly capable of demonstrating a convincing innocence, and also a menacing response. Morgan’s novelty and ability to make her own decisions as well as show genuine emotions, is portrayed with an edgy, poignant tone by Taylor-Joy. – – – – – Robin @Filmotomy
Please reflect back on the entire series here: