Some truly huge presences here for part three. And even some of the great filmmakers showing us that even they are human and can make something that is, perhaps, not brilliant. A matter of opinion, right? Well, here are five such viewpoints of performances that were just too damn good for the films they were in.
Gina Gershon / Show Girls
Show Girls is perhaps one of the least erotic films that has ever been made. It’s so absurd and ludicrous, that it feels almost like a parody. Paul Verhoeven’s 1995 film centers around Elizabeth Berkley’s drifter, Nomi Malone, who ventures to Las Vegas and climbs the seedy hierarchy from stripper to showgirl. Nomi’s rival quickly becomes Gershon’s Cristal Connors (yes, these are the actual names of the characters in this film), the star of the topless dance revue. Gershon does her best to play her character, without trying too hard to be serious.
It seems that she is the only one in the cast that actually read the script, and realised just how awful it truly was. She knows that her character is trashy and comical, therefore she relishes in that fact, and plays up. Her performance is by far the strongest in the film, but despite this, she won a razzie for the worst supporting actress of that year. Although, certainly not a film that I would ever like to revisit, I still admit that Gershon’s performance made the viewing experience just that slightly more bearable. – – – – – Bianca @thefilmbee
Leonardo DiCaprio / J. Edgar
Clint Eastwood’s biopic of J. Edgar Hoover, is a messy and unfocused film which, considering the source material, and the talent involved, should have been a knockout. As J. Edgar, Leonardo DiCaprio gives one of the most underrated performances of his career. The brilliance of his performance is his clear distinction between both Hoover’s public image and his private image.
Publicly, he plays Hoover as stoic, and a bit of a perfectionist, to the point that he becomes slightly arrogant. As the private Hoover, DiCaprio portrays him as a repressed individual, who finds it difficult to express emotion to others. This is most noticeable in the scenes he shares with Clyde Tolson (Played by Armie Hammer), Hoover’s right-hand man, and alleged lover. As their friendship grows, so does Hoover’s repression – and DiCaprio plays it like there is an invisible barrier between them. – – – – – JD Grant @EIPJD
Jennifer Lawrence / American Hustle
I’m not entirely sure what many of the film critics of 2013 were smoking, having David O Russell’s American Hustle in their end of year top 10 lists. The crest of a popularity wave, that the film’s success gained through awards season, was frowned upon by myself, and many others. It had the audacity to compete in a three-horse race with 12 Years a Slave and Gravity. O Russell, having already proven his filmmaking talent, rolls every dice with this picture, which although is not a bad film, just seems to float along and get lost somewhat in the wind.
Nominated for a whopping 10 Academy Awards, American Hustle deserved all zero wins. Except perhaps, Jennifer Lawrence, as the haphazard, unpredictable wife of con-man Irving. The electrifying performance was the best thing about the film. Lawrence was, according to some, playing against type, and too young for the part of Rosalyn. Such nonsense. A huge part of the acting art is about transformation, transcending perception. And Lawrence lights up the screen here, brimming with unstoppable, unstable energy. – – – – – Robin @Filmotomy
Michelle Williams / My Week with Marilyn
My Week With Marilyn is pretty wholesome for a film about a horny young man. Telling the story of production assistant Colin Clark, who struck up a friendship with Marilyn Monroe, on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl, it’s more besotted with the supposedly true story, than it is with its subject. What it does have, however, is Michelle Williams, who delivers a performance not of impersonation, but of feeling. Expressing every facet of that complicated woman, who had the world’s attention, but never felt more alone.
Elegant, yet sexually alluring, the behind closed doors aesthetic of the screenplay’s narrative, allows Williams to explore, if not what made her tick, then certainly what made her anguish. In one remarkable moment, finding herself besieged by paparazzi, she whispers to the naïve Colin “Shall I be her?”, before switching persona, from the introverted Norma Jean, to the extroverted bombshell. If only the rest of the film had the guts to play with the concept as much as Williams was willing to. – – – – – Chris @thechriswatt
Robert De Niro / Cape Fear
Cape Fear is by far one of Martin Scorsese’s most lacklustre films. In fact, it seems like Scorsese was on autopilot mode when he directed it. However, De Niro is at his most menacing and disturbing here, delivering an excellent performance as murderer and sexual offender, Max Cady. Covered in tattoos, and built like a powerhouse, De Niro’s Cady is Travis Bickle on steroids. In order to prepare, De Niro and his longtime trainer began hitting the gym six days a week, for two to three hours per day.
Once filming started, he worked out for five hours a night. De Niro suggested that Scorsese hold off on shooting any scenes that showed off the actor’s muscles until the very end of production. De Niro also reportedly paid a dentist $5000 to grind down his teeth, then another $20,000 after filming wrapped to have them fixed. Even for a mediocre film like Cape Fear, De Niro still taps into the Method to get well and truly into the character he is playing. – – – – – Bianca @thefilmbee