While Armie Hammer’s breakthrough with The Social Network as the Winklevoss twins is a demonstration of his acting prowess thanks to his ability to nail the whip crack dialogue of Aaron Sorkin and his ability to convincingly act opposite himself, Hollywood chose to capitalize on his breakthrough by casting him in roles that are based on his matinee looks like The Lone Ranger and Mirror Mirror. As it turns out, he may look like a leading man but it’s character work like his career-best performance in Call Me By Your Name where he really shines.
Call Me By Your Name may have rightfully been nominated in Best Actor for Timothee Chalamet but because the film is about the romance between him and Armie Hammer, it feels wrong to cite one half of the romance but not the other. Not to mention, he’s the one who gives the famous “Call me by your name and I’ll call you by mine” line. It’s hard to say why he got omitted. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t have a big Oscar moment like his co-star Michael Stuhlbarg who he may have split votes with or perhaps, voters didn’t think his performance as a pretty object of one’s affection was huge a stretch for him. Yes, it is a role that plays into his looks but there are tricky layers to his portrayal hidden beneath the surface.
The character of Oliver is a tough one to play. Due to the slight age difference between Elio and Oliver, the actor playing Oliver has to demonstrate his affections in a way that doesn’t come off as manipulative. Especially because the novel the film is based on is told from Elio’s stream of consciousness. But Hammer is able to reveal layers of sweetness and vulnerability beneath his robust physical appearance.
One scene where Hammer makes Oliver’s genuine feelings apparent is one where everyone is having dinner and Elio gets a nosebleed and leaves the kitchen table. Oliver looks distressed and goes to check up on him, rubbing his foot to make him feel better while speaking in a deep and calm tone of voice as another way to soothe him. Beforehand, both Elio and Oliver nearly consummate their feelings before Oliver expresses doubts due to his fear of them potentially crossing boundaries. But the foot-rubbing scene shows that Oliver’s infatuation with Elio isn’t just physical. With just a sly smile or even a melancholic facial expression, Hammer is able to make Oliver’s feelings feel genuine and his chemistry with Timothee Chalamet is off the charts.
It’s a magnetic and tricky performance that to me, surpasses most of the actual Supporting Actor competition. Woody Harrelson is one of the few bright spots in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and is better than co-star Sam Rockwell. Yet, it’s still a performance Harrelson can give in his sleep. Also, while Christopher Plummer is quite terrific in All The Money In The World, he’s still sort of got nominated for saving a messy project.
But in spite of Armie Hammer’s snub, the romance that he and Chalamet brought to the big screen in Call Me By Your Name is still one for the ages and one that will reappear in a future sequel. Also, if he plays his cards right and takes on more legitimate acting roles that prove he’s more than just his movie star looks, we could finally say the words Academy Award Nominee Armie Hammer in the future. Fingers crossed.