' Cinema Romantico: 5 Times Amy Ryan Tore the Roof Off the Sucker

Thursday, October 22, 2015

5 Times Amy Ryan Tore the Roof Off the Sucker

Amy Ryan. To certain cinephiles that name is certifiably cherished, indicative of an actress capable of anything, a straight-up original, the thespian of whom Keats once wrote "She is always new." She was born Amy Beth Dziewiontkowski, and while she changed that last name for obvious reasons, well, the takeaway is clear - she is a Dziewiontkowski and you're not. It's not that she's underrated because to be underrated would imply the ability of her acting is somehow undervalued. She is not undervalued; she is underused, again and again, over and over, repeatedly, foolishly, excuse-me-while-I-go-punch-walls. Look no further than the just-released "Bridge of Spies" where she plays, to quote critic Brian Tallerico, "the concerned wife in a slightly underwritten role." Slightly? SLIGHTLY??? Oh, Mr. Tallerico, you Spielbergian diplomat. Amy Ryan spends her few scenes like she's a few doors down on The Donna Reed Show. (Though, in fairness to her, she nails that Drop-Your-Jaw-And-Look-Astonished Reaction Shot because of course she does.)

Michael Keaton's role in "Birdman" hued oh so close to his off screen personality, true, and so did Edward Norton's, and yet Amy Ryan's likeness to her own real life plight went more or less unmentioned by think piece miners. As an actress, she is underused, so often made to wait in the wings, yet effusing rays of light whenever the fates allow her to appear. In "Birdman", she is underused, made to wait in the wings, yet effusing rays of light whenever the fates allow her to appear. So let's shine a spotlight on five of her rays of light in particular, what do ya say?

Note: While she's stone cold superb as effervescent dork Holly Flax ("wicka wicka wicka what?") and while she is straight-up brilliantly un-assuming on the second season of "The Wire", this list will pertain directly to her performances at the film de cinema.


5 Times Amy Ryan Tore the Roof Off the Sucker

Jack Goes Boating. "I’m not ready yet for penis penetration." That's an indelicate line, yes, and I apologize for proffering it here, but Ms. Ryan's line reading is so righteously delicate. She makes it resound with historical context you can't see, a backstory we are not privy to, an uncomfortable humor that's funny but really isn't because it's tinged with some sort of tragedy we won't have to know in detail to believe in .

Gone Baby Gone. "I know I fucked up. I just want my daughter back," she says. "I swear to God, I won't use no drugs no more. I won't even go out. I'll be fucking straight. Cross my heart." Thing is, Ryan says this in that way where you know that in the moment she's absolutely telling the truth but that once the moment ends...

Win Win. Here, Ryan & Paul Giamatti's husband and wife take in the troubled, if sweet, teenage grandson of the old man of whom Giamatti's character has just become legal guardian. And when the grandson asks Ryan's character if he should smoke outside, she replies: "You shouldn't smoke." He admits he knows. She says: "But if you need to, yes, smoke outside." It's an incredible line reading. It's curtness fused with compassion, refusing to pass judgment even as she actively effuses concern. If parenting is about adjusting on the fly...well...that.

The Missing Person. It takes genuine skillz to hold the screen opposite Michael Shannon, and so when Shannon, a modernish update on Philip Marlowe, enters the back of a limousine, smoking where he shouldn't be and yukking it up, Amy Ryan, as his kindaish boss sitting across from him, doesn't even try. An actress who excels at being uncool plays it ultra-cool. And when Shannon says to the annoying limo driver "Please stop calling me boss because I am not Bruce Springsteen", Ryan's reaction, turned away, smiling, not laughing, curling her tongue up in her cheek, lets you know that she knows...yeah, this dude isn't Bruce Springsteen.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. The look she gives the ex-husband she pretty much cannot stand when he's done screwed up again is the stone cold quintessential "Fuck you, buddy boy" look. It makes my knees go weak.


1 comment:

Alex Withrow said...

Oh my god, that scene in BtDKYD is everything. That look, man. That fuckin' look. Definitely a roof tearer offer there.