' ' Cinema Romantico: 10 Performances from 2017 that I Loved Most

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

10 Performances from 2017 that I Loved Most

Each and every year at the movies is stacked with great performances and 2017 was no exception. Young, old, male, female, great movie, good movie, so-so movie, even a god-awful movie(!), they came from everywhere. These are the ten (or, thereabouts) performances from the year in movies that I most dearly loved. They are not numerically ranked but are still, more or less, set in descending order of my love.

Cynthia Nixon, A Quiet Passion. It’s not just Cynthia Nixon’s eyes, round and searching, that are so expressive but her entire face, from the meticulous manner in which her mouth moves as she speaks to the way her smile so formidably grows and recedes, all of which coalesces into a performance truly embodying someone - that is, Emily Dickinson - who takes in so much of life that at a certain point life simply becomes too much to take.

Sienna Miller, Lost City of Z. Miller turns The Supportive Spouse archetype on its head by simultaneously effusing sorrow and understanding of why her spouse has to be away for such considerable stretches, transforming herself into something like his co-captain from the homefront. And she perfectly harmonizes with the mood of 2017’s most gut-punching denouement, ending the movie lost...but also found.

Holly Hunter, The Big Sick. If her character’s arc is predictable - she doesn’t like her daughter’s ex-boyfriend, then she does - Hunter makes that journey to transformation authentic and earned, not pat, all while embodying, without becoming overbearing, all the anger, confusion and pain in the world that no doubt goes hand in hand with the most important loved one in your life laying motionless in a hospital bed.

Saoirse Ronan & Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird. Though both Ronan and Metcalf are individually fantastic, their daughter/mother relationship is the film’s most crucial, and together they nail every last one of the innumerable, emotionally intricate hairpin turns of their family tie.

Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out. Much like Emily Blunt’s eyes were the driving force of “Sicario”, so too are Daniel Kaluuya’s in “Get Out,” where he has his character meet the film’s escalating unease and then eventual madness with a seemingly infinite supply of side-eyes, double takes and skeptical stares suggesting someone who knows what’s coming but doesn’t quite want to let himself believe it.

Meryl Streep, The Post. Streep’s performative extemporaneousness negates any charges of this film’s timeliness.

Jamie Foxx, Baby Driver / Michelle Pfeiffer, mother!. “Baby Driver” might have been heightened for effect, but it was also mining for real emotion that it could not square with that preset tone, all except Foxx who managed to authenticate his loose cannon so much that when push came to shove you really were convinced he might do anything even if you knew the script would never let him. Pfieffer, meanwhile, in playing something like the Biblical Eve something like a quarrelsome Joan Crawford was the lone actor in “mother!” not merely existing as Darren Aronofsky’s marionette.

Jennifer Jason Leigh / Barkhad Abdi, Good Time. If it’s unfair to leave off Robert Pattinson’s performance, which is the soulless soul of this grueling film, well, others can sing his praises. Because while I had originally pegged Leigh and Abdi as glaringly obvious Ruffalo winners, their turns, I decided, were simply too striking to leave off my actual Best Performances list. Because in minimal screen time Leigh delicately cultivates hard-to-watch empathy for a woman-child readymade for manipulation while Abdi hardly says a word and yet still crafts the convincing aura of a night security guard who is not so much angry as absolutely goddam exasperated at having to deal with an idiot white guy’s shit.


Alex Withrow said...

Nice picks here. So happy you included Barkhad Abdi. One of the most jaw dropping scenes of the year for me was when that guy poured the bottle of acid in Abdi's mouth. What a trip.

Nick Prigge said...

I can't tell you how much I appreciated that Abdi really seemed to THINK about what he was playing no matter how little screen time he got. Respect.