Thursday, March 12, 2009

Addicts 2008: Actor in a Supporting Role

Actor in a Supporting Role

Jaymie Dornan
Turn the River

One of the main things I like about Turn the River is that it isn't afraid to leave you in the dark. The parents of Jaymie Dornan's Gulley are estranged, and we aren't privvy to many of the details of their less-than-amicable separation, but it hardly matters as the trio ably craft a convincing dynamic and sufficient backstory on their own. Dornan seems affected, a shadow of a former self, and employs Gulley's intelligence in a passive, absorbing way, that you sense has emerged from suppression and anxiety. The product of this anxiety is often deception, and there's a hint of guilt and contempt to Gulley that he can so easily think up lies and get away with them despite being self-conscious and without confidence. Dornan becomes the film's crucial point of identification, and our main source of reason amidst a collection of very confused and erratic characters.

Robert Downey Jnr.
Tropic Thunder

Certainly one of the strangest performances I've ever witnessed, Robert Downey Jnr. navigates the idea-heavy, lazily executed Tropic Thunder as if it were a production of Hamlet. He effectively method-acts the part of an Australian method actor, method-acting a black soldier. Consequently, it's very difficult to assess how good he really is, and I'm not even sure it's capable to contemplate and process the actions of the saturated personality that is Kirk Lazarus. Downey is definitely aided by the wild abandon of the film, but his refusal to ever be fickle with the material is probably his greatest success, and his personae will likely outlast anything else on display.

Bill Irwin
Rachel Getting Married

It's bad enough having two daughters, never mind two fundamentally different ones, and women that really have a lot of bees in their bonnets. Bill Irwin's patriarchal quest for peace in Rachel Getting Married is indicative of a home-maker, and it's his unconditional tact that represents the film's closest outlet of assurance and comfort in what is an often deliberately tense and confrontational affair. He's a vital component of an incredibly successful ensemble, making concessions and remonstrating with what he believes is the balance to achieve a healthy resolution, and believably tripped up by his eldest daughter's growing lack of tolerance. His performance is a sometimes painfully honest one, and his character is perhaps the most genuine and least questionable offering of the year.

Franck Keita
The Class

Petulance comes at a price for Franck Keita's fiery Souleyman, the biggest opposition to peace in Laurent Cantet's classroom drama. It's easy to see Souleyman as facilitator of his own downfall, and Keita is often insolent and unsympathetic, but he has all the bravado of that kid at the back of the class that's willing to push, challenge and unrelent (you had one in your school, right?), reluctant to accept either praise or criticism, dismissive of need. Keita always hints at Souleyman's capability of going too far, and brilliantly demonstrates it in a scene full of heated aggression, but even still possesses a knowledge of his environment and the spirit with which the class engage in discussion, suggesting that his rage be less of a flippant outburst than an extension of his own character, contribution, defence.

Jack O'Connell
Eden Lake

O'Connell's role, as Eden Lake's Brett, is more of a modern-day representation of villainry, allbeit a rather standard one as a troublesome knife-wielding teenager. His casual approach towards violence is designed to both shock and provoke, and there's something about O'Connell that appears conscious of the need to be this serial image of society-gone-wrong. As it happens, his attempts at barking orders translate as 101 the likes of Alan Rickman in Die Hard and John Lithgow in Cliffhanger, but it's this desire to be in control, professional, important, that gives Brett a menacing edge. There's branded culture and emotional neglect present in his demeanor, his walk, his tone of voice, turn of phrase. An unflinching expression in the film's final shot says it all: chaos rules.

Jaymie Dornan - Turn the River
Runner Up: Bill Irwin - Rachel Getting Married

Sad to Exclude

Eddie Marsan's and Brad Pitt's comic timing are both ace; Marsan in admonishing a carefree Sally Hawkins' in Happy-Go-Lucky, and Pitt with his noir-wannabe extortionist tendencies in Burn After Reading. Jeffrey Donovan's adamant police detective was more than a match for Angelina Jolie's frantic mother in Changeling, and in Milk Josh Brolin gave his conservative character more than was down on paper.

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