Sunday, April 8, 2012

Underrated Leading Performances of 2011


Last weekend, I looked at the ten most underrated supporting performances from 2011. I couldn't really just give you that list and run away laughing, now could I? It is time to look at the leading performances that didn't get an adequate amount of attention. Here's my ten picks, ranked...

10. Rachel Weisz in The Whistleblower


It pretty much sounds like an Oscar success story: an ever dependable actress playing the lead in a true story of a woman working against all odds. Alas, The Whistleblower wasn't received that well and hardly anyone saw it. Maybe the film is a little too dependent on Rachel Weisz being dependable, but she gives a wonderful lead performance that the film itself can never live up to. Her performance/character can be summed up by one line that she utters in the film: "I don't want a scandal, I just want to do my job." And what a brilliant job she does.

9. Chris Evans in Puncture


Haven't seen Puncture? Don't worry your pretty little head, there's nothing special about it. The film is extremely formulaic, but when it is not trying to be like every legal drama you've ever seen before, there is a great story of a flawed hero and an equally great performance by the person playing him. Just think, this is the opposite to Chris Evans' defining hero, the invincible Captain America: he plays a young lawyer who is also a drug addict, given the task of going against a major health supply company. Evans is wonderful in the role, showing us a side to him that few of us knew he had. Hopefully he has another slightly bigger opportunity to show off that side in the future.

8. Brendan Gleeson in The Guard


Yes, he got a Golden Globe nomination for this performance. But the movie was generally quite overlooked, which didn't win Gleeson many favours. I've always had a soft spot for Gleeson, especially as most of my 'notes' taken during the class showing of Braveheart involved his name. Anyway, he is easily The Guard's best asset, playing one of the most unorthodox characters I've seen in quite some time. I'd actually like to see a whole set of movies based on his character - that would be far more exciting than any of the other R-rated comedies Hollywood serves up.

7. Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre


I could also give Michael Fassbender a spot in this list for his performance in the latest re-telling of Jane Eyre, because both he and Mia are perfect in their roles. Mia is the most impressive, though, playing the mousy and troubled heroine from Charlotte Bronte's ever popular gothic novel. She also got mentioned in Meryl Streep's Golden Globe speech (whether she pronounced her last name right is beyond me) - but there wasn't a lot of recognition beyond that. However, her performance here should have served as an audition for the Carrie remake. How Chloe Moretz got the role is beyond me.

6. Ewan McGregor in Beginners


Yes, Christopher Plummer was amazing in Beginners. But I feel like I'm forever reminding everyone that there were amazing performances across the board. One I particularly loved was the lead performance from the severely underrated Ewan McGregor. Whenever the day comes that Ewan gets all of the credit that he deserves, I will do something extremely radical. But for now, I'll just keep harping on about how great he is in Beginners, showing the many feelings of love on his face in every single scene. His performance can't really be summed up in words - just watch it, and you'll see why it is so great.

5. Liana Liberato in Trust


Trust is a fairly underrated film, which deserves more attention particularly because of young Liana Liberato's brave performance as a girl tormented by an online sexual predator. She's a mere two days older than me, and I feel like she had years more maturity and experience than what other girls my age have. Her role is a tricky one, which demands a little more than a teenage girl would probably be comfortable with, but she pulls it off extremely well. Minus the awful Trespass, I look forward to seeing what this girl does in the future.

4. Michael Shannon in Take Shelter


I know that every man and his dog in the blogging world was getting behind Michael Shannon's performance. But no-one else seemed to. He should have been nominated for an Oscar. And that's all I have to say about that.

3. Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia


She may have won the Best Actress prize at Cannes (which came as a surprise to most people), but not a lot happened after that. Which is a shame, because her performance is definitely one of the best of 2011. As Justine, she manages to ruin her whole wedding, her relationships with everyone, then fall into an extreme state of depression, which helps her deal with the apocalypse. She goes through so much (which is what you'd expect from a Lars von Trier heroine...or anti-heroine), and does it with such a fluidity that you wouldn't believe that this was the same Kirsten Dunst who was the biggest child star of the 90s.

2. Tom Hardy in Warrior


Tom Hardy is someone who I have found great in anything that I've seen him in, and he is about to have his star explode with The Dark Knight Rises. However, his performance in Warrior, possibly the most surprising film of 2011, is one of my favourites. The film could be called clich├ęd (mind you, the more I think about it, the less I am inclined to think that way), but the characters definitely aren't. Hardy's character is probably the strongest advocate for that. He is kind of horrible, but he has his heart in the right place. He doesn't really care about a lot, apart from how haunted he is by his past. Hardy's presence is an angry, intimidating one, but still I managed to reach out to his fractured soul. It is a wonderful performance - one that I'm sure Hardy will top with his take on Bane.

1. Saoirse Ronan in Hanna


I wasn't the biggest fan of Hanna. But there were two things that stood out for me: the awesome score by The Chemical Brothers and Saoirse Ronan's amazing performance as the titular character. Ronan is an actress who consistently impresses me, especially because she's so young and yet, she has tried her hand at so many different characters with great results. Her performance as Hanna is by far her best, though, as she transforms herself into a ruthless young assassin who doesn't know that much about the real world. Let's be honest: you wouldn't stuff around with her, but you also really want to help her. Just give Saoirse an Oscar already.

What do you think of these performances? Any favourite underrated lead performances of your own?

18 comments:

  1. Brilliant list. Oh Saoirse Ronan, why are you in The Host?! I love her to bits.
    I am going to do something very radical when Ewan McGregor gets acknowledged for his acting too.
    I would add Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris to this list. To be the most perfect Woody surrogate to date and still make the role your own is no mean feat.

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    1. Owen only just missed out. I'm not too well versed on Allen, so I'm sure I'll appreciate his work a bit more when I see more of Allen!

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  2. Micheal Shannon definitely deserved more recognition for his performance in Take Shelter. Jessica Chastain as well. They did both win quite a few best actor/ress awards though.

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    1. They did, but nothing too major. I thought Shannon would have had more bite come awards season.

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  3. Much to like here, especially Ronan on top. I do like Liberato's performance a lot but didn't really care for Trust. It has some of the same downfalls as Hard Candy without being as good as Hard Candy.

    I'd also throw out Berenice Bejo for The Artist, Andy Serkis for Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Mark Ivanir for The Human Resources Manager.

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    1. I like how you compared Trust to Hard Candy. Hard Candy was really good, but Trust was lacking something.

      Berenice got an Oscar nom, though! Mind you, her performance didn't gain a lot of traction, it seemed like it was all Dujardin (still haven't seen the film, though). And Andy Serkis was GREAT!

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    2. Hehe, well, I'd say Berenice was underrated by being put as a supporting actress rather than the lead I think she was.

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  4. To be honest the only ones I agree with is Weisz, Shannon and Wasikowska. I couldn't even finish "The Guard" the movie was so odd and horribly unfunny, so I don't know what becomes later on but from what I've seen Gleeson's work was just standard goofy funny cop. Hardy I loathe in everything, so I wasn't a fan of his work in Warrior. Dunst was very good in Melancholia, but comparing to other leading ladies this year, she really didn't stand much chance, especially consdiering how two of the best ones (Theron, Swinton) wasn't even award with Oscar nod themselves.

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    1. I haven't seen Young Adult or We Need to Talk About Kevin yet, sorry!

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  5. I think part of the reason Kirsten was ignored so much during awards season is because of Von Triers hitler comment.

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    1. That sucks. I had hoped that everyone would be over that!

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  6. Saorsie Ronan in Hanna, Rachel Weisz in The Whistleblower, and Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre were a few of my favorite performances of 2011. Underrated performances I would add are: Michael Parks in Red State, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in both Hesher and 50/50, Phillip Lazar in Of Gods And Men, Evan Glodell in Bellflower, Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids, Charlize Theron in Young Adult, Alan Rickman in Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2, Patton Oswalt in Young Adult, John Hawkes in Martha Marcy May Marlene, Angelica Huston in 50/50, and Robin Wright in The Conspirator.

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    1. I knew I forgot someone! I had it in my head that Joseph Gordon-Levitt would top this list for Hesher, but then I forgot when it came time to write the post. I'm so stupid!

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  7. Great list Stevee. But I must disagree with Tom Hardy in The Fighter. He was by far the weakest of the three principal actors. I honestly thought he was playing a mentally disabled character or something by the way he was mumbling. (Disclaimer: I usually like Tom Hardy!)

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  8. Nice to see Kristen Dunst, Mia Wasikowska and Michael Shannon- they trully deserve more credit for their amazing performances. I do kinda agree with Castor, I thought both Nick Nolte and Joel Edgerton did a much better job in Warrior. I really should see Whistleblower and The Guard soon

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    1. Nick Nolte did a better job than Hardy, but Edgerton was just kinda 'eh' for me.

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  9. Haha, I think Meryl Streep realized that she mis-pronounced Mia's last name, and she added the movie title right away.

    As for Ewan McGregor, I agree with you; he's one of the most underrated people in the industry! They finally need to acknowledge him. That's all.

    I haven't seen a few films from the list but overall I like your picks.

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You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.

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