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The 30 Best Film Performances of 2017

The 30 Best Film Performances of 2017

 

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Remarkable acting often concerns the emotional and social perils of performance itself, as this art is often informed with an implicit sense of auto-critique. Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance in Phantom Thread is partially about the power that he himself enjoys as a prominent artist, while Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya skillfully elaborates on the role play that’s necessary for African-Americans to navigate white-dominated society. Not that role play is relegated solely to socializing outside of the home, as Geena Davis illustrates in Marjorie Prime, riffing heartbreakingly on the armor that a daughter must assume when dueling with her mother. And James Franco took notions of nesting performances to a particularly flamboyant and literal degree in The Disaster Artist, playing a terrible actor and director who might embody his own personal fears of failure. This sense of autobiography—of neurosis and emboldened expression—invests the following performances with a life force that transcends the direct confines of the screen. Chuck Bowen

The 30 Best Film Performances of 2017

Mathieu Amalric, Son of Joseph

Mathieu Amalric renders Son of Joseph’s Oscar, a book publisher, so selfish that he’s likeable. There’s a suggestion in Amalric’s blissful performance of a child who’s finally getting to satiate his fantasies of wealth and women, and who’s overjoyed to be making a pig of himself. Amalric creates discomfiting comedy out of Oscar’s cruelty, particularly when the character gleefully insists on not bothering himself with trivial details, such as the number of children he actually has. Bowen

The 30 Best Film Performances of 2017

Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name

Timothée Chalamet’s performance in Call Me by Your Name comes to its climax at the very end of the film, in the very long take of the actor’s face as it digests and regurgitates heartbreak a million times over while the world behind him has the audacity to go on as normal. The scene, and its impossible task of bringing cinematic closure to a film about the endlessness of lust for sex and knowledge, is entirely dependent on Chalamet’s uncanny—and organic—ability to convey seemingly countless contradicting nuances. His is the face of mourning a love that did dare to speak its name and still perished. Chalamet’s tour de force is also in the carefree intellectual masculinity he conveys so effortlessly throughout the film, rendering its erudite dream world believable: a young man un-tortured by the gendering process and emancipated enough to roam around the labyrinths of desire wherever they may lead. Diego Semerene

The 30 Best Film Performances of 2017

Lily Collins, To the Bone

As Ellen, a young anorexic pushing her body closer and closer to self-digestive disaster, Lily Collins informs her body with a subtle angularity that’s complemented by her curt and defensive line deliveries. To the Bone revels in female vulnerability and in corporeal anxiety that can be understood by both genders, and Collins grounds these emotions in tactile details, from the bend of her overworked back during sit-ups to her casual recitation of any food’s caloric intake. Collins informs Ellen’s purposefulness with terror, intelligence, and transcendent dignity. Bowen

The 30 Best Film Performances of 2017

Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project

Willem Dafoe grounds The Florida Project with his seeming casualness of being—with his understanding of his presence as a kind of found object. Dafoe has played deeply strange men for so long that his normalcy, when evoked, carries a tang of hard-won grace. In Sean Baker’s film, Dafoe’s Bobby, a manager of a slum motel outside of Disney World, is so transcendently decent that one understands this empathy as having arisen from decades of pain. Bobby is a quiet counterpoint to the chaos of the motel, which is defined by the lives of the poverty-stricken who’re driven to desperate, occasionally joyous measures. Dafoe’s delivery of his lines evinces a languid rage at their exploitation. Bowen

The 30 Best Film Performances of 2017

Geena Davis, Marjorie Prime

Geena Davis exudes a distinctive mixture of power, intelligence, screwball humor, and vulnerability as an actress, often playing formidable characters who’re stuck in their own heads. In Michael Almereyda’s Marjorie Prime, Davis gives one of the finest performances of her career as Tess, a depressed married woman who’s always felt eclipsed in life by her mother and deceased brother, wrongly suspecting that the former never loved her. The film hinges on a heartbreaking denial of catharsis, as Tess nearly faces her greatest fears only to retreat into the abyss of her longing and feelings of inferiority. In a performance of majestic emotional lucidity, Davis captures the insidious fashions in which depressives gradually run themselves down; resisting melodrama, she renders the minute nuances of despair. Bowen

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