Now that awards season is all wrapped up, it’s time for this blog to slowly wave goodbye to 2017 and start looking ahead to the 2018 cinematic year! As part of that slow wave goodbye, I will celebrate the best and worst of 2017 according to me!
We shall start with the worst acting performances. Here was 2016’s worst performances list for reference. I unfortunately had to throw shade at Jesse Eisenberg, one of my favourite actors, in last year's Hall of Shame. I'm glad to report he reined his Lux Luthor in a lot in Justice League, and thus, avoids making the list a second year running. Phew!
10. Daisy Ridley, Murder on the Orient Express
Although the Star Wars actress is very pretty, has a nice screen presence and seems like a lovely person, she was far too lightweight in the role of Mary Debenham. The film is set in the 30s, and Ridley’s character is secretly having a relationship with Dr. Arbuthnot (Hamilton’s Leslie Odom, Jr). Such are the outdated attitudes of the time towards inter-racial dating, that Debenham and Arbuthnot have to keep this, as well as their involvement with the murder of Johnny Depp’s character on the train, under wraps.
The role requires an actress to convey the character’s inner-strength and defiance to go against social codes due to her love, tinged with mystery regarding what she does and doesn’t know, but Ridley doesn’t really sell it, instead reciting her lines with too much airiness and sunniness for a potential murder suspect.
However, this definitely isn’t solely the fault of the actress. Kenneth Branagh directs the film, and he seems to be only interested in the scenes with Kenneth Branagh in (he must have loved Warner Brothers making Mark Rylance the focal point of their Dunkirk acting Oscar campaign at his expense!)
09. Dane DeHaan, Valerian
Luc Besson’s expensive space opera was all over the place, plot and tone-wise. It might just have achieved a kind of campy enjoyability, though, had he not cast Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne as the leads.
DeHaan is given the job of playing the brooding yet charismatic action hero in the vein of Keanu Reeves, but the stark fact of the matter is DeHaan ain’t no action hero, and he never will be.
The dialogue is bad enough as it is, and DeHaan just looks so disinterested and constipated delivering the lines. He also manages to muster even less chemistry with his on-screen paramour than Joel Kinnaman did with Delevingne in 2016’s Suicide Squad, something which I did not think was possible.
08. Jennifer Lawrence, mother!
Deservingly nominated for a Razzie for this performance, JLaw plays a woman whose house keeps getting visited by guests with increasingly poor etiquette, yet her husband, perplexingly, seems to welcome them in open arms, in Darren Aronofsky’s bloated Bible parable.
Lawrence doesn’t offer any explanation for why her character keeps putting up with these transgressions (I don’t believe for a second that she’s as in love with Bardem’s character as the script keeps having her say she is), choosing instead to yo-yo between the only two acting modes she knows how to do: meh and screaming. Her gear shifts between those two facial expressions are, as ever with JLaw, terribly mechanical.
There’s some truly disturbing sequences in mother! which, visually, packed a punch (it's not rated 18 for nothing). But Aronofsky clearly intended for us to couple those grotesque images with the psychological effect that they were having on the titular Mother. With Jennifer Lawrence’s perpetually confused/gormless expression, that second objective did not take.
07. Kumail Nanjiani, The Big Sick
In The Big Sick, which is based on his life story and the screenplay of which he co-wrote with his wife, Kumail Nanjiani plays a fictionalised version of himself. Amazingly, he’s completely wooden and devoid of emotion in every scene.
You’d think, as this was a film which you have yourself lived, that you’d be able to deliver the lines with some weight, or at least familiarity. But no. Nanjiani is comprehensively out-acted by every scene partner he has.
Zoe Kazan brings far more pathos and depth to her character (such as her sense of betrayal when she discovers that, despite them having been dating, his mother plans on entering him in an arranged marriage). Holly Hunter and Ray Romano make him feel rightly awkward when they visit their daughter in a coma. And Vella Lovell inflects the film with some much-needed dramatic tension when she tells Nanjiani how un-gentlemanly he’s being by giving the Pakistani women hope that he’s interested, when he has no intention of marrying them.
But regardless of how emotive the situation, how impassioned the other person is, Nanjiani remains a blank block of wood.
This expressionless acting works to his favour in only one part of the film: when meeting the potential brides his mother wants to set him up with, Nanjiani (the actor and the character) is utterly disinterested and looks bored stiff by their attempts to engage with him.
It’s the most convincing acting he does in the whole film.
06. Cara Delevingne’s sister, Kingsman 2: The Golden Circle
Just as Beanie Feldstein showed in Lady Bird that she shares her brother Jonah’s talent for blending comedy and drama, Poppy Delevingne showed in Kingsman 2 that she shares her model sister’s complete lack of screen presence and ability to act.
Cara Delevingne’s sister’s role, of a free-loving festival chick should in theory be easy for her to play, as a penchant for drugs and bad boys are two things I imagine the 'actress' and the character have in common. But rather than lifting Clara Von Gluckfberg off the page with some playful spark, the Elder Delevingne just manages to come across as entitled and bland in her brief, but memorably rubbish, performance.
So bland, in fact, that a scene which had the potential to be one of 2017’s steamiest (Taron Egerton’s slick spy has to seduce her in order to insert a tracking device inside her body. And Taron isn’t exactly difficult on the eyes. ohai second place on this list!), actually turns out to be as limp and sexless as that awful ‘Enchantress’ character Cara bastardised in Suicide Squad.
Clearly, it runs in the family.
The second part of this list will drop next week! (See if you can guess who's still to feature). Agree, disagree, think I'm a shrew? Let me know in the comments!