Not to state the absolute obvious, but there are dozens of genuinely great performances in a given year that will never win awards. There’s the clear reasons, like the lack of prestige, the mediocrity of the film around the particular part or it could be in an action, comedy or horror movie. At this juncture of the year when top ten lists are flooding the internet, I just want to take a minute and give some quick peeks at an array of 2014’s actresses and actors who shined, even if trophies aren’t coming their way.
Rose Byrne in Neighbors : Ms. Byrne has had a rather fantastic twelve months, showing off her charm in a number of accents. She sang too. It’s this past summer’s massive hit Neighbors that she best displayed her knack for earnestness and playfulness in the same role. As a new mother, she realizes that, alongside her husband, they aren’t exactly hip or even remotely active socially anymore. In a rarity for modern mainstream comedies, Byrne isn’t forced to be the wet blanket wife and when the actress gets to cause as much mischief as the fellas it’s a joy.
Pat Healy in Cheap Thrills : Healy’s Craig is a desperate man and he never for one second let’s us forget that in the enjoyable E.L. Katz pic Cheap Thrills. The movie centers on a couple that offers increasingly large sums of money for increasingly horrific acts. Holding all of the film’s risqué and trashy elements together is Healy wrestling with the morality of his situation; both how far he has fallen and his struggle to figure out what – if any – bottom there is to it.
Noomi Rapace in The Drop : I have no clue why some Dennis Lehane adaptations become big deals and others just drift away. I do know that Rapace is excellent as Nadia, a kind, understandably anxious woman who finds herself caught between men with violent feelings toward on another. Nadia isn’t the deepest of Lehane’s creations. Rapace presents her with a sweetness though that isn’t doused in naïveté. She could easily be portrayed as a flat and troubled girl with a heart of gold, something Rapace skips past by letting a toughness underline it all.
Bill Hader in The Skeleton Twins : There’s a long history of comedians showing off their dramatic skills when given the chance. Hader not only extends that concept, he makes you forget that’s his background. Hader’s turn as a man who recently attempted suicide and reunites with his sister is all the more compelling because he doesn’t shed all of his tics. Often, comedic actors run away from their goofier mannerisms, thinking that quiet or brooding is the only alternative. The Skeleton Twins lets Hader’s energy imbue every beat, both melancholy and joyous, culminating the terrific duet with Kristen Wiig over Starships’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” aka the scene I’ve watched more than any other this year. He doesn’t come off as a funny guy trying to be taken seriously. Hader feels like a person comfortably odd with those he loves, insular and annoyed when around those he doesn’t. He feels like a person and not an awards/authenticity grab.