- The Hours
- Far From Heaven
- Talk To Her
- Madame Sata
- Friday Night
- The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers
- The Pianist
- In America
Adrien Brody‘s performance in The Pianist is one of the most impressively heartfelt studied turns by an actor. Roman Polanski’s best film since Tess is notable for going even deeper than Schindler’s List in recreating the unsure and fearful atmosphere of occupied Europe under Nazi atrocity, and the story of a survivor whose talent saves him is one that lifts your spirit without ever being maudlin or sentimental. Brody’s giant eyes poking out from his tiny frame (emaciated thanks to a very dangerous diet which he undertook for the role) speaks volumes about the story’s themes.
There is no one who suffers quietly like Julianne Moore, and Todd Haynes’ masterpiece Far From Heaven shows her at the height of her powers. As a woman who forcibly encounters the modern world in Haynes’ re-envisioning of Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows, Moore is brilliant at enacting the style of performance prominent in films from the era, while at the same time keeping everything surprisingly genuine. As a result, her more emotionally fraught moments are just as compelling as the tiny moments of sweet honesty that she expresses: “You’re so beautiful,” she says to Dennis Haysbert, and the effect is felt for eternity.
Critics all favoured Chris Cooper for his performance as the tough-talking, ornery orchid grower in Spike Jonze’s phantasmagorical adaptation of Susan Orleans’ The Orchid Thief. The result earned this long-time, hard working character actor (at that point most famous for his work in John Sayles movies) a well-deserved Oscar for charming the pants off Meryl Streep in Adaptation. It’s not as brilliant a movie as the critical reception would suggest (I think the burned out reviewers were excited to see something so devoted to being smart), but it features rich characters, among whom Cooper’s is the most memorable.
Actually, there’s another highly memorable character in Adaptation, and it is the great Meryl Streep pulling off her best comedic role since Postcards From The Edge. She’s hilariously sexy as a fictionalized Susan Orlean, searching for a rare orchid in the hopes that it will give new meaning to her increasingly listless life. Streep breezes through the film like she isn’t even acting, and then really turns up the quirky charms when she starts experimenting with getting high (the scene where she tries to imitate the sound of a dial tone is brilliant).
Pedro Almodovar has been the master of combining melodrama with sexy humour for years, and he reached his artistic zenith with his masterpiece in 2002, Talk To Her. It includes the aforementioned elements as well as a skillful combination of other artistic forms: cinema, dance and literature, to tell a story of love and communication in the form of two men in love with women in comas. It is deeply affecting and sympathetic, displaying Almodovar’s accustomed talent for letting us know his characters so well without divulging hours of information about them, and letting them be flawed without judging them as harshly as their peers would. A towering achievement.