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The 4 Best And 4 Worst Movie Performances Of 2019


From Lupita Nyong’o’s bravura double performance
in Us to John Travolta overacting in the worst way in The Fanatic, here’s a look back at
the highest highs and lowest lows of 2019 in movie acting. In Us, Lupita Nyong’o makes the most of a
rare opportunity to put two totally different performances in the same film. While playing Adelaide, Nyong’o is anxious
and twitchy, with her emotions building throughout the film as she tries to protect her family. While playing Adelaide’s counterpart Red,
Nyong’o is full of grace and danger, with such an unsettling presence that you almost
want to flinch when she appears on screen. Together, Nyong’o plays the full spectrum
of emotions between two identical characters that never once leaves the viewer confused
about who’s who. It’s an absolutely unshakeable pair of performances
that carry the film and only become more impressive on a rewatch. “The shadow hated the girl. So much. For so long.” Jessica Chastain seemed like a perfect fit
to play the otherworldly alien Vuk as she tries to bring Jean Grey over to the dark
side in Dark Phoenix. Unfortunately, while the third-act climax
and script can be blamed on behind-the-scenes drama, that doesn’t excuse how boring her
performance in the film is. As Vuk, Chastain should be strange and seductive,
an alluring contrast to the men in Jean’s life that are trying to control her. Instead, Chastain just seems bored, delivering
dialogue as if she’s reading the script for the first time. “What remains of my people searched the stars
for that power to control it, but it destroyed everything it ever came into contact with…until
you.” In Midsommar, Florence Pugh plays Dani as
reserved, introverted, and shell-shocked following her family’s sudden death in the opening scene
of the film. Those feelings only intensify once she gets
a last-minute guilt invite to her boyfriend’s vacation to a pagan festival that involves
psychedelic drugs and ritualistic killing. A lesser talent might have played Dani’s grief
and probable PTSD like a boiling kettle that slowly explodes; instead, Pugh shows a more
naturalistic depiction of grief. She’s looking for comfort from her no-good
boyfriend, and trying to stay on top of her emotions while taking shrooms. When her grief finally explodes out of her
in a ritual of shared pain and screaming, it takes your breath away. If John Travolta’s starring role in 2018’s
mega-flop Gotti wasn’t bad enough, he delivered another stinker in 2019’s The Fanatic. The film follows an autistic man named Moose
who becomes obsessed with a horror film actor. That obsession soon curdles into an obsessive
hate, which leads to Moose stalking and threatening his favorite star. Even if you could get past the offensive stereotypes
that Travolta uses as shorthand to communicate that Moose isn’t neurotypical, the actor just
can’t handle playing a character that needs to be both sympathetic and sociopathic at
different points in the film. Maybe Travolta just needs one good film to
get back on top, but The Fanatic definitely isn’t it. Like Blade Runner, another science fiction
film with a powerfully ambiguous lead performance and a burdensome voiceover attached to the
theatrical version, Ad Astra feels like a film destined to become a cult classic in
the decades to come. While the film has a dense script and some
impressive visual set pieces, the core of Ad Astra depends on Brad Pitt giving one of
the most nuanced performances of his career. As Roy McBride, Pitt is a son in search of
his father. Not just in a metaphorical way, either; he’s
literally tasked by SpaceCom to head out to Neptune to search for his dad in order to
stop a series of power surges that threatens the entire solar system. Pitt shines in the role, delivering every
ounce of nuance and backstory with only a few clenches of the jaw or far-away look. M. Night Shymalan’s early superhero film Unbreakable
ends on an ambiguous note that seemed like it would never be resolved. That is, until Bruce Willis’ David Dunn made
a cameo at the end of 2017’s Split, revealing that the two films took place in the same
universe. That sets up 2019’s Glass, a film that seemed
to promise the long-awaited sequel to Unbreakable. The good news for fans is that it came out. The bad news is that the film itself is largely
terrible, squandering the promise of Unbreakable’s final moments. Glass has plenty wrong with it, but Willis’
poor performance would rank high on the list. In Unbreakable, Willis played Dunn with a
quiet melancholy in a reserved, almost deadpan performance. It’s a fine line to tread as an actor, and
in Glass, Willis misses the mark entirely. What was once an internal, carefully-calibrated
sadness has become a boredom so obvious that Willis was barely mentioned in reviews of
the film, despite playing one of the most prominent roles. Over the course of five seasons, Aaron Paul’s
eternally hard-luck addict Jesse Pinkman was basically the moral center of Breaking Bad. Even in a show beloved for incredible performances,
Paul’s acting throughout was a standout. That’s partly why it was so mystifying that
he didn’t become a major star after the show’s end. Besides leading roles in 2014’s Need For Speed
and the prestige television show The Path, Paul’s largely stuck to cameos, small roles,
or voice acting work. El Camino, the film sequel/epilogue to Breaking
Bad, shows exactly what Hollywood’s been missing by reminding everyone how beautifully Paul
can inhabit a role. His performance against acting heavyweights
like Jonathan Banks, Bryan Cranston, and Robert Forster make it clear that Paul is one of
the best actors around. “You don’t watch the news?” “I have, very much so.” “So you been hearing what they’ve been saying
about me.” Even the best actors can have misfires, and
Matthew McConaughey is no exception. Case in point: the bizarre misfire Serenity,
which ranks near the bottom of the actor’s career output. McConaughey is no stranger to turning stereotypical
characters into fully fleshed-out people, but that same instinct seems to have worked
against Serenity. Considering the laughably silly plot twist,
it might have been better for McConaughey to play the role with his tongue slightly
in cheek rather than commit on the level of his time on True Detective. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Looper videos about your favorite
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