Two that come immediately to mind for me are two performances from the aughts that I gave my Best Supporting Actress wins to in their respective years. The interesting thing to note about both of these performances is that, usually, when someone realizes I have one of them as my win – I almost always get a comment stating that it was a “nothing performance” or “she was just there”. Which fascinates me because if they didn’t do anything, why am I so in love with the work both actresses did in their films? I mean, both of these performances would probably crack my list for the top 20 overall favorite performances of the aughts.
The two performances are that of Amber Heard in The Informers and Brittany Murphy in 8 Mile. What they both have in common is that they are both loved by me mostly because they managed to invoke such realism so naturally in their performance that I almost always feel that they weren’t even acting at all. They don’t have any big Oscar scenes, and they don’t have much t work with in the first place. Yes, both parts are pretty much underwritten. But both actresses brought it in their short screentimes.
Heard literally oozes with fearlessness. More than 80% of her performance is done in the nude, and she’s absolutely brave for it. Not an inch of her body language or stare of her eye feels like she’s aware of being nude. It comes so natural that she feels so comfortable baring all on screen while delivering her character’s tragedy toward us without an inch of falsehood. She’s a sexy, spoiled twentysomething throwing her life down a drain filled with drugs, money, alcohol, concerts and orgies. It’s absolutely terrifying how real she feels on screen. She glows. Hauntingly.
And that same haunting “glow” shines through in Murphy’s performance, too. This is a girl known for her comedic chops and her purely vicious dramatic talent. But holy crap, if the underwritten nature of her character in the screenplay doesn’t allow her to just pulsate her character with a bleeding heart. Murphy feels so lived-in during her short scenes in 8 Mile. She doesn’t seem to be playing a part. She walks along the streets of the multiracial slums of Detroit and doesn’t rub off a bit out-of-place. She belongs there. She’s been there. She’s so in this society. And when she tells about her dreams of leaving to become famous, it feels both childish and hopeful. Like Heard’s character, though, she’s stuck in life decisions that probably won’t get her anywhere.
Interestingly, both of these performances have moments in their films that rank amongst the best sex scenes I’ve ever seen concerning modern American cinema. In The Informers, there’s a scene where Heard’s boyfriend walks in on her having sex with three other people. She notices him watching and transforms her facial expressions from a subtle “sorry you have to see this” to a violent and disturbing “but I can’t help it I’m a slut”. And then in 8 Mile, Murphy runs with the film’s main character to go fuck in the factory he works. She doesn’t shed a tit in this scene, and yet it feels like one of the most raw and vanity-less movie sex scenes I can think of. The look on her face just makes me want to refuse to believe that the sex was simulated.
Both performances I love passionately, and don’t hardly hear them being talked about. Please, guys, I want to know what you think of them both – and also name some performances you are similarly alone on like I am with these two. :P
Overall I thought “8 Mile” was a good film. Nothing struck me as particularly strong about Murphy and I don’t think she was asked to do so much in the film. As you mention, she is pretty much given a throwaway part. Though everyone in the film does a fairly nice job.
Is the donkey from Au hasard balthazar practicing naturalistic acting or minimalistic acting?
The entirety of the cast in Putty Hill. Possibly a new benchmark in naturalistic…
Other nominees: Erin Fisher in Quiet City and Zoe Kazan in The Exploding Girl.