After an awards season that awarded all the same actors, we want to give some appreciation to 2017’s most overlooked performances. Read the rest of our best of the year content here.
As much as we adore performances like Saoirse Ronan’s in Lady Bird or Timothée Chalamet’s in Call Me by Your Name, awards season always ends up forgetting some of the year’s very best work. What’s more, actors in supporting roles, who aren’t as heavily in the spotlight, often get dismissed entirely for their brief screen time. As we wrap up our best of 2017 coverage, we’re celebrating 21 of the lead and supporting performances that have been largely forgotten — even though their films wouldn’t be the same without them.
Zoey Deutch (Before I Fall), Takuya Kimura (Blade of the Immortal), Bel Powley (Carrie Pilby), Anne Hathaway (Colossal), Alec Secareanu (God’s Own Country), Jared Abrahamson (Hello Destroyer), Adam Driver (Logan Lucky), Riley Keough (Lovesong), Cate Blanchett (Manifesto), Rachel Weisz (My Cousin Rachel), Mylène Mackay (Nelly), Rebecca Hall (Professor Marston and the Wonder Women), Carmen Ejogo (Roman J Israel, Esq.), Julianne Nicholson (Sophie and the Rising Sun), Ariane Labed (The Stopover), Rosamund Pike and David Oyelowo (A United Kingdom)
Jason Ritter, Bitch
Beyond Bitch’s wild premise — a woman turns into a dog in response to her husband Bill’s (Jason Ritter) neglect — one of its most surprising feats is Jason Ritter’s lead performance. Ritter honestly and empathetically plays both his character’s initial awfulness and his eventual mellowing, executing a redemption arc that is both convincing and sympathetic. He starts the film as a complete asshole: he ignores his wife (played by director Marianna Palka), speaking to her either in a light and dismissive tone, or with strained aggravation. Ritter leans into all of his character’s worst attributes, strutting around cockily and showing no signs of hesitation or remorse in his affair with a coworker.
That all changes when his behaviour causes his wife to break down, and he is left in charge of their four children; Ritter turns from the film’s villain to its protagonist. As his life spirals out of control, after being forced to shoulder some responsibility, Ritter demonstrates brilliant comedic timing. Bill is at his most manic early on, when we see him tackle the school run for the first time, while running late for work. Ritter throws himself into this sequence physically, sprinting back and forth, sweating, screaming, falling over, and pausing to take it all in, before running off again in a mad dash. After the way we’ve seen him behave towards his family, we’re happy to have a reason to laugh at him.
But as his torture persists, Ritter shows us the humanity in his character and earns our sympathy. He opens up to those around him and comes to understand the damage he’s caused. Ritter begins to engage more fully with his fellow actors, listening to them and responding thoughtfully, rather than acting dismissive or looking at his phone as Bill used to. He softens, demonstrating that even despicable people have the capacity for growth. – Orla Smith