As I sit moments away from seeing Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film, Inherent Vice in 70mm, I thought it’d be fun to take a look back at some of the unsung performances from his pervious films. There are many, many other performances that could be listed here, so do feel free to share your favorites as well.
Gwyneth Paltrow – Hard Eight (1996)
Gwyneth Paltrow’s work in Hard Eight is the Gwyneth Paltrow performance for people who don’t like Gwyneth Paltrow. Clementine is simple and sweet, a woman of the night with heavy mascara and smeared lipstick. Believe me, if you’re not typically a fan of Paltrow’s work (outside of say, The Royal Tenenbaums), then I can all but guarantee you’ll enjoy her performance in Hard Eight.
10. Paul F. Tompkins – Magnolia (1999)
as Chad, Seduce & Destroy operator
Paul F. Tompkins is best known for his comedy skills, but his performance as the empathic Chad in Magnolia is some of the finest voice acting I’ve ever heard. You really believe this guy is going to help Phil Parma out, thereby reconnecting a father and son.
9. Philip Seymour Hoffman – Hard Eight (1996)
as craps player
The collaboration between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Thomas Anderson will remain forever indelible. And while their last four films together often get the most play, I promise you’ll have a blast going back to the source via Hard Eight. Hoffman isn’t in the film for very long, but he succeeds at being the most humorously obnoxious craps player in the history of cinema. “I don’t wait for oooold people, I don’t wait for oooold people.”
8. The Sisters – Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
The seven sisters in Punch-Drunk Love prove to be the only background we need to understand Barry Egan’s psyche. I mean seriously, could imagine growing up with that crowd? Interestingly, I just learned this marvelous bit of trivia via the amazing PTA-based website, Cigarettes & Red Vines:
“I went to meet with these two sisters and in talking discovered that they had two cousins,” said Paul Thomas Anderson. “So of the seven sisters in the film, six are non-actors and four are related. It was kind of crazy, especially given that we asked some of the women to bring their husbands along, but they all gelled perfectly. They had no fear.”
7. Robert Ridgely – Boogie Nights (1997)
as The Colonel
You can’t really beat that triple take Ridgely does the first time he sees Dirk Diggler’s diggler. The way his forehead melts and his smile dissipates, it’s as if he realizes in that moment that everyone involved in Dirk’s movies are going to be filthy rich. And then on the flip side, you have Ridgely’s heartfelt admission of guilt from behind a prison window later in the film. Silently begging for his good friend, Jack Horner, to acknowledge their friendship. Ridgely died mere weeks after they shot that scene, making it some sort of uniquely heartbreaking send-off.
6. Christopher Evan Welch – The Master (2012)
as John More
Who can forget the controlled yet quietly disruptive John More from The Master? More’s articulate and wholesome public damnation of “The Cause” is the first time we see Lancaster Dodd tested. And More and Dodd’s verbal exchange proves to be one of The Master’s most thrilling and telling moments. I could watch it over and over. Sadly, Welch died from cancer last year, months before he would’ve become a breakout success due to his turn on HBO’s Silicon Valley. Rest well, fine sir.
5. Ciarán Hinds – There Will Be Blood (2007)
Fletcher is the guy who’s always there. He’s the right hand man. The confidant with a conscience. Hinds’ reserved and sympatric portrayal of Fletcher is a perfect juxtaposition to Daniel Day-Lewis’ ferocious Daniel Plainview. One thing I love about Hinds’ performance actually doesn’t involve Hinds at all. When we cut to those final scenes in the early ‘20s, we notice that Fletcher is no longer by Plainview’s side. I’ve always wondered what Fletcher’s breaking point was. When did he finally realize that enough was enough?
4. Thomas Jane – Boogie Nights (1997)
as Todd Parker
“That shit's jammin’, man. Start down low with a 350 cube, three and a quarter horsepower, 4-speed, 4:10 gears, ten coats of competition orange, hand-rubbed lacquer with a huplane manifold. Full fuckin’ race cams. Whoa.”
I fucking love Todd Parker. He probably has my favorite character introduction in Boogie Nights, a film full of amazing character introductions. New Year’s Eve, 1979. We hear tires screech to a halt, a fence door is kicked in, and in struts Todd Parker. A few cameras flash, and Todd just strolls on by, feelin’ it. I get endless enjoyment out of watching this guy in action.
3. Michael Bowen – Magnolia (1999)
as Rick Spector
Michael Bowen’s Rick Spector is such a concise yet thorough depiction of a tiger parent from hell. Rick is so eager to piggyback off the success of his genius son, Stanley. His patience is razor thin, his demeanor is appalling and his overall attitude is generally elitist. Rick’s meltdown in the TV studio marks some of the finest acting of Bowen’s career, but I love the way Bowen handles his final moment in the film. There’s no tearful plea for forgiveness. “Go to bed,” is all we get. And, knowing Rick, that’s about as much as we can expect.
2. Dillon Freasier – There Will Be Blood (2007)
as H.W. Plainview
I don’t know where Dillon Freasier came from, but thank god Anderson cast him as Daniel Plainview’s son, H.W., in There Will Be Blood. It’s genuinely one of the finest child acting performances I’ve ever seen, and I am stunned that Freasier hasn’t been in a movie since. It also speaks so highly of Freasier’s work that Daniel Day-Lewis was quick to thank the youngster in his many award speeches for There Will Be Blood. This kid has more nuance and restraint than most adult actors currently in the game.
1. Joanna Gleason – Boogie Nights (1997)
as Eddie’s mother
I wrote at length about Joanna Gleason’s towering work in Boogie Nights in this post detailing my favorite scene from the film. Her hellacious argument with her pre-Dirk Diggler son, Eddie, is Boogie Nights at its most visceral. Much of the intrigue about the scene is that Anderson doesn’t go out of his way to explain where the mother’s hatred comes from. Most all moms are upset with their teenage son at some point, but Eddie’s mom is emotional abusive to the point of shock. I’ve followed Gleason’s TV and film work closely since Boogie Nights. And while she always manages to churn out solid performances, she has yet to reach the combative peaks of Eddie’s angry mom. I could watch a whole movie about this mom’s life.
You May Also Like
Top 44 Things I Love About Magnolia (that no one talks about)