Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Best Supporting Actor 2017: Richard Jenkins in The Shape of Water

Richard Jenkins received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Giles in The Shape of Water.

The Shape of Water follows the story of a mute janitor, Elisa (Sally Hawkins), for a government facility finding love in the aquatic creature imprisoned there.

The Shape of Water is not a very subtle film. It focuses on the grandiose broad strokes in its overarching romance, including even a dance musical number, but also in terms of its social  commentary angle. The oppressed are the good guys whether they be the mute woman, the African American woman, the secret communist, the sea creature, and of course the gay man. Meanwhile the straight laced "average man" of the fifties is an evil psychopath. That's character's name is Strickland that pretty much sums up the film's approach in this regard. Now most films with such an overt approach I might take some umbrage with, however it works in this film because of the overarching stylistic realization of the film by director Guillermo del Toro. The film in every facet is that of a heightened reality to begin with enabling for such a broad approach. In a way it takes an old school musical Astaire/Rogers musical approach to telling the story of the creature from the black lagoon...in love. This includes in the character of Giles played by Richard Jenkins, originally intended for Ian McKellen which says something about the nature of the role. It isn't so much the gay best friend of a romantic comedy, though is that as well, but also the best friend characater in those musicals of old who probably would've played by Edward Everett Horton.

Richard Jenkins's role is therefore set within in a certain set of requirements of the tropes, although perhaps this is a bit more of challenge to begin with for Jenkins as this role is not his typical onscreen presence as Jenkins is more often cast as fathers or minor authority figures. Jenkins attunes himself nicely within the part adding sort of these instances minor flamboyancy in his physical mannerisms and delivery. Jenkins carefully doesn't over do this making it just natural facet of the character while relating the mostly unsaid background of the character rather effectively. Jenkins lets you know who Giles is, but doesn't bring any unneeded excess to the role. Well after that though he is set to portray the gay best friend, or old school musical friend, as required. This has a few different facets to it. The first being charm. Well Jenkins, when ever given the opportunity, is a very charming actor, and this comes naturally here. Jenkins is simply an actor with a certain on screen charisma to begin with so he's a particularly well equipped for that requirement. The second requirement is chemistry with his co-star. Jenkins and Hawkins have this in spades. Jenkins provides such a natural warmth in every interaction and the two are delightful together. The third is of course the delivery of comedic one liners, and plenty of them. Well Jenkins handles this with with aplomb, and thankfully doesn't over accentuate these lines rather finding humor in them properly though also just as a natural part of what Giles would say.

Of course there is a bit more required with whole social subversion aspects of the film, and the plot of rescuing the fishman from his evil captors. This tests the trope slightly, or at least demands a bit more from Jenkins who is more than up to the task. Jenkins effortlessly delivers a bit of pathos, even within those one liners, as there is an overarching somberness in his slight hangdog expressions, and sardonic deliveries. Jenkins delivers the sense of Giles own loneliness even while he entertains Elisa and the audience. Jenkins is able to effectively shift to the more dramatic moments particularly when Elisa asks him to help her. Jenkins is terrific in the scene as he brings such a strong sense of empathy in his own re-delivery of every one of her signed lines, and expresses Giles recognition of her words in very moving fashion. The one major scene though that relates to Giles's own plight is when he attempts to connect with a local diner owner. I will say this scene is perhaps even a bit over the top even for this film where the diner owner reveals his hatred for African Americans and homosexual in a matter of about six seconds. Having said though nothing can be faulted towards Jenkins's performance where he successfully embodies that hope for an end to his loneliness as he so joyfully speaks to the man, but then is rather affecting in reveals his distraught state when so intensely rebuffed. After that scene though he is set back into his supporting role as he helps Elisa try to rescue then release the fishman. Jenkins though still remains an integral part of every scene he's in always still bringing that charm and palatable warmth in every moment. Jenkins is there essentially to amplify every emotional moment, and he does this through his quiet yet impassioned work. I will say I particularly love his opening and ending narration where Jenkins brings such a gentle yet powerful poignancy to his delivery. The delivery fitting to a fairy tale in the elders voice speaking it, yet Jenkins delivers it also as the man who has lived the experience with someone he loved. In the end is this the most original character? No, nor is intended to be. Richard Jenkins works within a specific type of role here, but grants Giles his own distinct life through his wonderful performance.

40 comments:

Robert MacFarlane said...

His performance did nothing for me one way or the other. I’m still pretty baffled about how he just sort of walked to a nomination.

RatedRStar said...

I really loved this film, my only criticism, is such a minor nitpick and it is the same nitpick that I had with The Babadook, anyone want to guess what it was?

RatedRStar said...

I will say, I did want to know what would happen to Jenkins at the end, with we assume Sally Hawkins and Mermaid Man living happily ever after, I would like to think that Jenkins paintings would get recognised eventually.

Mitchell Murray said...

I'd have to agree since this is the most I've liked Jenkins in a while; its a good performance that only ever adds to his film.

Matt Mustin said...

I love this performance, and I think it's kind of essential to the film.

Robert: I think this is a performance where you really have to love what the film is going for for it to click with you.

Calvin Law said...

Beautiful performance, though actually I can imagine Shannon getting a higher score now.

RatedRStar: I'd say the ending is deliberately ambiguous in that you don't know if Elisa and fishman get their happily ever after, could just be Giles' idealism.

Saw Coco by the way. I loved it and wept.

RatedRStar said...

Calvin Law: Thats fair enough =D, btw my minor nitpick with the film was the cat getting chomped scene lol, I dont know what it is about Cats and Dogs brutally dieing in movies lol, I always seem to hate it.

RatedRStar said...

I get why that scene happened, to show the creature as a creature defending itself essentially from what it saw was a threat/food lol.

Luke Higham said...

RatedRStar: Having lost a dog quite recently, I feel the same way you do.

Calvin Law said...

Yeah I'll admit I found it a bit unnerving at first how quickly they got over that, Giles going 'you're lucky it wasn't you' to the other cat made me crack up though.

Anonymous said...

He was really good.
Louis: Rating and thoughts on Van Heflin, Lee Marvin and Anne Bancroft in The Raid.

Matt Mustin said...

Calvin: It bothered me too, until Giles explained that the reason he was okay with it is because he acknowledges that the creature didn't know better.

Calvin Law said...

Matt: Exactly. It was just an animal after all.

Another thing I loved about the film was that it left it ambiguous as to whether the creature loved her or not. Obviously she sees it that way, but you could also interpret it as just an animal looking for affection.

Matt Mustin said...

Calvin: I think he loved her, but may be that's just me being a romantic.

Calvin Law said...

Louis what are your thoughts on the animated short 'Dear Basketball'?

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Heflin - 4(It's a strong performance as usual from Heflin and I will say the Raid might just be a better director away from being a great film. It's overall plot is pretty terrific of the confederate raider infiltrator the town and slowly becoming sympathetic to the people there. Heflin's very good in portraying the internalized conflict in his performance and is quite moving in the portrayal of his distress particularly late in the film. Again though the direction holds him back a bit as I think there are a lot of scenes that should have just given Heflin a bit more time or a bit more focus to truly make his character's journey devastating.)

Marvin - 3.5(Fine drunken idiot work from Marvin as to be expected. Marvin really was the only actor who could deliver exactly what he could deliver especially in 54 in that Marvin goes all the way into his portrayal of his vicious drunkard whose just looking to kill someone. It's effective even if cut a bit short.)

Bancroft - 3.5(It's a pretty thin role, although it is interesting to see such a versatile actress in such a stock part. Although she doesn't quite go as far as Geraldine Page managed in Hondo, Bancroft does manage to deliver a certain depth in the smallest of margins. It is an effective often and at times moving portrayal that captures far more of the complex situation involving Heflin's character than should be expected.)

Calvin:

Fine animation to be sure as is the use of music from John Williams. I will even say there's nothing inherently wrong with Bryant's poem. I think the film would've been better if it was not shown to be so specifically about himself, but with more a any hopeful kid I think would have been better. The simple removal of his name off the jersey would've done the trick. It unfortunately comes off as a bit too self-aggrandizing as it stands.

Mitchell Murray said...

Hey guys I just had to tweak my blog a bit, so if someone could do me a favor and send a comment to my latest post, just to make sure everything's fine, it would help a lot.

Mitchell Murray said...

(Calvin) Thank you.

Deiner said...

Yes, I also liked a lot.
Louis: are your saving Shannon for the bonus round? If not, can you give your rating and thoughts on his performance.

Luke Higham said...

Any other 2017 viewings, Louis.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I hope he doesn't save Shannon. It's one of his least interesting performances.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Louis, can you finally give us your thoughts on Manville in Phantom Thread? I like the film a great deal, but I struggle to understand what she did that ears a 5 in your book. To me she's not much more notable than Blige.

Matt Mustin said...

Robert: Again, I think how you react to most of the performances in this film is entirely dependent on how much you like the film itself. I personally thought Shannon was a perfect Big Bad Wolf for this kind of fairy tale. But the movie didn't work for you like it did for me, so to each their own.

Charles Heiston said...

Shocked he got nominated to be honest, not a fan of this film.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Charlie Day and Glenn Howerton's performances in It's Always Sunny.

RatedRStar said...

Calvin Law: I saw your 30 anticipated films of 2018 list, and when you look at it you go " where are the films that look like the obvious Oscar contenders like Darkest Hour and Call Me by Your Name which we all said would be in contention ages ago" while with the 2018 list, it looks much trickier like aside from First Man, Mary Queen of Scots and maybe the films by McQueen and Jenkins.

Calvin Law said...

Tahmeed: here's Howerton I'll see if I can track down his thoughts on Day.

Howerton - (I could not deny him the position, you know what would happen to Dennis if he were not at the very least in the top five? However I don't think he is given enough credit how good he is in the role. Even when there's an episode that does not quite work on a whole, Howerton's always on form in his creation of Dennis, which goes above and beyond the normal sitcom character, even the best ones. Now Howerton's performance works on the more traditional sense to start with, in that he is indeed very funny and entertaining in the more expected way. Howerton's performance though goes beyond that in his depiction of Dennis as a egotistical psychopath. Howerton creates one of the most beautifully rendered versions of an unearned self-image of absolute perfection, while being legendary in his unique breakdowns whenever this image is even slightly questioned. On top of that is the psychopath which Howerton is so brilliant in by making the lack of empathy so earnest, while effectively carrying the same sort of intensity one might expect from a serious rendition of a serial killer. Of course the best part of all of this is that it's all in the service of comedy, very very funny comedy.)

RatedRStar: I agree. I'd say First Man, Boy Erased seem likely. Jenkins' film, maybe. McQueen's, I'm almost certain it's not going to be awards-friendly fare.

Bryan L said...

I'm a bit surprised McQueens doing a heist thriller film next. Maybe he just needs a change of pace after Hunger, Shame and 12 Years a Slave haha.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: What's your favourite Cillian Murphy performance.

Louis Morgan said...

Robert:

Although she has the least dialogue, screentime, and focus in general I felt Manville successfully fulfilled the needs of the pivotal superego within the dynamic of the three. There are individual showy moments anyways which I thought she excelled with such as her incisive delivery of Cyril's swift cut down of when one of Reynolds's turned towards her, or her moment of revealing her equally dynamic strength when taking over the completion of the damaged dress. What I love about her performance though was what I felt she managed to do within the margins, and silent moments of her performance. These being in the way she individually interacts and reacts with both Reynolds and Alma throughout the film. This, for me, was especially important as I feel it would been easy enough to skew Cyril so it seemed she lived only to serve Reynolds, but to me that was never the case due to Manville's performance. That isn't only in that brief argument moment, but every scene in which she interacts with him. In her slight needling Manville projects a definite control showing as much as she seems to be helping Cyril she is actually always pushing him in the ways she seems fit. She captures this sense of living vicariously through her brother in every moment of a seeming great victory in their house. Manville carefully adjusts her work, unlike Blige who I only mention because you did who kept the same expression throughout the film, to reflect this very particular game that she is playing with Reynolds. This includes though seemingly serving moments that are never as such by the way Manville delivers these as though she is always prodding Reynolds simply to do what she wishes. That's not the only note as she also finds just enough sense of a tenderness at all between brother and sister through her "Little so and so's" but brings these in almost as a reward for Reynolds whenever he behaves properly for her. I found her equally compelling her interactions with Alma where the first time she meets her Manville plays it as though she's simply examining some piece of meat for her brother. The way she specifically looks at her Manville conveys the way Cyril is always attempting to decipher Alma, more as an object than a woman, and whether or not she will be useful for her brother's, as well as, her own existence. Manville I found then played with this sense of appreciation Cyril offers towards Alma depending on how she is behaving if she appears to be tempering Reynolds, Manville offers just the slightest hint of appreciation, but if she's breaking the order Manville delivers the most hollow and steely of glares. I especially loved her vacant disregard for both of them in Reynolds's later "confession" to Cyril. I found her to be an essential ingredient within the film, and made the central dynamic all the more engaging through Cyril's presence brought to life by Manville's performance.

Deiner:

Right now yes, I intend to keep the options fairly open for alternate supporting before I settle on a lineup.

Tahmeed:

I think I covered Day as well, but not sure where.

Also I have to say Howerton was particularly great last season this scene alone should have given him some type of nomination:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t61VUYK0DWU

Luke:

Peaky Blinders

Bryan L said...

Louis: Your 2010s cast and director for A History of Violence? I'm thinking either McConaughey for Tom Stall and maybe Woody Harrelson as Ed Fogarty.

Calvin Law said...

Eamon Farren as Jack Stall, Kaitlin Olson as Edie Stall. Not sure who for Richie.

Luke Higham said...

Casey Affleck won't be presenting Best Actress.

Louis Morgan said...

Bryan & Calvin:

All fine choices, perhaps Jeremy Saulnier for director so Macon Blair should probably play the chef at the diner.

Also perhaps Garrett Dillahunt as Richie, as I'd say he'd be a believable brother to McConaughey. Also Ted Levine as the older robber, and Lucas Black as the younger one.

Mitchell Murray said...

(Luke) Yah, I kind of suspected that would happen.

Calvin Law said...

All for the best, most likely a PR move by Affeck, and would probably make things less uncomfortable for all parties.

That said, as someone who's in no position to say whether or not he's guilty (though there are pretty likely anecdotes), in retrospect as someone who loved his performance and loves him as an actor it might've been for the better if Denzel had won last year.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: Dillahunt's a great choice.

Anonymous said...

Louis: What're your top 10 TV screen duos?

Bryan L said...

Calvin: Olson for Edie Stall is an inspiring choice.

I don't think I could imagine Affleck presenting this year's Best Actress award even WITHOUT the allegations, as I've always pictured the presenter of the award to be someone who's good at public speaking and/or extroverted, which Affleck, to be frank, isn't.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Finding I can't quite make it to ten, as I just haven't seen all that much tv all things considered.