Timothée Chalamet received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Elio Perlman in Call Me By Your Name.
If there is one name that seemed to take the film awards space by storm in 2017 it was Timothée Chalamet, this was not always in the most healthy fashion though with a seeming legion of fans appearing long before the majority of the public would have been even able to see the film, but I digress. Chalamet quickly went from the kid no one seemed to care about from Interstellar to a particular sort of cinematic superstar in very short order. The zealousness of his devoted fanbase projected his performance as some second coming of some great actor, no one in particular I suppose, perhaps because his work so stood alone there was no equal. Well that was the sentiment projected towards it anyways, and after seeing it for the first time I said......I don't get it. Okay maybe not quite I don't get it, as it is easy to see how some viewers could easily project themselves within the role, which I don't have a problem with however that doesn't deem itself to be some work of greatness. Having watched it now a second time though I have to say.....pretty much the same thing, though I'll admit the film itself was a little harder to get through due to its laborious pacing, however I guess at the very least can go see what Michael Stuhlbarg is doing as Elio's father with further context of his character granted by his final speech, which is mildly interesting. Having written all that though I won't fault a performance for simply not living up to almost impossible to achievable heights, and there is still a performance here.
I'll admit out the gate that unlike many a viewer I did not take a natural liking to Elio as a character as written. Frankly he's a bit of a self-indulgent privileged punk at times. Within context of the film Elio has no real conflict in the opening, the only conflicts are those of his own making. As played by Chalamet I won't say he eased these elements. I certainly did not sense this overwhelming charisma that creates an inherent likability beyond the actions of the character. Having said that though Chalamet does have certainly enough of a screen presence as an actor to project well in any given scene. This is particularly important towards this film that has its long, long, long, not Gus Van Sant long though still long, of scenes of Elio staring off into the distance, usually at that grad student house guest Oliver (Armie Hammer). Chalamet does not simply fade into the scenery which would have been quite possible given Luca Guadagnino's direction of the film. He is there within any given moment as Chalamet does establish himself as Elio well within the film. He isn't overly energetic, or anything like that, but he certainly does realize who this teenager is within this story.
Chalamet's performance is interesting in that he attempts to fashion the coming of age story in the film almost as this clash between maturity and youth. In terms of maturity Chalamet portrays Elio's "maturity" as very much combined with his ego. Early on in the film, particularly in his interactions with Oliver, Chalamet delivers his lines with the assurance as though Elio is the same league as his father. In public family situation he reacts with Oliver as though he is very much unimpressed with the man who himself basically acts more or less in the same way as Elio. In the scene for example where Oliver breaks down the etymology of apricot in an attempt to correct Elio's father, in reality it merely being a test for Oliver by Elio's father, Oliver speaks with certain smugness and overt pride in his success in correcting the professor. Chalamet in turn delivers that same smug self-satisfied delivery when letting Oliver know that his father gives the same test every year. Chalamet within the family portrays Elio as someone who is pretty assured that has little to learn from anyone specifically not Oliver. When showing off his own arrangements of music is perhaps this apex of this attitude, as Chalamet brings a real thrill within Elio's own manner as he espouses about his achievements. There couldn't be a great sense of assurance within Chalamet's portrayal of Elio's belief in his own sophistication.
That maturity and sophistication is realized within Chalamet's performance that while not a facade isn't necessarily a real maturity. That ego that Chalamet brings with it alludes to the right degree of overcompensation even if he wears this overcompensation rather well. This contrasts against Chalamet's reactionary portrayal of perhaps Elio's more honest emotions that he internalizes well within his work. In these silent scenes Chalamet conveys a far more youthful and impetuous side to Elio. He is able find within his eyes the greater insecurities as he watches the confident Oliver, and seems to reveal what helps to compel his initial confrontational behavior towards him. Chalamet is effective in the way he essentially goes from this child to attempted adult from moment to moment. In that if he looks directly at Oliver when he knows who's looking it is with the confidence of a fully grown man, but when he doesn't sense Oliver's awareness it is with a curiosity of someone still trying to discover his way. Within that as well is the sense of attraction that I will say Chalamet wholly covers on his side of the performance. That obsession of his is well realized in his portrayal in even the way he physical interacts with Hammer, before anything overtly physical happens between the two, is attuned towards him as though to always be near him in one way or another. He's terrific in capturing the way Elio becomes so transfixed by Oliver to the point that he would attempt to incite a romantic encounter himself.
Now here is perhaps where a little problem arises in that Armie Hammer doesn't exactly capture the sense that Oliver is still in his own point of discovery, I do think this is largely due to Hammer being far too old for a role as a 24 year old especially since Hammer looks far older than even his actual age as well. There is no sense of Oliver being in a similar state as Chalamet conveys with Elio leaving out essential element in the two finding each other in this similar moment in their lives. This reduces what should be an inherent intensity within Elio's first love basically. This is on the other half though as on Chalamet's end he does realize well Elio's state of being throughout the affair. That is in every encounter, every moment of denial, or acceptance Chalamet conveys an ever growing affection for Oliver. He almost wholly loses his bravado as their relationship continues and proceeds to bring less maturity in a way. Chalamet does make an interesting choice here in that shows the relationship in a way reduces Elio back more towards a child, not in a negative sense, but rather it reduces his false sense of maturity portraying Elio without any false defenses protecting his state. With this Chalamet presents this building love of Oliver that slowly makes him seemingly all the more attached and overtly connected towards Oliver in every interaction. There is this growth of lovers optimism as the way Chalamet looks upon Hammer, is though he's staring at the love of his life, the same is not returned from his partner though.
What Chalamet's performance does is find this way that Elio inflicts his own heartbreak. In that he shows the way Elio begins with affair with that overt confidence as though he is this mature adult who will be able to handle with this all entails. As it proceeds though Chalamet's incredibly effective in the way he reveals the boy basically comes out and reveals itself through his reactions of how he deals with the actual emotions the affair entails. Chalamet portrays it as Elio is almost going in as a Lothario but comes out on the opposite end of such behavior. This is particularly well discovered by his work as well in his secondary relationship with one of the local girls. A girl he seduces in a way Chalamet does without care, again with that confidence, then dispatches her without a second thought. After his experience with Oliver, who does the same with him, though we see finally a real maturity through Chalamet's performance. His final scene with her he finally brings no false bravado just a real understanding as he apologizes with all sincerity to her. That growth is made convincing by Chalamet as establishing this almost on a different wavelength then the one he had been in the opening of the film. There is of course still what he is left with through his own relationship with Oliver who leaves him with little solace once the summer is over, which leaves two scenes in the film. The first being when his father reveals the knowledge of the relationship while essentially coming out to his son as well. I have to say this is the one scene where Chalamet's work actually underwhelmed a little, as his reactions don't really say enough, and he lets Stuhlbarg steal the scene more than was necessary. There just isn't any sense of realization or enough reflection in the moment. A minor quibble though, and not the reason for the rating listed below. Thankfully he does make up for it in his final scene where he receives a final phone call from Oliver to basically confirm the rejection. Chalamet again reveals Elio's real attachment and love for her as directly and passionately as he can without any pretense. The same is not returned leaving Elio alone in his thoughts and a final shot in the film as he fully breaks down over his loss. It's a great singular moment for Chalamet, though I suppose my lack of investment within the film left it not as devastating for me. Now all that I have written from my introduction to right here are all the reasons this is a very good performance by the young Chalamet, it however has not convinced me that this is anything more than a very good performance which is nothing to turn your nose up at! I however did not see something truly extraordinary here that becomes compelling within itself but it is a more than promising beginning for the actor.