Monday, January 16, 2017

What Constitutes A Supporting Performance?

Category fraud is something that is continuing to run rampant through awards season. Even after last year, where Rooney Mara and Alicia Vikander were controversially pushed for Supporting Actress in spite of their performances being lead roles, we still have category fraud running rampant. We even have cases that are causing debate as to whether or not they really are cases of fraud like Dev Patel in Lion and Viola Davis in Fences. Even if they are playing lead characters, there is debate in the awards blogosphere as to whether they belong in the Lead categories because of their screentime and how focused the stories are on their characters.

Then, there are more blatant cases of fraud like Hugh Grant who is getting a Supporting Actor campaign for Florence Foster Jenkins. While Meryl Streep is the title character, Hugh Grant is a co-lead. In fact, he might be more of a lead than Streep as he has more screentime and the film focuses greatly on his emotional journey and need go let his wife live out her dream. In spite of him playing the supportive husband, it doesn't mean he is a supporting actor. I'm sure those running his Supporting Actor campaign realize that and I feel they tried to use his supportive role as an excuse to justify his placement.

Compare him to Mahershala Ali in Moonlight. He only appears in the first third of the movie. But he not only supports the main character of Chiron but his absence lingers over the rest of the picture. One aspect of a supporting performance is when the actor makes the most within the constraints of his or her limited screen time.

Although the three actors playing Chiron (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) have understandably gotten a Supporting Actor campaign push. They may be playing the lead character but they're not necessarily lead actors. They're supporting the main singular narrative which is unlike Hugh Grant in Florence Foster Jenkins. Grant can't be supporting the narrative because he IS the narrative.

Another aspect of a supporting performance is when the supporting character helps set up the main narrative or inhibits the emotional arc of the main character. Take for example, Laura Linney in Nocturnal Animals. She may only have one scene. But within her one scene as the mother of Amy Adams' character, she serves as a shadow of what Adams' character doesn't want to become. Yet after Linney says "We all turn into our mothers," Adams herself slowly starts to become her. Also, because her screentime is so limited, she leaves you wanting more.

So to me, what makes a true supporting performance is one that not only supports the main narrative or the main character but one where the performer makes the most within the constraints of their limited screentime, allowing their presence to linger over the rest of the picture when they don't appear.

What do you guys think? What do you feel constitutes a supporting performance. Please be sure to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!