Three big movies are opening this weekend: “Invictus,” “A Single Man,” and “The Lovely Bones.” The first two are excellent and not to be missed. The third is a strange curiosity. But they have one thing in common: great supporting performances destined for the Academy Awards.
Julianne Moore is just amazing as Charley, the best friend and British ex-pat who lives next door to Colin Firth in “A Single Man.” If anyone’s ready for an Oscar it’s Moore, and I predict that, with Firth, she will wind up in the top five and could even win (both of them). Moore’s Charley could almost be the wife or cousin of Jared Harris’s character on “Mad Men.” Abandoned by her wealthy husband and her grown kids, Charley is left to drink, dance and smoke in her 1962 Santa Monica retreat. She’s a great drunk, almost like one of the women from “Absolutely Fabulous.” She’s also incredibly sad. When she dances with Firth to Booker T & the MGs, and tries without luck to seduce her gay friend, you really feel for her. Moore’s main scene with Firth is so memorable and key that when she closes the door to her house as he leaves, you want to applaud.
Matt Damon was so good in Steven Soderbergh’s not totally cooked, “The Informant!” If the movie had been better Damon would be up for a lead actor Oscar. But it’s not, so we turn to “Invictus.” Damon is pumped up and buff as South African rugby captain Francois‘Pienaar. He’s also got the accent down so perfectly ‘ and apparently the rugby, too ‘ that you forget Damon isn’t a blond, white South African. Damon’s trajectory from “Good Will Hunting” to here is astonishing. He’s never embarrassed himself, and has chosen roles with a consistent approach. Without being showy, he’s become a dependable Hollywood star in the old sense. And he can handle sensitive material, comic, and action of course (See under “Bourne.”) Morgan Freeman has an easier time in “Invictus” because we know a lot about Nelson Mandela. In a script that doesn’t do much to flesh out characters, Damon creates Pienaar from nothing, and holds up his end of the film beautifully.
Stanley Tucci is the killer in “The Lovely Bones.” I’m not giving anything away since we’re told this up front. But Tucci’s two supporting roles this year ‘ ‘the other as Paul Child in “Julie & Julia” ‘ suddenly establishes him as the go to guy. This follows his great work in “The Devil Wears Prada.” In “Bones,” a not great cup o’crazy movie, Tucci is just creepy and understated enough to scare the bejeezus out of us. He’s evil but you can’t take your eyes off of him. It’s hard to say that anyone can beat Christoph Waltz from “Inglourious Basterds” for Best Supporting Actor, but Tucci and Damon give it their best shots.
And let’s not forget Patricia Clarkson from Woody Allen’s “Whatever Works.” Sony Pictures Classics isn’t doing much for her as the Allen film wasn’t a big hit. But Clarkson is worth the price of renting the film and fast forwarding in about 40 minutes. She’s a total comic delight, as good if not better, than many of Woody’s Oscar-winners.