NYT spotlights Jarvis, Hoult, Kendrick, Smit-McPhee

Posted by · 6:24 am · November 3rd, 2009

Nicholas HoultThe New York Times makes an annual tradition of rounding up the season’s most notable breakthrough turns in upcoming films, and it’s typically an intelligent, even prescient, selection of faces. Last year’s crop ran the gamut from François Bégaudeau (“The Class”) to the ultimately Oscar-nominated Michael Shannon (“Revolutionary Road”).

In keeping with the youthful slant of many of this year’s awards hopefuls, this year’s group of Gray Lady picks skews rather younger, ranging from 13 year-old Kodi Smit-Phee to 24 year-old Anna Kendrick. (Three of the four are teenagers.)

Presumably, writer Karen Durbin feels enough attention has already been lavished (not least in her own paper) on Gabourey Sidibe (who I’m increasingly convinced will win the Oscar anyway), as the “Precious” star doesn’t rate a mention. Fair enough.

Instead, for her debutante pick, Durbin casts her gaze across the pond to Katie Jarvis, the 18 year-old British star of “Fish Tank,” which bowed at the AFI Fest last night. I’ve gushed enough on these pages about Jarvis’s knockout performance — which still leads my personal Best Actress ranks, forget breakthrough — so I’ll hand over to Durbin:

The great achievement of Ms. Jarvis’s performance is that she makes Mia utterly likable without ever trying to solicit anyone’s sympathy, onscreen or off … Ms. Jarvis is 18 now, and she has an agent. She may be a novice, but her talent is obvious. This is never more apparent than in the delicacy of her scenes with the gifted Michael Fassbender, who plays her mother’s attractive new boyfriend. He’s startlingly nice — a possible peacekeeper in a war zone. But it isn’t long before he takes the wrong kind of notice of Mia, and, as her mix of budding hope and wary hesitation attests, against his assault of kindness she has no defenses at all.

Durbin’s other female (and lone American) pick, “Up in the Air” ingenue Anna Kendrick, seems the most likely of the four to figure in the Stateside awards race. Meanwhile, I can’t personally square with the selection of young Kodi Smit-McPhee, who I personally think falls well short of his role’s demands in “The Road,” but others seem to disagree. Remember when he was a fixture on projected Best Supporting Actor lists? Has that ship sailed?

Durbin’s fourth pick, 19 year-old Nicholas Hoult, is the least likely of the bunch to garner precursor attention this year (for his appropriately fey supporting turn in The Colin Firth Show that is “A Single Man”). That said, he could potentially be the most ubiquitous in a few years’ time. I sang his praises last month in my Top 10 Actors Under 30 list, while Variety echoed my thoughts by naming him one of their 10 Actors To Watch last week.

Even tough nut Jeffrey Wells is impressed, deeming Hoult by far “the most talented, personable and charming” of the NYT’s four:

Guys this young rarely have this kind of quietly charismatic confidence. Either way he exudes something that feels steady beyond his years. Focus, discipline, some kind of tick-tocky metronomic thing going on inside. Hoult doesn’t seem to be playing an alert and confident student who talks straight, knows how to handle his feelings, and has the confidence to speak his mind (and heart) — he seems to be this guy. That’s solid acting. Plus he has astonishing eyes and a great smile.

It’s interesting to me that American scribes are getting this much from just his work in Tom Ford’s film. As fine as he is in it, it’s nothing like the showcase he was offered in British teen drama “Skins,” which also birthed Dev Patel. (And still, neither gave the best performance in the show. Plenty more to come from that stable, I imagine.)

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11 responses so far

  • 1 11-03-2009 at 8:09 am

    Matthew said...

    Totally agreed about “Skins.” Although I’d be interested to hear who you think did give the best performance in that show? I haven’t watched the last two seasons, but of the two seasons with Hoult, Patel, etc., who would you say was the most impressive?

  • 2 11-03-2009 at 8:25 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    I only watched the first two seasons — I couldn’t see the point of continuing when they swapped the entire cast.

    So, from what I saw, I’d say Hannah Murray (Cassie) has star quality to burn. But Mike Bailey (Sid) was probably the strongest actor of the bunch for me. Really strong ensemble, though — oddly, it was only Patel who I thought fell a little short sometimes.

  • 3 11-03-2009 at 9:34 am

    The Other James D. said...

    I’m fond of Jack O’Connell myself–who some might recognize as that batshit crazy teen delinquent from “Eden Lake” (the most exceptional and frank thriller I’ve seen in ages, possibly ever).

  • 4 11-03-2009 at 10:13 am

    Frank said...

    Pointless thought: Mike Bailey has a whole Paul Dano vibe going, at least judging from pictures.

  • 5 11-03-2009 at 12:48 pm

    JAB said...

    it seem’s the focus of the Precious campaign has totally shifted from Mo’nique to Sidibe, and honestly that Ellen interview made me even more thrilled to see the film.

  • 6 11-03-2009 at 2:19 pm

    Michael said...

    @The Other James D. – It is interesting that you mentioned that you liked Eden Lake, I have yet to find anyone who wasn’t dissappointed with that movie (I personally couldn’t stand the movie but I do agree that Jack O’Connell does have some serious chops)

  • 7 11-03-2009 at 8:57 pm

    Dylan said...

    Skins is my favorite television show, and I’m thrilled that it is producing genuine film actors. I too was most impressed with Hannah Murray, and also, of course, with Hoult. Watching the show as it aired, he was the one who I felt had the best chance for a successful career.

  • 8 11-03-2009 at 11:27 pm

    Julie said...

    Hannah Murray has worked on two films which should be out in 2010: WOMB starring Matt Smith and Eva Green, and CHATROOM directed by Hideo Nakata. Both sound interesting.

  • 9 11-04-2009 at 12:19 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    By the way, note to the NYT: where is Tahar Rahim?

  • 10 11-04-2009 at 12:59 am

    The Other James D. said...

    It seems his birth year of 1981 fell just outside of the age requirements for this year’s contenders ;).

  • 11 11-04-2009 at 4:06 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Aha, I didn’t realize he was over the hill! I mean, 28 … even I’m not that old. ;)