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Before The Bat: The Best Performances Of The Cast Of 'The Dark Knight Rises'

by Oliver Lyttelton
July 21, 2012 10:00 AM
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Anne Hathaway - "Rachel Getting Married" (2008)
After breaking in through family films like "The Princess Diaries," Anne Hathaway made a conscious choice to move into more adult roles, both successfully (a nice little performance in "Brokeback Mountain") and unusuccessfully ("Havoc"). But the critical cred she was after finally arrived (along with an Oscar nomination) with Jonathan Demme's "Rachel Getting Married." A real return to form for the "Silence of the Lambs" helmer, who lenses the proceedings with a humanity and looseness that puts performances above everything else, it stars Hathaway as Kym, a troubled young woman released from rehab to attend the wedding of her sister, only to bring the family's tragic past bubbling to the surface. And even among an outstanding cast (the great Rosemarie DeWitt as the titular Rachel, and Bill Irwin and Debra Winger both wonderful as the parents), Hathaway stands out. It's a dream of a part for an actress, offering all kinds of notes to play, and Hathaway hits each one like she was at Carnegie Hall; she's funny and childlike and furious and self-absorbed and guilt-ridden and desperately sad, her outsized eyes and gothy haircut perfect for a character who stalled as a teenager. And despite her character doing some truly abominable things, you come to love her and forgive her just as much as the most of the rest of her family do (although Demme smartly leaves things unresolved with Kym's mother). Without this film, it's more than possible that Hathaway would never have come onto Nolan's radar.  

Joseph Gordon-Levitt - "Mysterious Skin" (2004)
Gordon-Levitt was a former child-star looking to make his name withi adult roles, and along came Gregg Araki's "Mysterious Skin." Playing the co-lead alongside Brady Corbet (who's as good, if not better), Gordon-Levitt is Neil, a young gay man who, along with Corbet's Brian, was sexually abused by his baseball coach as a boy. Now grown up, his best friend (Michelle Trachtenberg) has a crush on him, but she knows it'll always be unrequited, describing his heart as "a bottomless black hole";  he's grown up twisted by his chidlhood abuse, and runs away to New York, becoming a male escort, ending up savagely beaten by a customer. The lean, attractive young man here is a world away from the boy of "3rd Rock From The Sun" and "10 Things I Hate About You"; with an almost James Dean-like charisma, he's aggressively sexy and often charming, but also entirely lost in the big bad world. His reunion with Brian, when it comes, is impossibly tender and moving too. Gordon-Levitt has impressed in subsequent work, like "Brick" and "The Lookout," but for now, this remains a high peak in his career.  

Gary Oldman - "Sid & Nancy" (1986)
The pairing of writer/director Alex Cox (“Repo Man”) with this Sid Vicious biopic was something of a match made in punk heaven. It’s a shame, then, that this writer finds the film to be a bit of a slog. We’d skip it altogether were it not for Mr. Oldman’s fierce performance, the kind of acting that demands your attention; you simply can't take your eyes off him. While the tropes we’ve come to expect from this kind of movie are certainly present in “Sid & Nancy” (heavy drug use, band infighting, the girlfriend who comes between band members, etc.), Cox and DoP Roger Deakins give it a certain grimy grittiness that sets it apart in the genre, but it’s the bristling, full-tilt lead performance that gives the film its needed punch. Vicious was the punkest of the rogue's gallery of the Sex Pistols, and Oldman's a snarling, brawling, force-of-nature in the role; witty, destructive and romantic, almost like a "Looney Tunes" cartoon come to life. And yet somehow, he's never anything less than totally convincing. In many ways, he laid the groundwork for most of the work he would do: uncompromising and truly and utterly captivating.

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  • Sven | July 22, 2012 4:21 AMReply

    Caine was also in The Prestige!

  • Rue | July 22, 2012 12:33 AMReply

    Damn that is some serious slim pickings for Anne's best role.

  • sp | July 21, 2012 2:20 PMReply

    Oliver, my favorite Bale performance to date is still, " Rescue Dawn" , and it may be a tie with " "American Psycho."

  • JT | July 21, 2012 1:29 PMReply

    Caine has been great in so many terrific (and awful films) but I can never get over his performance in Children of Men.

  • Oogle monster | July 21, 2012 11:54 AMReply

    I think Hathaway's only great screen role has been Rachel Getting Married. She has been in consistent crap before and after that. It seems like this year is the first time she is tackling two very high profile, Oscar-worthy roles.

  • jen | July 21, 2012 2:16 PM

    OOGLE MONSTER, to be fair, Anne was also good in " Brokeback Mountain" and the truly awful " Valentine's Day." Hathaway is very talented. She needs to continue to take more risks and work with more challenging filmmakers.

  • LolitaHaze | July 21, 2012 10:18 AMReply

    You forgot Ben Mendelsohn. He was so dapper, I almost didn't recognize him.

  • jen | July 21, 2012 2:13 PM

    Ben Mendelsohn is wonderful in this movie, and he pops off the screen. I wanted to see more of him. He is a great chameleon. I also enjoyed Aidan Gillen's charismatic performance ( he is always watchable ).
    Anne Hathaway blew me away in " The Dark Knight Rises." Hathaway easily owned every scene she was in , and she even energized Christian Bale when he was in scenes with her. This year, Anne is proving she is force to be reckon with ( she looks incredible in the " Les Miserables " trailer ) . And, she is proving that she may be the most ( or one of the most) diverse young A-list actress in Hollywood.

  • Zack | July 21, 2012 10:16 AMReply

    I love "Bronson", but Nolan's specifically said that he hasn't seen it (or at least hadn't before Hardy was cast), and that "RocknRolla" was what gave him the idea.

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