Top 10: Best Career Turns

With That’s My Boy looking anything but your typical “I’ve clearly stopped giving a shit” Adam Sandler fare, I find that it’s quite sad to see someone who’s exuded his talent as a dramatic actor squander any and all potential by reverting back to his roots in the worst possible way. Jack & Jill, of which I first thought to be a joke, proved that certain individuals, Sandler especially, fail to realize the depths to which they’ll stoop for the sake of a paycheck and shunning the public’s increasingly unfavorable opinion of them. This in mind, it’s always refreshing to look back upon those actors and actresses that have admirably broken free from their respective character molds, playing against type to prove to us that there’s more to them than meets the eye. Agree or disagree, I’ve concocted a list of those still working today that have successfully tackled such a daunting task.

Tom Hardy

Widely considered to be another bodybuilder-type pretty boy among the discernible Hollywood elite, Tom Hardy’s supporting roles in Inception and Warrior have undoubtedly caught the eyes of many, not to mention his performance as Bane will prove to be a surefire stepping stone to the very top of the working actors’ totem pole. For those of you who haven’t caught it on Netflix already, Bronson is Nicolas Winding Refn’s (Drive) account of notorious criminal Michael Peterson: a general psychopath that’s in all reality spent a majority of his life in solitary confinement inside a maximum security prison. Presumably embodying the very essence of said crazed inmate, Hardy’s turn as the titular madman is one of head-turning poise, especially given the overblown presentation of a majority of the proceedings. Complete with a clean-shaven noggin and handlebar mustache, the man in question bears the same imposing physique,yet is obviously a far cry from what women continue to swoon over in 2012.

Ben Stiller

For as many poor choices Ben Stiller has made over the course of the past decade and beyond, he still remains one of the few that are inherently forgivable. In portraying manic-depressive narcissist Roger Greenberg in Noah Baumbauch’s latest, Stiller does a bang-up job in accurately portraying a purposefully unlikable individual for the sake of his eventual maturation, proving to be a far cry from his days as the infamous Greg Focker. It’s a nuanced performance that deserves recognition despite how comfortable Stiller seems in the role, but it’s refreshing to see him stray from the path to such a noticeable degree nonetheless.

Jonah Hill

Comedic obesity and overt vulgarity have always been the name of Jonah Hill’s game, and while the former remains present throughout Bennett Miller’s Moneyball, to observe Hill garner an Oscar nomination for his turn as Billy Beane’s right-hand man Peter Brand is… strange. Not strange in a bad way, it’s just weird to observe Hill maintain an out-of-his-element aura throughout the proceedings without making a single phallic reference. His track record since then has rarely differed from that of his Superbad days, but he’s a funny guy, and as long as he’s willing to bounce back and forth effortlessly between genres, he assuredly has a bright future ahead of him.

Steve Carell

In light of my not being head-over-heels in love with the film as a whole, Carrell’s decision to break free from his typecast Michael Scott persona was shocker, to say the least, playing suicidal uncle to Abigail Breslin’s titular Olive as the entire dysfunctional family treks cross-country to a beauty pageant. His track record following this particular breakthrough has been, well, patchy, but Carrell does what he does for a reason, and coupled with Dan in Real Life, he’s proven to be a relatively versatile actor that can tone things down a notch when the opportunity to do so is absolutely necessary; not to mention he’s one of the most likable individuals in the business today.

Mila Kunis

Earning notoriety through portraying the self-obsessed, ditzy yet agreeably glamorous Jackie Burkart, trademarked by her frequently grating, high-pitched voice, Ms. Kunis went on to voice Meg Griffin in Seth MacFarlane’s long-running Fox-spawned hit “Family Guy,” to which she still contributes to this day. Garnering a few noteworthy, if minor film roles in the years leading up to the present, nothing can compare to Lily: Natalie Portman’s Nina’s wild-woman foil that brings out the worst in her prior to the fateful premiere of the ballet itself. Fully embodying the essence of what it means to be “that bitch,” more specifically the intimidating, shady type that indirectly challenges the queen for the crown, Kunis’ efforts in Black Swan are agreeably impressive and remarkably subdued as such; the polar opposite of the character she played for the better part of a decade.

Jim Carrey

Few names are as synonymous with a genre of film as Jim Carrey’s is. Appearing first as a regular on “In Living Color,” the moving on to not-so-cult comedy classics such as Dumb & Dumber, Ace Ventura and The Mask, Carrey’s dabbled in the realm of the dramatic, but the roles he was assigned never really utilized his full potential as an actor. 1998′s The Truman Show came the closest to establishing him as versatile, as did 1999′s Man on the Moon to an extent, however Michel Gondry’s wonderfully fantastical Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is what really helped hammer the idea home for us viewers. Portraying Joel Barish: a voluntary loner/soft-spoken social outcast that falls for Kate Winslet’s bubbly, overtly free-spirited Clementine, Carrey maintains an appropriately low-key performance to compliment the film’s more somber romantic ideals almost perfectly. He’s tried to replicate this success more recently, but unfortunately, the projects in question end up being a bit too half-baked to match what he’s clearly capable of

Rooney Mara

While not so much a positive career turn as it is the epitome of a breakthrough performance, Rooney Mara’s ability to both follow in Swedish counterpart Noomi Rapace’s footsteps and subsequently raise the bar for any potential future adaptations is unparalleled. Tiptoeing around Hollywood via minor supporting gigs and the like, Mara’s role committal throughout David Fincher’s go with Steig Larsson’s novel of the same title is truly something to behold given the unflinching nature of the source material, completely vanishing beneath the toxic veneer of Lisbeth Salander’s rebellious and violent computer hacker persona, body piercings and all.

Bill Murray

If someone demanded you blurt out three films prior to 2003 that Bill Murray’s starred in, you’d have given them a predictable answer. Among his more charismatic, often hilarious onscreen endeavors, Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation is essentially what catapulted Murray from the realm of the singularly goofy into that of near perfect drama. Oscar nomination notwithstanding, the character of Bob Harris is rendered relatable almost to a fault, leaving Mr. Murray holding the reins as he guides us through the daily goings-on of a washed-up actor-turned-estranged husband and lost soul. The chemistry exhibited between him and costar Scarlett Johansson is equally pitch-perfect as they confide in one another to aid in climbing out of their respective existential ruts. All in all, it’s a brilliant film, one that’s benchmarked by Coppola’s best script to date but anchored by its central performances all the same.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Few professionals have had the guts Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s had in terms of role choices, especially those still considered up-and-comers. Although he’d already established himself via accessible, family entertainment and hard-hitting indie titles alike, 2004′s Mysterious Skin marked a major turning point for the young man. Working as an underage male prostitute, Gordon-Levitt’s Neil shares a remarkably horrific past with one Brian: a young man infatuated with alien invasions and the truth behind the blackouts he suffered as a child. Said past has taken an irrevocable toll on both boys, however Neil’s frequent sexual escapades and hard-living lifestyle as an adolescent yearning to skip town suggests that JGL certainly had his work cut out for him, and he doesn’t disappoint. It’s a bleak film; a gratuitous, moreover unflinching one at that, but what Mysterious Skin ultimately did for the man in question years down the line is something worth noting, to say the least.

Charlize Theron

For starters, Ms. Theron has quite literally never had a hand in anything exclusively comedic outside of “Arrested Development” as my colleague was so keen to remind me of. While the latest Cody/Reitman collaboration Young Adult is what you’d hold in the highest regard as a biting, darkly comedic affair, the character of Mavis Gary is one of unrivaled brilliance as she garners frequent chuckles at her own great expense. The film takes a decidedly glum turn in its latter act, but the central focus involving Mavis’ spoiled brat-like behavior in relation to her prolonged state of adolescence is never once lost as Young Adult deftly defies convention.

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