POSTED January 11 2014

And the best actor is…Toni Servillo!

Toni Servillo in The Great Beauty

Toni Servillo in The Great Beauty

Among the memorable performances by actors in 2013 there are Christian Bale in American Hustle,  Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave, Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club and Mud, Robert Redford in All is Lost and Forest Whitaker in The Butler. Given this slate I’d be torn between Redford’s exceptional physical performance as the man striving to win his endgame with nature and Whitaker’s as the man who shows one face at work and another at home and finally is able to reconcile his  two faces.

But for me the most enthralling performance, the most nuanced and mesmerizing, is that of Toni Servillo as the one-book-wonder novelist and boulevardier in Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty, our guide to the many cultures that are Rome. Like Whitaker, Servillo is a master of composure, a pokerface who rarely shows his cards. He plays  Jep, the natty novelist-turned-celebrity journalist (imagine Tom Wolfe if he wrote only The Bonfire of the Vanities) and he shows more facets of character than any other actor I’ve seen this year. Jep is pompous, self-deprecating, a cynic, a romantic, an aristocrat, a populist, a bully and empath  — and you never feel the gears change. Only when the movie ended did I realize that it was Servillo, who also played the no-neck prime minister Giuilio Andreotti in Sorrentino’s Il Divo, an opaque figure who wears his power like a mask. In The Great Beauty Servillo is rangy and fluid.

If you haven’t already, see The Great Beauty. Your favorite performance(s) by an actor in 2013?


  1. Daniel Bruhl playing Niki Lauda in “Rush.” He made a difficult, dark, uptight, “foreign” and unsympathetic figure, attractive and magnetic, mainly through physical gestures and actions rather than words. That’s acting, I think.

  2. My two favorites: Paulina Garcia in GLORIA and Barbara Sukowa in HANNAH ARENDT.

  3. It’s much harder to come up with a best male performance (I haven’t yet seen THE GREAT BEAUTY), but I guess I’d opt for Christian Bale in THE AMERICAN HUSTLE.

  4. Joe says:

    Not enough has been written/said about Joaquin Phoenix in Spike Jonze’s “her.” In many ways, it’s essentially a solo performance. The amount of concentration and imagination it must of taken is, well, unimaginable. An incredible, tour-de-force performance.

    • Carrie Rickey says:

      Phoenix is incredible. As is the movie. Nic Cage got a nomination for a Spike Jonze film. I don’t think Phoenix will, but would be great if he did.

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