Bradley Cooper | American Hustle
The Best Supporting Actor category at this year’s Oscars may be the weakest field of all. The nominees are Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club), Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave), Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), and Jonah Hill (The Wolf of Wall Street). Frankly, the fact that Abdi and Hill both made it into this category shows just how much of a lack of depth there was in the male supporting acting field this year, and I still think that Tom Hanks should have taken at least one of their two spots for his performance in Saving Mr. Banks.
When looking at the three more deserving performances, it’s pretty clear to me that while Jared Leto may have taken on the most challenging of the three roles (playing the transgendered Rayon), he lacked the emotional depth and commitment in his performance that both Cooper and Fassbender showed. For most of Dallas Buyers Club, I felt like Leto’s generic portrayal of Rayon was only elevated by the costuming and makeup team. The only scene in which Leto really captivated me was when Rayon takes off the makeup and goes to visit his father, but aside from that, there was nothing in his performance that I felt like I had not seen done before. Furthermore, while Fassbender’s turn as the terrifying slave owner in 12 Years a Slave left a lasting impression in my mind, it still lacked a certain “something” that makes me question whether Fassbender truly deserves the Oscar.
For me, personally, the most impressive of these five nominated performances comes from Bradley Cooper in American Hustle. While the argument can be made that Cooper was simply channeling a lot of the same mannerisms and techniques that he used in last year’s Silver Linings Playbook, there was something more visceral about his portrayal of Richie DiMaso. Cooper possessed a heightened electricity and danger with every word he spoke or movement that he made, causing you to feel scared for everyone that was in the room with him, but also still somehow charming you with his fast-talking, loose-cannon eccentricity.
Similar to Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as Rosalyn in the film, Cooper takes an unlikable character and forces the audience to understand him and even empathize with him by the film’s end. All the fast-paced, physical comedy and rapid-fire dialogue that he throws out may have been what first caught people’s attention about Cooper’s performance in American Hustle. However, it’s the little moments, like when he struggles with his attraction to Amy Adams’ Sydney in a bathroom stall, or when he’s left there sitting in his boss’s office at the movie’s end, realizing that he’s been the one has been conned this whole time, where the comedy blends together with the drama, and Cooper’s acting transforms from something pretty damn good into something great.