These are the one or two scene wonders or ensemble performers who really stand out. The films wouldn't be the same without them, but they sadly do not have a lot to do. They're the could-be heroes and villains of someone else's story that stole the spotlight for a brief moment in time. Here are the Best Performers in Limited Roles in 2012.
- Elizabeth Banks & John Michael Higgins, Pitch Perfect
- Toni Collette, Hitchcock
- Clea DuVall, Argo
- Tilda Swinton, Moonrise Kingdom
- Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook
- Sigourney Weaver, The Cabin in the Woods
6: Sheridan Smith, Hysteria
Sheridan Smith plays a wacky, over the top character in a bizarre little period piece about the invention of the vibrator. Smith's character is a former prostitute brought in as a housemaid by a strong advocate for the working poor in London. She sizzles in every brief moment she has onscreen, eliciting more laughs with a wink or a hand gesture than any of the bicycle pratfalls in the film. Smith is broad, but not unbelievable, and she carries her one big scene that leads the film into its final act.
5: Michael Kelly, Chronicle
If what I have posited many times before is true, then the teenage male version of Carrie needs its Margaret White figure. Michael Kelly plays accidental superheroe Andrew's father, an alcoholic living off of his dying wife's welfare. He is a terrible and frightening menace in the house. He is the unquestionable authority, abusing his son to get whatever he wants no matter the stakes for his child. Kelly is more of a threat than an actual presence onscreen, but his few big moments are the backbone of Andrew's character arc.
4: Alexander Ludwig, The Hunger Games
Alexander Ludwig plays Cato, a vicious contender for the 74th Annual Hunger Games crown who will seemingly stop at nothing to win. He is a spoiled brat with a brutal killer instinct until the toll of the game itself catches up with him. Ludwig's one big scene is one of the final moments of the film and it's his job to turn all of the combatants, no matter how vicious and cruel, into sympathetic figures. These are children trained to be murderers for sport and Ludwig plays that realization out in a very believable and moving way.
3: Jennifer Kumiyama, The Sessions
Jennifer Kumiyama creates a very important character in The Sessions. She is Carmen, a sexually active and lively young woman who just happens to be disabled. Carmen is everything that Mark O'Brien, the professional writer in the iron lung, wants to be. She's so full of life and social activity that her ability to attain happiness actually turns Mark's story into a deeply private affair. Kumiyama brings a whole lot of depth to what could easily have been a flat and thankless role.
2: Gina Montana, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Of all the untrained adult actors in Beasts of the Southern Wild, Gina Montana left the strongest impression on me. Her portrayal of the school teacher, Miss Bathsheba, literally sets the story in motion. She is the one who teaches Hushpuppy about the Aurochs who swallow weak children whole. She is the one who shows Hushpuppy how to take care of the town with folk medicine and how to grow her own food if there's another flood. Montana has a very expressive face that sells that perfect blend of horror and humor used to tell stories to young children and really elevates the early moments of the film.
1: Aubrey Plaza, Damsels in Distress
In Damsels in Distress, Aubrey Plaza plays a depressed young woman who always has a perfectly timed sarcastic barb to throw at everyone else. Typecasting aside, Plaza finds something unique to bring out in Depressed Debbie. She's not just a cruel joke. Her Depressed Debbie is clearly lost in the world, willing to try anything--even totally idiotic tap dancing therapy--to try to overcome her illness. Plaza brings out this beautiful sense of frustration that causes her cruelty and turns a rather tragic character into the most consistently funny performance in a strong ensemble comedy.
Those are what I call the best limited performances of 2012. What do you think? Sound off below.