"Character Actors" are those talented people who typically play unusual one-of-a-kind characters and in some cases these high caliber performances become "par for the course" or over looked by more serious or larger endeavors. This week on StrangeCultureBlog.com we take some time to highlight some personal favorite character performances from 2011.
Allison Janney consistently performs at a high level in character roles, and one of my favorite character actor performances of 2011 was her performance as Charlotte Phelan, the mother of the film's leads, Emma Stone's Skeeter Phalen.
For me, Allison Janney's best roles tend to be supporting a young female lead. I dedicated a blog-post in Allison Janney four years ago after similarly stellar roles as a crazy mom. In 2007 Allison Janney knocked it out of the park in two films. In Hairspray as the ultra-conservative Baltimore mom of Amanda Bynes in Hairspray. That same year, she played step-mom to Juno MacGruff (Ellen Page) in Juno.
Janney's knack her runs deep, and is even found in some of her first film roles in 1999 where she plays the reserved mother of Wes Bentley in American Beauty, or the the guidance counsel writing erotic fiction in 10 Things I Hate About You, as as the Kristen Dunst and Ellen Burstyn's neighbor in Drop Dead Gorgeous.
What makes Janney's role in The Help laudable is that her character in the film has a complicated moral character, and very few scenes to demonstrate this. As Charlotte Phellan her primary initial role in the film is to act as a foil to Skeeter's (Emma Stone's) uncharacteristic values, and as she demonstrates her own disapproval with her professional and social desires she also demonstrates a unique view of civil rights that falls in the middle of the film's spectrum of portrayals. Ultimately, Janney is given one of top scenes in the film, when Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) drives up to the Phelan house in a steamy and wild fashion. Here Janney shines among her young co-stars.