Jason Coleman’s Top Five Male & Female Performances Of 2017 (w/Bonus Actress Eliza Taylor Interview!)

For those who truly believe the performer in film is key, this is the year-end list for you.  Giving credit where it’s amply earned, I scoured many a good and bad flick to single out and construct a diverse and challenging list of outstanding actors whose work blew me away in 2017 – and it wasn’t easy.  With an abundance of great performances this year I had to omit folks based on everything from volume (EVERYONE is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is amazing!) to fairness (the amazing Sally Hawkins can only get one nod here!) to be able to accurately weed down and choose what I find to be work that goes above and beyond.  So big and small, lead or supporting below is a list of five exceptional men and women who exemplify what it is to create a character that kicks ass.  Passionate mutes, undercover cops, unknowing powerful losers, sassy elders, spirited strong strippers, sweet simpletons, aging criminals, unflinching tough guys, manic wackos and two sides of the same character all make up the men and women of my illustrious…TOP FIVE MALE & FEMALE PERFORMANCES OF 2017.  (And keep reading below for a cool bonus Q&A with my arresting #2 female choice Eliza Taylor for her layered lead work in Thumper – you’re welcome!)

Up First – The Ladies…of course!


1. Sally Hawkins – “The Shape Of Water”

In a stunning spectacular singular performance done without dialogue, Sally Hawkins all but steals the already amazing The Shape Of Water.  As Elisa, the human side of Guillermo del Toro’s lush love story, Hawkins is altogether inspiring and able to convey so much with so little.  (Her look to an angry hot-headed Michael Shannon is priceless!)  She may be quiet here, but her incredible performance speaks volumes.


2. Eliza Taylor  – “Thumper”

Proving never judge a book by its cover, Eliza Taylor’s complicated turn as a high school rebel, ailing mother and undercover cop all in one via the indie outing Thumper is a wonderfully layered piece of work.  Playing a character that is in turn playing a character is a tough feat to pull off, but Taylor is definitely up to the challenge – someone get this girl more movie work pronto.


3. Anne Hathaway – “Colossal”

In a film where unfortunately the male character detracted from the believability of the piece for me, it’s the female lead that saves the day.  As the down-on-her luck gal who finds she has some surprisingly mysterious super powers, Anne Hathaway provides just the right amount of schlub and strength to create a wacky woman who in our trying times is utterly relatable.  Not to mention that Hathaway finally silences all naysayers who question her on-screen abilities – she pulls off Colossal big time.


4. Cathy Moriarty  – “Patti Cake$”

While her screen time may be limited, Cathy Moriarty proves to be the hidden gem of Patti Cake$.  As a wise and wild granny to Danielle Macdonald’s white rapper, not only does she doll out wacky words of wisdom, but she’s also the memorably raspy-voiced beat to the band’s hit single.  (PB&J indeed!)  Showing that bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, Moriarty proves that even in small doses she still scores.


5. Wren Walker – “Peelers”

A tough call given the seemingly salacious subject matter, but Wren Walker’s baseball bat toting tough girl Blue Jean is way too delectable to dismiss.  As the rough-and-tumble owner of a strip bar that gets overrun by the infected and drooling undead, Blue Jean is a wonderful walking conundrum of sass (don’t call her BJ!), sex (the final scene is a must-see for many reasons!) and strength (is that police motorcycle?!) that puts to bed the notion that great work can only exist in a drama.  A tasty turn no matter the genre, even the walkers would take notice of Walker’s work.


The Guys Next!



1. Dash Mihok – “The Girl Who Invented Kissing

A true standout of 2017, there’s no other performance on pitch-perfect par with that of Dash Mihok’s sweet but simple character Victor in the underrated The Girl Who Invented Kissing.  Creating with complex physical and vocal attributes a man who has become mentally challenged after an accident (and also becomes infatuated with Suki Waterhouse’s free-spirited mystery girl!), Mihok firmly takes his place alongside some of the best turns in movie history.  (He gives Malkovich as Lennie in Of Mice And Men a run for his money!)  Fitting of both the actor and the layered and thoughtful person he portrays, things only look simple on the outside.


2. Leon Russom – “The Midnighters”

A character actor for well over three decades, ample everyman Leon Russom finally gets a role worthy of his soulful on-screen prowess and in The Midnighters it’s a sight to be seen.  Playing a retired safecracker out of prison that uses his ‘particular set of skills’ to save his son, Russom enlists equal parts emotion and expertise to create a complex man with serious back baggage who is forced to confront the demons in his past.  A role he was born to play, Russom is the right man for the job.


3. Vince Vaughn – “Brawl In Cell Block 99”

Not a huge fan of the wishy-washy stylings of Vince Vaughn, color me surprised by his utterly effective, non-nonsense turn as an unflinching tough guy in writer/director S. Craig Zahler’s follow up to his equally brutal Bone Tomahawk.  Playing seriously against type, but with total believability, Vaughn becomes the embodiment of emotionless physical force and it’s his wild work within that saves Brawl in Cell Block 99 from being another dull day behind bars.


4. Robert Pattinson – “Good Time”

Again, never met a Robert Pattinson role I liked – until now.  Losing all pretty boy pretense and diving headfirst into a questionable character with loose morals, Pattinson stuns as an out-of-control thug willing to do anything and everything to save his recently arrested brother.  Matching the style and kinetic energy of helmers the Safdie Brothers, Pattinson’s manic man goes from one bad decision to another with little time for truth or consequences – all his work should be this bold.


5. Cory Hardrict – “Destined”

Playing not one, but two very different sides of the same character coin, actor Cory Hardrict is the divine reason to watch Destined.  Equally effective as both a drug dealing heavy and a button-down ambitious architect, Hardrict relies on small subtle differences to help the audience differentiate between his two savory roles.  Eddie Murphy’s heavily made up Klump family take note – sometimes less just means more.


As always I try to provide something a little extra for fans and below is my ultimate Christmas present.  It’s a candid and detailed Q&A with #2 leading lady Eliza Taylor who takes us headfirst into her layered character work in the film Thumper.  (And yes, there are SPOILERS abound so see the film first fans!)  From the double duty of playing a character that is playing a character to her preparation in portraying multiple people, Taylor gives us the skinny on her impressive cinematic outing. Continuing the love of great work examination here’s favorite actress-to-watch…



How did the script for Thumper come to you and what was your reaction upon reading it – especially your layered lead character?

Eliza Taylor: It’s funny – I originally got the script about two and a half years ago and was in talks with Jordan (Ross, writer/director Thumper) when I was shooting maybe season two or three of my show (The 100).  And finally by the time we were going to do it a year later Jordan and I had become quite good friends and that’s when we really starting talking about every aspect of Meredith/Kat.  There’s not very many times you get to play a character who is playing a character and that part of it for me was very exciting – and daunting.  So I jumped right in with a wonderful acting coach who helped me to separate the two and play both which was challenging.

How do you think Meredith ended up doing the job she does – do you create a back-story for yourself?

ET: I did.  I also spoke to a lot of police officers who had gone undercover and had been put undercover when they were really young.  They had just come out of the Academy and looked young enough to go into these high schools and infiltrate and find out what was going on.  So that helped me to develop my own character story.  One thing that I really wanted to make slightly apparent was that she grew up in quite a well-to-do family as you can she when she’s with her dad.  So she grew up in a loving family, but my back-story was that she had a boyfriend from the wrong side of the tracks, she got caught up in drugs and helping these kids became her passion.

I love Kat’s look – the hair color and her sassy attempts at joining the group – can you talk a bit about how Meredith and you as the actress created her?

ET: It’s something again that Jordan and I went over.  He had the idea for the pink hair – in one of the original scripts we had an idea of the flashbacks of her getting to that point.  But this isn’t her first time doing it – it was maybe her second or third time going undercover in a different high school.  Meredith’s process is to make each character look different and the pink hair, though it would be very conspicuous for someone to notice in spying on them, it’s also not what a twenty-seven, twenty-eight year-old mom would look like.  Also you’ll notice that I wear a necklace.  When I’m Kat it’s spun around the wrong way and when I’m Meredith it’s the right way.  So it was just little things like that that I wanted to people to not even consciously pick up on, but to see the changes.

I love the moment of tenderness and attraction between Kat and Beaver in his kitchen – what led her to this moment and what ultimately stopped her?

ET: There’s a lot of things in the back story that I created that come into play – like growing up with this really sweet guy and we just got caught up in our own sh#t.  But I also think it’s just that Beaver’s doing the best he can looking after his little brother, she’s trying to look after her son, there’s just a connection.  And they’re both really struggling.  Meredith is really struggling and Beaver is struggling and she kind of gets lost in the moment where there’s no age difference, there’s no difference really at all – they’re just in the weeds.  It is a really sweet moment, but she has a moral compass and that’s why she doesn’t.

The shower scene with drug-dealing heavy Pablo Schreiber at the end is a real tense standoff.  I was curious to know that since Kat had been able to maneuver her way out of all previous uncomfortable situations, do you feel like she had a plan in motion at that point?

ET: I honestly think at that point it was fight or flight – getting Beaver out of there was her main concern.  She’s got a gun, she’s already lost her case and she has nothing else to lose except maybe saving these kids and so she’s reckless and has no plan at that point.

I also dig the scenes of turbulence between Meredith and her handler Ellen – what were they like to shoot especially working with the great Lena Headey?

ET: Oh my god – SO good!  She’s the sweetest, funniest human I think I’ve ever worked with, but then once she’s on camera she turns and she terrifies – she’s amazing.  She contributed so much; she changed a lot about her scenes catering to the reality of it.  I would be so happy to work with her again – she made me want to be a better actress.

At the end we’re left with an open feeling about how Meredith and her relationship to her work and son will play out – what direction do you feel she would go in past the flick?

ET: That’s something we really discussed and it is one of those endings where you’re kinda like, ‘Wait, wait, wait – more!’

But in a good way!

ET: Yeah – you want that.  But we had three alternate endings actually and we shot all of them.  Does she go back into the game?  Does she become a better mother?  Or does she stay the same mother and get out of the game?  My opinion watching it when I saw it on the big screen was she was probably just going to go back to working undercover – that’s the melancholy I got from the ending.

Me too! So now that I’ve seen you in Thumper I’m a big fan – what can I look forward to seeing you in next?

ET: Oh gosh – you’re guess is as good as mine!  I mean we’ve got episodes of The 100 coming up that will air in March.  But what I really love though is independent film such as this one.  I also do have a film coming out in December that’s a Netflix movie Christmas Inheritance where I get to be silly so that was cool.

Well congrats on creating one awesome piece of work – it’s what makes doing this job so worthwhile and I’m now watching everything you do!

ET: Thanks Jason!


So check out Eliza’s work in the fantastic Thumper


… and till next year keep those pitch perfect performances coming!


I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

1 Response to “Jason Coleman’s Top Five Male & Female Performances Of 2017 (w/Bonus Actress Eliza Taylor Interview!)”

  1. Brian White

    Another great list and interview here! Completely agree with you on Sally Hawkins! I now need to see Thumper. This MADE me want to see it!