The trailer for Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird (2017) dropped this evening and it’s just one of the four films Timothée Chalamet is featuring in this year. This boy’s star is rising and rising fast — not least of all because of early buzz for his role in Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name — and it’s easy to see why. Chalamet is the kind of actor that exudes presence despite being so young, and no matter the role or movie — no matter the mediocrity of other elements around him — he delivers.
It sounds ridiculous to say an actor’s “got it” in any possible sense because that’s just elusive at the best of times. But sometimes people like Chalamet push through an exceedingly crowded Hollywood scene with a fearlessness and sensibility that puts them a good distance past their peers.
I, like many, first became aware of Chalamet thanks to his season-long recurring role on Showtime’s Homeland. However, I must admit to not actually finishing that season when it aired. Now, my horrible track record with television shows aside, Homeland itself is rife with issues surrounding depictions of race and terrorism, but for the most part, Chalamet does his job exceptionally. I can only say this because I’ve recently revisited his episodes, and although I’m not done with the season, he really stole the show.
It’s even more evident when you compare that performance to something so completely different like Andrew Doz Palermo’s One & Two (2015). Homeland saw Chalamet as a cocky rich kid with a little edge, something bubbling underneath due to his nearly-presidential roots and all the baggage that comes along with that. One & Two brings out an entirely different side of him — much more internalised and thoughtful but no less filled with suppressed anger. There are particularly claustrophobic moments in One & Two that really showcase Chalamet’s acting. He keeps it in his expressive eyes, clenched jaw and stiff shoulders at times, but when the rage is let out in screams of anguish and desperation, you feel your heart break with his. And it’ll always surprise you.
Another of Chalamet’s claims to fame is playing opposite Matthew McConaughey in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (2014). As the younger version of Tom Cooper, Chalamet isn’t onscreen much at all. He kind of just acts as fodder for Mackenzie Foy’s Murph. Their relationship as children is probably not fraught but it certainly becomes so after their father (played by McConaughey) leaves on a mission. So he doesn’t play the most likeable person, but it’s a wonderful thing to have a Nolan film on your resume nevertheless.
Chalamet then bagged roles opposite Hollywood mainstays (even if I don’t personally care for some of them) in films like The Adderall Diaries (2015) and Love the Coopers (2015). What these movies have in common — along with honestly terrible fare like Men, Women & Children (2014) — is under-utilisation. There is no real way to tell if Chalamet is particularly good at acting — in the purest sense of the word — in these “roles” because he isn’t given enough material. It is clear to see that he gives them his all, but if you’re like me and would only see these movies because they’re in his filmography (I tend to do that), then you’re out of luck.
Arguably, his best film to date sans 2017 releases has to be Miss Stevens (2016). A little film that took me by surprise, it’s finally a meaty role for Chalamet to sink his teeth into. He goes from erratic to sarcastic; from cocky to nervous; from bombastic to sombre — it really feels like we’re watching a well-rounded character form onscreen. Even without any explicit backstory, you’re not left guessing too much, because a twitch of the mouth or a glint in his eye fills in some kind of blank. It might not be outwardly physical compared to something like The Adderall Diaries, but there is still a specific physicality that Chalamet embodies in the film with the juxtaposition of his bursts of energy and quieter scenes of pent-up frustration.
Not to mention he gets to have a killer monologue from Death of a Salesman, and knocked it cleanly out of the park:
Miss Stevens is the kind of movie Chalamet deserves, which makes his 2017 slate unbelievably exciting. I’m not lucky enough to be in countries that have screened some of his work already, but all the buzz surrounding Call Me By Your Name has me wired. I recently read the book in preparation for the film and it’s very easy to picture Chalamet as Elio, knowing what he’s capable of. He approaches his roles internally even if he’s usually charged to play excitable teenage boys. He also exhibits surprising, welcome depth in tackling more emotionally draining scenes.
Chalamet has more films lined up with auteurs and he’ll probably be able to keep working within this realm given his talents. (Although seriously… not a second time with Woody Allen, Timmy. He’s not worth it.) He has a knack for moving between genres, for embodying the loving and the mildly dangerous; the mischievous and the righteous. He’s played the coward several times, but Miss Stevens in particular points to a burgeoning bravery that could and should be tapped into. Maybe it’s too early to call it, but Chalamet is a star, or at the very least has the capacity to become one at an alarmingly fast rate. He’ll likely grace our screens regularly from now on, and I’m not mad about it.