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A Prayer For Alessandro

by Jason Adams

There's a scene set at the three-quarter mark of Sebastián Lelio's film Disobedience (which I reviewed right here) that shatters me into a million jagged little pieces every single time I watch it. Alessandro Nivola's Orthodox character Dovid has just had a heated argument with his wife Esti (a fabulously good Rachel McAdams) in which she's admitted she loves Ronit (the also fabulously good Rachel Weisz), the daughter of the just deceased Rabbi who's returned home after running away to New York. Dovid is a spiritual leader himself, on track to replace the Rabbi, and he has endless duties to attend to this week of Shiva, or mourning. 

And so Dovid goes to meet with some mourners who've just come in to town for the eulogy service (the Hesped) who it turns out are the choir who will perform at the ceremony. And they sing. The film cuts to a wide-shot - Dovid standing with his back turned to us in the center of the room, surrounded by mourners in black, all facing him. As Nivola turns towards the camera, slowly it moves forward in on him and trains in on his face as the singers crescendo - Nivola keeps everything in this moment internalized; his face hardly moves. 

And its devastating. It's the sort of acting moment that doesn't tear it up in Oscar clips, but it's all the more powerful for its restraint - typical of Nivola's gorgeously low-key approach whenever he goes to bat; think back on his singing scene in Junebug as well. And it's why I'm going to spend this whole awards season shouting his name in the middle of any Best Supporting Actor conversations I come across. 

I keep reading that the Supporting Actor contest seems thin at the moment, before the Awards Contenders all roll down upon us from Toronto and the like - so who are you rooting for Supporting-Actor-wise out of the films we've already seen in 2018?

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Reader Comments (20)

I would love to see Alessandro Nivola get recognition. Brilliant and insightful performance.

I'm also gonna be shouting from the rooftops that Josh Hamilton should be getting Supporting Actor buzz for Eighth Grade.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMatt St.Clair

Alessandro is very good and I would be happy to see him get a nomination.

I am rooting Hugh Grant in Paddington 2. I'm not sure if I'll like another supporting actor performance more this year. He is generating quite a bit of career momentum right now, so maybe someday.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Topher Grace gives the best supporting male performance in BlacKkKlansman.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Oh, the singing scene in Junebug...

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAni di

I love Nivola here, but the actor I'm rooting for the most is Josh Hamilton. He so precisely plays the kind of dad who would raise a girl like that. He's the kind of person a girl like her turns into.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Nivola was the highlight of an otherwise dreadful film.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKelly Garrett

He's excellent in this along with the two Rachels. I rewatched this on Prime and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it more than I thought I did.

Glad to see Josh Hamilton and Hugh Grant being mentioned in the thread. Shoutouts to Cedric the Entertainer in First Reformed and Jessie Plemons in Game Night too.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJess

I am really rooting for a coattail nomination for Jonathan Pryce in THE WIFE. Sure, it's Glenn Close's showcase, but Pryce (and the script) did a pretty accurate depiction of the older entitled mansplainign gentleman who feels that HE'S the one who has been ill-treated, and has almost zero empathy for anyone else, including his own family members.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTravis C

I havent caught Disobedience yet. My top candidates are Alex Wolff in Hereditary and Steve Buscemi in Lean On Pete.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I REALLY have not seen that many 2018 films yet. Of the few I’ve seen Michael B Jordan (Black Panther) & Jesse Plemmons (Game Night) are the best in my mind.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterhuh

In what is too often the most boring category of them all, Nivola is somebody who would shine so bright as a nominee. Totally deserved, however unlikely. I mean, come on, there are co-leads and "i liked that movie!" nominations to make instead.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

Alex Wolff.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterScottC


September 14, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRon Cruz

He's great, but I am convinced Weisz gives the best performance of the movie. And, one more time, no awards are coming.

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I hesitate, because I haven’t seen everything yet, and sometimes I REALLY change my mind after actually seeing something.

Besides the excellent suggestions mentioned here, I’d add:
- Michael Greyeyes, “Woman Walks Ahead”
- Michael Shannon, “What They Had” (because I revel in every moment of Michael Shannon onscreen).

September 14, 2018 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Rooting for Nivola of course... And for Steve Buscemi ("THE DEATH OF STALIN").
And I got a good feeling about "GREEN BOOK" and reviews are coming: It seems some kind of acting showcase for both Ali and Mortensen - and one of them will benefit from category fraud since both are leads... In this case I guess I'll root for any of them (2 of my fav actors)

September 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEd

Disobedience cast a weird spell on me. I can’t define it. It was unexpected but I can’t stop thinking about it. I think Nivola’s performance here has been underrated mostly due to the incredibly strong work by the lead actresses who both are exceptional. But it is heartwrenching. It is honest internalized unexpected work by an actor who had been doing excellent work under the radar for what seems like forever.

This movie is not for everyone but when it clicks, boy does it click.

September 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTony T

Alex Wolff easily.
Then Ben Foster if he's going supporting.

September 15, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRod

Honestly, I'm wanting to gather a prayer circle for Amanda Seyfried to coattail on Hawke's inevitable nod for First Reformed. The category isn't the most certain, but it's certainly - thus far - one of the stronger supporting performances we've had. Surprised she managed to move me as much as she did, and build that woman from the inside out, while staying on the sidelines for Hawke's showcase. Low-key hoping her (and the film to an extent) goes well beyond Actor and Screenplay, but if anywhere, Seyfried should be in a bigger conversation.

September 16, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBlueVelvetUnderground

Alex Wolff was so good. I think he'll pick up a major critic's prize.

September 17, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

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