Small Roles Big Performances: Stephen Graham & Stacy Edwards

Thanks to Dave Whiddon aka Daveackackattack for his excellent contribution to the blogathon. Visit the main blogathon post to see the full list of participants by clicking the banner above.

Stephen Graham in This Is England

Stephen Graham’s big break came in Guy Ritchie’s gritty, gangster movie Snatch. The British actor’s tough guy exterior landed him supporting roles in Public Enemies as Baby Face Nelson and on Boardwalk Empire as Al Capone but nowhere was he better than as Combo in Shane Meadows’s semi-autobiographical This Is England.

It’s the story of Shaun (Thomas Turgoose), a shy, 12 year old boy, growing up in England under Margaret Thatcher’s rule in ’84. His father having been killed in the Falklands War he is raised by his doting mother Cynthia. Bullied at school Shaun feels alienated from the other kids. He soon befriends a group of skinheads who initiate him into their group.

(These skinheads aren’t the neo-Nazi, white power skinheads that you know today. See the Skinhead wiki page.) His mother is not too sure about the group at first. They dress him up in typical skinhead garb (shaved head, Dr. Martens, suspenders, button-down shirt, rolled up jeans) much to her dismay but they do protect him from some bullies at school so his she is grateful for that. Everything is going good until Combo, an older skin from the group, comes home from prison. He enters the screen with the ferocity of a rabid pit bull.

Charismatic but volatile … he’s the kind of dangerous guy who you just never know when he might turn on you. Combo soon makes a derogatory remark about the Falklands War and young Shaun takes a swing at him defending his father who died for that war. Impressed at Shaun’s fearlessness Combo takes him under his wing. Unfortunately Combo introduces Shaun to his racist side which leads Shaun to take part in what is known as Paki bashing. A bit later.

Combo feels it’s time to introduce Shaun to his friends aligned with the white-only nationalist National Front party. In reality Combo’s a lonely and insecure man covered by his tough guy exterior. Later on in an intimate scene we see Combo as he breaks down in front of a girl, whom he has misplaced feelings for, who rejects him coldly. Scorned by the girl he felt for he lets loose his rage on a friend of the group. Shaun, a witness to Combo’s actions, must decide for himself if this is the path he wants to go down. Stephen Graham skillfully shows a sympathetic side to what would normally be a one dimensional character. His explosive performance is electric, tense and oddly touching. Artfully directed, perfectly scored and realistically acted this small film about a boy growing up in Thatcher’s England struck a chord with me even though I myself grew up in America in the 80’s. This is one of my very favorite films.

I highly recommend anyone who is planning on seeing the movie skipping the fan made montage clip below. Ludovico Einaudi’s “Fuori Dal Mondo” from the film plays over the montage. Enjoy.

Stacy Edwards in In The Company of Men

You might remember Stacy Edwards as Michael Cera’s big breasted mom in one of the opening scenes in Superbad. Sadly she probably was seen by more people for that than for her role in Neil Labute’s film adaptation of his scathing take on white, male dominated, corporate America in In the Company of Men. In the film Stacy plays a deaf woman who’s just another worker in a secretarial pool in some nameless, average, everyday company.

The story starts when two middle management types, Chad (Aaron Eckhart in a breakout role) and Howard (Matt Malloy), are temporarily assigned to her branch office for six weeks. Chad devises a ploy with Howard to get back at all the women who have ever wronged them while they are there. Chad decides to pick out an average woman whom they will simultaneously ask out, date, shower with attention and then dump unceremoniously when their business there is over. Howard reluctantly goes along after some convincing by Chad. Chad soon picks out Christine after learning she is deaf thinking she’ll more than welcome the attention from the two men. As the plan progresses things fall apart when one of the men falls for the genuinely sweet Christine.

What happens from here I won’t say but it’s devastatingly heart wrenching to watch. Chad is a clearly a sociopath and Howard is just another schlep following the herd so it’s Stacy’s performance (she’s not deaf in real life) that gives the film its weight and real emotional punch. It’s hard enough to pull off a character with a hearing impairment let alone making you really feel like you know what she’s going through.

The film was considered controversial because of the absolute brutality of the misogynistic dialogue and plot. In the Company of Men was even named to Premiere Magazine’s “The 25 Most Dangerous Movies Ever Made”. It’s one of those films that, if you can get past the low budget indie feel of it, you won’t shake easily thanks in part to Stacy Edwards’ heartbreaking performance. Highly recommended but not for the faint of heart. You may not like it but you won’t be able to ignore it.

Small Roles … Big Performances Blogathon

Thoughts on either one of these performances? Well let’s hear it!

18 thoughts on “Small Roles Big Performances: Stephen Graham & Stacy Edwards

  1. I have yet to see The Company of Men, but Stephen Graham is such an inspired choice. He actually makes my ballot for that performance. I consider his performance a fuller supporting role, which is probably why I didn’t think of him when considering my entry for this blog-a-thon, but I just LOVE what he does with this character. The shades of emotion he layers here are so real, so raw and so explosive.

    1. Honestly Andrew I couldn’t come up with any short-short, big performance roles that weren’t cameos (Jack Nicholson in Broadcast News), award winning performances (Beatrice Straight in Network), well known movies (Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross) or actors that went on to be well known (Kathy Bates in Men Don’t Leave). Oh well. They’ll have to do.

  2. I remember hearing about This is England,but i never got that interested.Stehens performance from the montage looks solid, so i will try to see it at some point

    I will have to give A company of Men a look also

  3. jackdeth72

    Hi, Dave and company:

    Excellent choices!

    Stephen Graham surprises in every role that’s come his way. Great catch on ‘This Is England’, which I kind of liken to Russell Crowe’s first outing in ‘Romper Stomper’.

    ‘In the Company of Men’ caught a lot of people flat footed. Superb casting all the way around. Though even more so with Stacy Edwards’ Christine as Aaron Eckhart plays another ‘Superb Louse’.

    1. Hey, have you ever seen Ryan Gosling in The Believer? His blistering performance deserves mention along with Crowe and Graham.

      Eckhart is maybe the most dispicable ‘superb louse’ ever.

  4. I haven’t seen In The Company Of Men yet but I couldn’t agree more on Stephen Graham. This was an actor and performance that I also considered. Fabulous choice Dave.

  5. Glad you finally got round to it my man. Funny you mention another that I considered choosing. Considine was superb in that film but you have done well in Stephen Graham. I’m a big fan of his.

  6. He yMark I have a recommendation for you. A small indie film called Corndog Man. The only person you’d recognize is Noble Willingham from Good Morning Vietnam.It’s set in the south but it has a lot in common with Dead Man’s Shoes. It’s more of a comedy at least up until the end. If you can’t find it I have it on dvd. The less you know going in the better.

  7. Great choices here Dave! I haven’t seen either film but your write up convinced me that I should give both a watch. The Company of Men sounds particularly intriguing, glad you chose to highlight a man and woman for this blogathon. Thanks so much!!

    1. Doh! The title should say In the Company of Men. I left an ‘in’ out. Dang. Anyway it was fun to do, thanks for coming up with the idea Ruth. I tried to come up with some relatively unknowns in somewhat unknown movies. If you ever get around to seeing those movies let me know what you think.BTW In the Company of Men was made for $25,000.

      I was also going to pick Kathy Baker in Clean and Sober but I felt she was too well known with 4 Emmy wins for Picket Fences.

      My favorite pick was Noah Taylor by beingnormajean in Submarine. Been watching Noah Taylor since he was a young’un doing Australian pics like The Year My Voice Broke and Flirting with a young Nicole Kidman, Thandie Newton and Naomi Watts. Even though he was in the Oscar nominated Shine you still don’t know his name.

      I would have liked to have seen more poeple get into the spirit of the blog with more obscure actors in smaller movies. Purefoy and Marsden are perfect examples. It was really cool to see the likes of Johnny Simmons, Thelma Ritter and Anthony Mackie. Well done.

      1. I’ve fixed the title Dave, sorry I should’ve caught that too. Hey thanks for taking part, your picks are excellent!

        Wow, only $25 grand?? That’s amazing!

        I’ve seen Noah Taylor’s name mentioned a few times in this blogathon, I should check out one of his films now! He’s also in SHINE? I really need to see that one soon.

        Glad you like Becky and my picks of Purefoy and Marsden. I think cinephiles know who they are, but average moviegoers do not.

        1. In Shine Noah Taylor plays the younger David Helfgott the pianist for about half the movie but of course Geoffery Rush is the show.

          In looking at Marsden’s TV resume I see he was in Saved by the Bell: The New Class, The Nanny, Blossom (aka A Very ‘Special’ Blossom), Party of Five, Touched by an Angel and Ally McBeal. As a manly man such as myself it’s safe to say that I’ve never seen nor heard of such programs. LOL. So he’s mostly been off my radar as you can imagine.

          “I think cinephiles know who they are, but average moviegoers do not.” Your dead on about that. That’s what I loved about the idea for the blog. It gave me some movies and actors to check out that I normally wouldn’t have.

          I hate to bring it up but I noticed that there was a very well known, award winning actor (let’s just call the actor “John Doe” for now) mentioned in one of the blogs. Unfortunately a certain, say anal retentive director took great lengths to keep “John Doe” out of the opening credits and all publicity thus adding to the shock value when he actually shows up on screen. Even though it’s a very popular movie and a lot people know about it… it’s a major spoiler a giveaway to those who haven’t seen it. My gosh it’s like breaking one of the Cardinal Sins! Oh the humanity! 😉

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