Ranking ADAM DRIVER’s 10-best roles in honor of his birthday!

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Ahhhh… I almost missed Adam Driver‘s 38th birthday on Friday, November 19 if it weren’t for my photography-enthusiast husband pointing it out to me on Instagram. Apparently one of the photographers he follows on IG, Jason Belle, had wished him a happy birthday.

I’ve been crushing on this Indiana-native for some time now… it’s been a steady buildup for a few years but it kind of went into overdrive [no pun intended] after seeing Annette, specifically THIS shot…

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… which is quickly followed by rewatches of the Star Wars movies … I have a thing for dark, wavy, thick hair so when I first saw Kylo took his helmet off for the first time, I remember my heart skipping a beat 😍

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Adam DriverHow do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Actually no… it’ll be super long blog post if I go into that, ahah… but let me share just a few… I do love that he is a Midwestern boy… from Mishawaka, Indiana specifically (about 8 hours drive from where I live in Minneapolis suburbs… ehm) and clearly he’s still got that small-town charm given his upbringing.

I love how massive his stature is (he describe himself as a Sasquatch in the Peter Travers interview)… he’s easily around 6’3″ with strong postures and perfectly lean muscles… whoever has this idea for this striking Burberry commercial, God bless you!!

I love how he’s equally sexy and adorable in Mister Rogers sweater and in a dapper suit…

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I love his benevolence and philanthropic spirit … creating AITAF (Arts in the Armed Forces) after he had gotten out of the military (yet another reason I love him as very few actors served in the military)… and how passionate he is whenever he gets a chance to talk about it…

I love his deep, masculine voice and the way he can articulate his thoughts carefully… I was watching a bazillion interviews of him on YouTube and it shows so much of his character as a thoughtful and deep thinker, there’s no nonsense about him, not one iota of pretentiousness that you find in so many actors… it’s as if he doesn’t care about impressing anyone and THAT is sexy to me.

I love his incredibly luscious mane… I think even Ridley Scott realizes that, I love his long, beautiful tresses he’s sporting on the two movies he directed, The Last Duel and House of Gucci (review coming next week!)

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But what I love most about him is his phenomenal acting skills… I mean he truly is the most exciting actor working today, someone I would rush to see in whatever movies he’s done. Heck, I took a half day off from work for a morning screening of House of Gucci last Tuesday… and it was so worth it!

So in honor of this ridiculously-talented, Julliard-trained thespian… I’m going to rank 10 of his roles I’ve seen so far, and let me preface that by saying I haven’t seen Silence, This Is Where I Leave You and The Meyerowitz Stories. This ranking is going from my least to top favorite … and to clarify, I’m NOT ranking the movie, but his performance in it, as his performance is often the BEST thing about a movie and makes watching even so-so movie worthwhile. So here goes…

10. JUDE – Hungry Hearts

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The only reason I wanted to see this film is Adam and honestly, I don’t think I could have finished watching it the whole way through if it weren’t for him. The only lighthearted and humorous moment is the meet-cute in a Chinese restaurant bathroom, but the rest of the film was so insufferable and sorry, I simply cannot stand his co-star (Italian actress Alba Rohrwacher). Adam’s performance makes it worthwhile however, which is a testament that a charismatic actor can make people endure even a dreadful film.

9. CLYDE – Logan Lucky

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I saw this ages ago when he wasn’t really on my radar, but I still remember his adorkable performance. I wish he’d do more comedic roles as his deadpan humor is to die for! As Channing Tatum’s brother who’s an Iraq war veteran and an amputee, the role likely resonated with him given his military background. I don’t really like the sound of Southern accents but I could listen to Adam’s West Virginian twang for hours!

8. TOBY – The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

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What a crazy roller coaster ride this movie was… but then again, it’s by Terry Gilliam, which has been stuck in development hell for nearly two decades. I love Adam’s no-holds-barred performance that displays his comedic chops as well as his sexy leading man prowess. There are moments where former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko relentlessly seduces him to make love to her and he continues to elude her… it makes me think of Adam’s penchant of playing the reluctant-hero that he portrays so brilliantly throughout his career.

Adam is always magnetic in every role and he’s so fun to watch in all the insane adventures his character goes through. I love the sumptuous costumes and production design and he looks magnificent in the ornate 17th century fashion… reason enough to watch this movie.

7. KYLO REN – Star Wars Episode VII, VIII, IX

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Ahhh… the wonderfully meme-able Kylo Ren… I didn’t fully appreciate Adam’s performance initially, I actually thought Kylo is hilarious in his inability to control his rage… I remember laughing out loud watching him bash his helmet to shred that even the storm troopers shudder just even hearing him in another room.

But by the second SW movie, I was in awe of what Adam’s done with the role, a tragic character born out of two heroes who’s lured by the dark side… Watching him portray Kylo’s internal struggles is mesmerizing as unlike his grandpa, the mysterious Darth Vader, Kylo’s human side is palpable and while he’s powerful, he doesn’t quite have it all together. But of course he also looks fantastic in those long black coat showcasing his tall, slender frame… plus, there’s the luscious wavy hair [fan self]

6. JACQUES – The Last Duel

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I nearly gasped when I saw his character’s name as Jacques is the name of the male lead in my script Hearts Want, and at some point I had written him as a Frenchman. Jacques is described as a handsome nobleman and there are moments where women of nobility look upon him as if he were some 14th century French heartthrob… well he certainly looks the part.

No stranger to playing baddies, Jacques is the quintessential villain in that he doesn’t even think of his terrible deeds as something bad… and Jacques remains defiant right up to his final violent death. I mentioned that his despicable character threatens to ‘cure’ me out of my infatuation of him… it kind of did briefly which again is a testament to his astute performance, but of course it doesn’t last long.

5. FLIP – BlacKkKlansman

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It’s the role that nabbed him his first Oscars nomination in a supporting role, along with a Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA and Independent Spirit noms. It’s definitely a juicy role for any actor and Adam didn’t squander that opportunity. As a Jewish undercover cop named Flip Zimmerman who infiltrates a Colorado chapter of the KKK, it’s a role that requires a delicate balance of comedic and drama that he pulls off with aplomb. There’s an earnest-ness about Flip and a stealthy quality about him that makes him a good spy.

4. MAURIZIO – House of Gucci

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I saw this earlier this week so it’s still fresh in my mind. From a French knight to a member of Italian fashion royalty… Adam is convincing in ANY role. Even the House of Gucci‘s costume designer Janty Yates said he’s a shoe-in as Maurizio Gucci as he’s ‘tall and elegant.’ But it takes more than the physicality for an actor to fully embody the role. The way Adam carries himself as the heir of the Gucci fortune exudes money and power, and a hint of ruthless ambition seething underneath that transforms him from a mild-mannered, passive guy to a callous douchebag.

The movie isn’t perfect but his performance is still a highlight for me…he commands your attention right from the first moment he appears on screen… with the camera panning slowly as he’s sitting in a cafe near his office in Rome with his perfectly tailored suits and oversized Aviators. If people hadn’t been convinced of his sex symbol status by now, I think this role surely cements it.

3. CHARLIE – Marriage Story

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I saw this at the Twin Cities Film Fest and though I haven’t had a chance to fully review it, I included it in my top 10 films of 2019. I was rooting for Noah Baumbach to win Best Screenplay at the Oscars as his shrewdly-written script feels so natural and incredibly immersive. Adam’s Charlie is far from being the perfect husband and he’s got rage issues that he displays in some of the explosive scenes in the movie… some of the fight scenes with Scarlett Johansson are visceral and tough to watch, which is a testament to both of their acting prowess. I’m glad both were nominated for acting Oscars that year.

Of course one of the highlights is him singing Sondheim’s Being Alive... an utterly mesmerizing scene that resonates so emotionally. Having seen some interviews where Adam displays such aversion to singing (you could even see him panicking when he’s asked to sing), it’s incredible that he often sings in his films… further proof that he often lost himself in a role.

2. PATERSON – Paterson

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I love that Adam seeks out roles based on how he feels about the director and he clearly loves and understands Jim Jarmusch. Paterson is not a flashy role but a beautiful, soulful one that showcases Adam’s ability to act with just his facial expressions. The scenes where his poetry are written across the screen as he is doing a mundane job like driving a bus day in and day out have such a hypnotic quality. It’s not a film that concerns itself with endless action to keep people engaged and it’s such a wonderful antidote to mainstream Hollywood movies filled with random chaos. In my brief review in my Hidden Gem post, this film is a sweet celebration of life’s small joys and its oddity… I can’t wait to see this again soon.

1. HENRY – Annette

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An absolute tour de force performance that had me transfixed from start to finish. Even from the moment he appears singing with the Sparks brothers and the cast in the opening sequence, Adam was so committed in this surreal, bizarre musical. As a provocative stand-up comedian Henry McHenry, this is perhaps the most feral performance out of him. It’s also a very physical role where he uses his entire body to portray Henry’s simian characteristic… aptly known on stage as “the Ape of God.” I have to admit I was both entranced and appalled by his character, which is obviously by design.

Annette is not for everyone but if one can get past the weirdness of this sung-through musical, I love how it highlights the force of nature that is Adam Driver and I’m forever grateful. His fearless performance is truly one for the ages.


This appreciation post comes a day late… but hey, instead of having an #AdamDriverDay …. might as well make it an #AdamDriverWeekend as we can enjoy his spectacular work all weekend long!

Let me leave you with this sublime, heartbreaking performance in Marriage Story… easily my favorite scene in the film where all his emotions comes through as he’s singing it… it speaks volumes more than all his monologues and incessant yelling. Simply masterful.


So in celebration of the one and only ADAM DRIVER … what’s YOUR favorite role(s) you’ve seen so far?

Hidden Gems: Adam Driver

This post is a few days late as I had planned on posting this on the last day of July, but oh well, work and life tends to get in the way.

This Hidden Gems series was spearheaded by Mettel Ray, and you can read more info about it here. I’m not sure I’ll be able to participate again this month, so this is actually July’s edition as I watched the movies all last month. It’s definitely a great series to explore an actor’s filmography and try to find the hidden gems from the list.

 

 

WHY ADAM DRIVER?

I’ve been a longtime admirer of Driver as I’ve always enjoyed everything he’s in, even in small parts. Yet there are still a bunch of movies I haven’t seen that I should catch up on. He’s worked with a ton of interesting directors and has a diverse and eclectic mix of films in his resume that only continue to get more interesting as he’s become more and more sought after by various filmmakers. Well, given I’ll be seeing ANNETTE tomorrow night, he’s been on my mind even more!

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STATISTICS

Instead of using Letterboxd, I’m using IMDb for stats. There are 48 credits listed under his profile, but I excluded TV series, shorts, video games, etc. as well as films that have not been released yet and that left roughly 27 films. That is quite a feat for this Juilliard grad who just got his big break in feature films only 10 years ago in Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar in a small supporting role.

The first time I saw him was Inside Llewyn Davis in 2013, since then I’ve seen Driver in these films: Midnight Special, While We’re Young, Logan Lucky, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker, BlacKkKlansman, Marriage Story, and The Report.

For the Hidden Gems challenge, I chose four off-the-beaten-path movies:

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)

What If (2013)

Paterson (2016)

Tracks (2013)

Here are my picks of hidden gems:

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018)

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I knew this is going to be a strange movie given it’s by Terry Gilliam and the project has been stuck in development hell for ages! There’s even a documentary about Gilliam’s first attempt to bring this movie to life called Lost in La Mancha. The story is loosely based on the 1605/1615 novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. Adam Driver plays a cynical but supposedly genius film director who’s shooting a commercial in Spain and stumbles upon a DVD of a student film he made there a decade ago about Don Quixote.

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Unbeknownst to him, that little film changed this small Spanish village forever, especially one shoemaker with delusions of grandeur thinking he is actually Don Quixote (Jonathan Pryce).

Like most Gilliam’s movies, it’s definitely not for everyone but I quite enjoyed all the surreal, bizarre and plain weird-ness of it all. Driver is definitely the main reason to see this for me, he’s got such a magnetic presence throughout this mad adventure, being practically put through the wringer in a pretty physical role. He’s able to balance the drama and comedy the role requires and pulls it off with aplomb.

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I particularly enjoy the scenes at the cruel oligarch Alexei Miiskin’s mansion where the craziest stuff happens. At times it’s hard to discern which part is in real and which are just in the characters’ heads, which can be amusing as well as frustrating. The visuals are wonderful though, so I highly recommend this for fans of Driver or those who can appreciate Gilliams’ imaginative and peculiar vision.

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3.5/5 Reels


Paterson (2016)

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I’ve actually been wanting to see this even long before I was crushing hard on Driver. The idea of a low-key bus driver who secretly writes poetry immediately appeals to me. Described as a quiet observation of the triumphs and defeats of daily life, along with the poetry evident in its smallest details, the film delivers exactly that… and it’s mesmerizing.

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Paterson wakes up every morning next to his wife in their small, modest home in Paterson, New Jersey, has his cereal breakfast and goes to work as a bus driver. It’s a regimented life but the routine is charming and captivating, not at all tedious.

I love how director Jim Jarmusch incorporates his own poetry in the film, as well as those by William Carlos Williams and Ron Padgett, and makes the words come alive. There’s something so poetic in the simplicity of the lives depicted here. Paterson thinks of poetry all the time, mainly while he’s driving the bus and observing his passengers day in and day out.

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I was also fascinated by his artistic wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) and his adorable English bulldog Marvin. There’s such beauty in contemplation, quietness and serenity, a sweet celebration of life’s small joys and even its oddity. Apparently Jarmusch intended Paterson to be an antidote to the modern action film and it’s truly a welcome respite.

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4.5/5 stars


Tracks (2013)

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I love adventure road movies like this one, and it’s especially fascinating as it’s based on a true story. An adaptation of Robyn Davidson‘s memoir of the same name, its film development began even before lead actress Mia Wasikowska was even born, with Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman considering the project. I’m glad Mia ends up doing this film as she perfectly embodies the role in such an authentic way.

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The movie chronicles Robyn’s nine-month journey on camels across the Australian desert in 1977. She sets out from Alice Springs, trekking across 1,700 miles of Western Australia desert to reach the Indian ocean. Driver portrays National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan who documents her journey. He isn’t in the movie very much but his character is integral in the story and he’s totally believable in the role.

The relationship between Robyn and Rick isn’t exactly romantic and at times she’s standoffish towards him, which is understandable considering her fiercely independent nature. At times Rick can be rather off-putting and perhaps even intrusive in the way he tries to cover Robyn’s story. 

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I highly recommend this movie for those looking for a quietly mesmerizing, soulful movie to take a break from the usual Hollywood offerings. Directed by John Curran, the visuals of the Australian dessert is absolutely breathtaking but it also shows the harsh and brutal climate. It’s inspiring to see anyone, let alone a young woman, accomplish what Robyn did, which made me curious to check out her book.

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3.5/5 Reels


Final Thoughts: 

I’m really glad I was able to found 3 gems out of just the 4 films I saw. I really wanted to see Hungry Hearts but that one is a bit harder to find, but hopefully I can see that soon. What If is actually ok but despite its intriguing premise and charming performances, I find the ending rather clichéd and predictable. Driver isn’t in it very much anyway, so I wish I had picked a different movie. 

As for this Hidden Gem challenge, I’m glad I’m able to participate at least once this year, now I’m trying to think who else would make a good topic/subject for future series.


 

Have you seen any of these Adam Driver movie(s)? Let me know what you think! 

Johnny Depp on the set of The Rum Diary

Photos courtesy of David Ische/Caitlin Weber

Photos courtesy of David Ische/Caitlin Weber

Special thanks for Caitlin & David for letting me post their pictures. They were lucky enough to get a glimpse of Aaron Eckhart and Johnny Depp shooting a scene at El Yunque National Rainforest near San Juan, Puerto Rico this past March. After playing opposite Christian Bale, a.k.a Batman in Public Enemies, Depp is co-starring with another Gotham resident ‘Harvey Dent.’ (Sorry I couldn’t resist!)

Based on a novel by Hunter S. Thompson with the same name, Depp plays an American journalist named Paul Kemp, which is loosely based on the author’s own life journey. Kemp moves from New York to the Caribbean with the hope of finding adventure, but instead finds himself tangled in love, jealousy, and violence, amongst his alcoholic American peers who staff the run-down newspaper. Lots of alcohol (rum) involved I’m assuming, hence the title.

Set in the 1950s, this is the second Thompson’s book-to-film adaptation for Depp. The first one was Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas in 1998, where he also played a journalist desperately seeking for the ‘American dream’ with the help of drugs and alcohol hidden in their convertible. Looks like this is a fitting vehicle for Depp who’s known to gravitate towards ‘lost soul’ kind of characters. Eckhart, hot off the massively popular Batman sequel, is a also a great actor with skills and charisma. This is a much more promising cast than the previously rumored Benicio del Toro + Josh Hartnett duo. Nothing against del Toro, but Hartnett just isn’t in Depp’s league.

In any case, Depp is definitely one of the busiest actors working today. He just wrapped Alice in Wonderland as The Mad Hatter (which would mark the seventh time he works with director Tim Burton), and is slated to do The Man Who Killed Don Quixote next. Awesome!