What Went Right With… Paul Dano?

A caricature of Paul Dano by What Went Wrong Or Right With...?

Paul Dano is one of the best up-and-coming actors today, in fact he’s arguably one of the best actors of his generation. That’s not to say that Dano has found huge success, in fact these days being underrated unfortunately goes hand in hand with being the most talented at your craft.

Dano’s acting is very subtle, his style which is like an intense version of John Cazale relies on slight variations in voice, expression, and even gait, rather than exaggerated or over-the-top performances. But having said that, this type of style doesn’t make any of Paul Dano’s roles any less impressive, quite the opposite. Amidst the rest of the cast, Dano usually shines through and his understated style oxymoronically attracts the most attention. In Taking Lives for instance, Dano’s extremely short appearance was the best part of the film. Paul convincingly played a budding serial killer in the ’80s and in all honesty, after his impressive and intriguing opener, the rest of the movie was disappointing.

Paul Dano has given some great performances in films such as 12 Years A Slave playing the slave owner’s assistant, and he was particularly brilliant in Prisoners as the intellectually disabled and awkward Alex Jones. Even in a lacklustre film like Knight And Day, Dano was still someone who stood out even with the likes of Tom Cruise on screen. And that’s another proof of Paul’s talent; he can hold his own against Hollywood stalwarts such as Cruise and even Daniel Day-Lewis. Speaking of Tinseltown mainstays, Dano was fantastic in the biopic Love & Mercy, so much so that I’d rather he’d been covered in latex makeup and play the older version of Brian Wilson instead of John Cusack.

Similar to his filmography of subdued performances, Paul Dano seems to have a knack for picking low-budget, independent, or generally small films rather than huge blockbusters. Aside from Cowboys And Aliens, he’s played parts in small but satisfying films such as Little Miss Sunshine and maybe because of this, he hasn’t really stood out and been recognised by the masses as the huge talent he is.

Paul Dano is very refreshing in a business which is increasingly being filled with mediocre, talentless hacks. It’s strange that a sector of entertainment which is centred around believable and convincing portrayals would be so littered with bad actors, but with people like Paul Dano there’s still hope for Hollywood.

The Dan.

4 replies »

  1. Paul Dano is a fantastic hidden talent who doesn’t really get the recognition he deserves honestly. Like you said his performances in “Blood” and “Mercy” really showcase a sophisticated and methodical approach to his style. In both films he brilliantly portrays a fragile mind torn on the edge between trying to do the right thing and becoming an insane eccentric, a very hard thing to do RIGHT in acting.

    Really the only other acting efforts that have been as good of a showcase for up and coming talent are in films like “Brooklyn,” where both Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen both gave their characters depth and subtle honesty. Even in that case their efforts were somewhat recognized as Ronan was nominated for best actress at most Awards ceremonies, unlike many of Dano’s efforts unfortunately.

    Was this just a fluke? Who knows. But hopefully both the film industry and the general public will start to recognize these more subtle and honest pieces of acting and film making in the future. I want to see more of these smaller, multi-cultural efforts be recognized as being an popular alternative to more mainstream films and acting performances.

  2. He was great in Okja too, the latest film from Bong Joon-ho (Dir. of Memories of Murder, The Host, Snowpiercer).

    It’s on Netflix now

    • I haven’t watched Okja yet. Swiss Army Man was disappointing, both Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano gave decent performances but the plot was sometimes nonsensical – if Dano was semi-stalking the woman from the bus, and he was near her house, why did he think he was stranded on an island? The whole premise was ruined by the ending in my opinion, I’d rather watch Weekend At Bernie’s if I want to see a dead dude being flung about.

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