Earlier in the month, we spotlighted some of our favorite performances of the year, and we’re not quite sure exactly where the line falls between loving a performance and loving a character. But the people (and non-people) on this list were real and memorable not just because the actors involved played them so well (though they did). Here, the combination of masterful acting, great writing, and sensitive direction gave us a sense that these were real people on the screen. What’s more, they were real people whom we wish we knew — even though, by the end of their films, in many ways we did know them. Our favorites are after the jump; add yours in the comments.
Matt Freehauf in Young Adult
Patton Oswalt, one of our most gifted stand-up comics, made an impressive “serious acting” debut in the great, tiny Big Fan a couple of years back; here, working with Diablo Cody’s finest screenplay to date, he does another seriously skillful turn. Matt Freehauf is the bullied high-school classmate of Charlize Theron’s Mavis Gary, who returns to her Minneapolis hometown to take back her high school boyfriend from his blissful domestic life. Matt, who was the recipient of a crippling beating while they were in high school, becomes her unlikely drinking buddy and her (mostly unsuccessful) voice of reason. His finely-tuned character becomes a balance to hers — both of them harbor serious chips on their shoulders, but he seems at least marginally more well-adjusted, if capable of a bit of self-pity from time to time. It’s not a character that reaches for obvious pathos, though; when he tells her, at a key moment, “Guys like me are born loving women like you,” it doesn’t feel like desperation or martyrdom. It feels like truth.