Best Supporting Characters of 2019

You know that famous quote about how there are no small parts? As we barrel deeper into Oscar season, it’s getting even easier to let the truly sublime minor characters from 2019 slip our minds. The goal of this list is to highlight the performances from the past year that sailed completely under the radar, the characters who had just an incredibly small amount of screentime but deserve recognition. As with most “Best Of” lists, this is subjective, so if anything it should inspire you to look at the movies you loved last year and the small performances that deserve a warm embrace.

Felix (Diesel La Torraca) in Little Monsters

Last year saw so many great child performances, from Julia Butters in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to Isabela Moner in Dora and the Lost City of Gold. But one role that sailed under the radar, mainly because the movie ended up on Hulu, was that of little Diesel La Torraca in the zombie comedy, Little Monsters. Director Abe Forsythe creates a film whose intent is to show kids being kids, shielded from the fear that zombies by their loving teacher Miss Caroline (Lupita Nyong’o). Tiny Felix is a bit of an outsider in spite of his cherubic appearance, mocked by his classmates for having a special diet and generally being allergic to everything. But is his unique interests that end up saving the day, especially his love of tractors! La Torraca has absolutely no guile and is so dang loveable that when he’s in danger the audience starts to panic. His performance showed the innocence of childhood, reflected in a performance that was authentic and not actorly. Screw zombies, dairy allergies are the true fear. 

Donny (Brandon Scott Jones) in Isn’t It Romantic?

Is the character of Donny a walking gay stereotype? Yes, and that’s the entire point of his character in Isn’t It Romantic? Donny is the simpering, lisping guy who lacks a job and always has a one-liner handy. At the same time, what actor Brandon Scott Jones does with the character is try to find the heart of what made that stereotype so engaging in every movie it appeared in. As he tries to help Rebel Wilson’s Natalie find her own inner beauty, Donny relates a story about finding his own self-worth that ends up transcending the trite characterization. There’s a relatable quality for the audience hearing Donnie’s tale of love and loss. If anything, Donny’s presence put the word “booch” into our lexicon, always the mark of a memorable character. 

George (Noah Galvin) and Alan (Austin Crute) in Booksmart

It might be cheating to use a space for two people but if you saw Booksmart than you know George and Alan are a package deal. Booksmart was full of amazingly colorful characters, like Billie Lourde’s Gigi, but George and Alan consistently steal the show. Starting with their declaration to the “fair townspeople” of their school that they’re doing Shakespeare in the Park…ing Lot, to George’s murder mystery party. George, specifically, is just as driven as Beanie Feldstein’s Molly which leads to all manner of hilarious comic banter between the two, like Molly’s exclamation of “why am I barren?” Everyone who attended high school knew the over-the-top theater kids and George and Alan were the perfect representation. Even better, when they’re all at graduation they’re the first ones to cheer when Molly and Jared (Skyler Gisondo) on-stage kiss. 

Ray Williams (Charlie Rowe) in Rocketman

So much of this has to do with Charlie Rowe’s acting in Rocketman which is adorable and hilarious. He’s the first person to take a chance on newcomer Elton John (Taron Egerton) and, much like Elton and his collaborator Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) is dazzled by the rise as much as they are. Ray is young and spunky, but he’s also charmed by being able to go to a party, get drunk and drive a celebrity’s car. He dances at random points throughout the movie and is generally just happy to be there. Rowe’s performance is infectious and though he’s only in the first half of the film he makes an impact. Ray is also the first one to notice that Elton’s relationship with John Reid (Richard Madden) is doomed to failure. He’s the only one who notices Reid’s very expensive painting is upside down, after all!

Arctic Combat Carl in Toy Story 4

I gotta give some love to Arctic Combat Carl, the last in a trio that meets up with Woody and Bo Peep (voiced by Tom Hanks and Annie Potts, respectively) in the latest Toy Story. The poor guy, clad like he’s going snowmobiling, just wants a high five from his comrades and is always left hanging. That is until the end when everyone’s favorite character, and a close contender for this list, Duke Kaboom (voiced by Keanu Reeves) finally gives him the high-five he’s been looking for.

Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni) in Ready or Not

Aunt Helene is a character who has been broken from the moment we meet her. When her family murders her new husband on their wedding day, Aunt Helene becomes hardened, committed to preserving her family’s legacy and the wealth they’ve accumulated. Nicky Guadagni’s performance is hilarious in its menace, sitting in a chair while new bridge Grace (Samara Weaving) takes pictures. Aunt Helene offers no smile, no warmth, just humorous judgement. She’s the true believer because she has to be and Guadagni goes for broke, particularly in the film’s final moments. Never underestimate the short girls and Aunt Helene proved that! 

Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan) in Knives Out

Who didn’t absolutely love every facial expression Noah Segan has in Knives Out? He’s not exactly the bumbling trooper who stumbles onto a murder mystery, but he’s certainly read and seen his fair share. What Rian Johnson does so skillfully in Knives Out is not just create an old-fashioned whodunit, but he adds a layer of self-awareness. Trooper Wagner takes on a level of meta-critique with his knowledge of author Harlan Thrombey’s (Christopher Plummer) books and the Danica McKellar movie, Deadly Surprise. He’s not just happy to be helping the case, he’s happy to be in the know with what, in any other context, would be useless knowledge. Every time he breaks into a smile and drops a title, the audience nods their heads, saying “One day my love of [insert obscure thing here] will solve a murder!” 

Tracy (Trace Lysette) in Hustlers

Hustlers is chock-full of side characters I wanted to include on this list, from Lizzo’s Liz to Mercedes Ruehl’s club mother, and let’s not forget Cardi B’s brash Diamond. But, in the end, I went with Trace Lysett’s Tracy. In a landscape where relationships with men are fraught with arguing, abandonment or prison, Tracy’s boyfriend at least is shown caring for her. The problem? He’s incredibly needy. As the group lays out after Tracy gets dropped off, most men can’t deal with dating a stripper because, at the end of the day, stripping is a job that doesn’t have any particular glamour or sex appeal for the women engaged in it. Tracy is left to navigate her relationship at her job, having to remind her perpetually sobbing boyfriend that she loves him. 

Crow Daddy (Zahn McClarnon) in Doctor Sleep

If I could write a treatise on the love I have for Rebecca Ferguson’s Rose the Hat, I would. But Rose would be nothing without her better half, Zahn McClarnon’s Crow Daddy. The murderous group known as the True Knot have their Near Dark meets Burning Man aesthetic down to a science, all living under the watchful eyes of Rose the Hat and the Crow, who embody the group’s sexy bohemian lifestyle. Where Rose the Hat is manipulation and taunting, Crow Daddy is methodical. He has his methods that are employed when all else fails. And where Rose the Hat starts to become obsessed with consuming young Abra (Kyliegh Curran), Crow Daddy always thinks of the group. More importantly, these two are the cool parents you want to hang out with, the filmic equivalent of Gomez and Morticia. 

Gary (Mike Francesa) in Uncut Gems

Uncut Gems is filled with loud, brash, colorful characters. Mike Francesa’s Gary is the overly friendly man who takes a shine to Howard Ratner’s (Adam Sandler) girlfriend Julia (Julia Fox). As Julia tries to make Howard’s career-changing bet in the film’s climax, Gary keeps popping up, mostly to flirt with the girl and invite her to his hotel room. What could have become a skeezy character in a landscape full of them proves untrue, as Gary is just a nice guy who appreciates a beautiful woman. He lets Julia hang out in his hotel room then gets her a limo to go back to the man she loves. 

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