I’d be lying if I said I didn’t nod my head in agreement when I saw the article title “Ten Long Years Of Trying To Make Armie Hammer Happen” Buzfeed put out back in November about how it’s been a decade of attempts at turning Armie Hammer into the next A-list movie star. He’s the first – Hey Sam Worthington! What’s up, Jai Courtney?! – the full article itself felt like little more than a take down piece. I’ve never disliked Hammer in any particular performance, there’s no shame in admitting my enjoyment of both The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Lone Ranger. I just tend to find myself sitting around trying to figure out how an actor in today’s studio climate can star in these attempts at franchises that resulted in poor returns managed to go unscathed after so many public failures. After all it is an industry famous for chomping at the bits when there’s blood in the water.
After stepping back and taking smaller roles in both features like J. Edgar, Free Fire, and The Birth of a Nation, Call Me By Your Name might just be the performance that will cap off the type of career resuscitation he’s been after and get him out of the semi-actor jail he’s been placed in. It’s hard to deny that it’s his most talked about role since way back in 2010’s The Social Network.
Despite having an official setting of the 80s, Call Me By Your Name has an ethereal timelessness with its narrative of sexual awakenings. Elio Perlamn (Timothy Charlamet), is a seventeen year old off for the summer in Italy with his mother and father. As an expert in antiquities and archaeological studies, his father welcomes in an American doctoral student to help aide him in his research by the name of Oliver (Armie Hammer), a Twenty-something statuesque All-American type who has everyone fawning over him.
Elio is more or less none too pleased at the idea of having to share his bedroom with the new arrival for most of the summer, after all a boy that age needs his privacy if you know what I mean. So the two appear to get off on not such a great foot with one another, unsure how to navigate the awkward situation they find themselves in (more so Elio’s up and down emotional hormones than anything). As summer moves on, the two begin finding a bond and mutual respect of their wits and passions, slowly forming more than just a passing friendly connection leading to one the most breathtaking explorations on the topic of attraction and human sexuality to come out since perhaps last years Best Picture winner, Moonlight.
Relative newcomer Timothée Chalamet (Also appearing in another hotly discussed 2017 film, Lady Bird) displays an understated confusion in Elio that feels raw and truly inhabited. His choices in things as simple as frequently adjusting his posture, perhaps a signifier of a constant feeling of discomfort with his body, constantly trying to regain control of some natural order and placing things back where they should be, are irresistibly compelling. It’s one hell of a breakout performance for the young actor and his progression of allowing himself to stop holding his feelings back, embracing the passions and sorrows that come along with growing up; experiencing the primal desires and temptations of life we fear but can’t resist.
An honest and raw film about acceptance of not just self, but of the loved ones around you Call Me By Your Name carries a wonderful tranquility. Director Luca Guadagnino uses his lens to craft such a beautiful portrait of visually intoxicating moments along the way. From the warm sun drenched Italian summer vistas to the private, secluded hideaways our two leads share with each other, he finds warmth. His style of both framing and editing welcome the audience to be a fly of the wall of this incredibly emotional and intimate experience between Elio and Oliver. The film is less interested in structural storytelling as it is capturing moments and emotions, and doing so allows for a much deeper emotional connection than many might be expecting based on word of mouth. It casts aside simple dramatic pivot points that could have been easily played with to ramp up a false sense of conflict. No, it focuses instead on honesty within the moment between loving and caring characters. Most notably in a scene between Chalamet and his father, played by Michael Stuhlbarg, which might just be the most heartfelt scene I’ve seen all year – with Stuhlbard deserving of much more recognition than the actor appears to be receiving this awards season. Highly Recommended.
Tags: Armie Hammer, Call Me By Your Name, Luca Guadagnino, Michael Stuhlbarg, Timothée Chalamet