You hate seeing brilliant people suffer. And you especially hate suffering as you watch brilliant people suffer.
In 2015, we were treated to many inspired performances from some of our favorite movie actors (Cate Blanchett in “Carol” comes to mind; Leonardo DiCaprio just turned in one of his all-time greatest moments in “The Revenant”), but we also had to endure the sight of living legends who settled for subpar roles. Here are ten that still sting.
Viola Davis in “Blackhat”
Remember when we made Emmy- and Tony-winning actress Viola Davis play a doomed FBI agent in “Blackhat,” that $70 million Michael Mann movie about cyber security? We shouldn”t have done that. And to dump her character in favor of an all-too-familiar, all-too-torrid romance between Chris Hemsworth and Tang Wei? Shame on us.
Cloris Leachman in “The Wedding Ringer”
Kevin Hart and Josh Gad set a grandmother on fire in “The Wedding Ringer,” and that grandmother was Oscar winner and all-time Emmy champion Cloris Leachman. Is Leachman wacky enough to handle farcical antics? Certainly. But she”s cast in a stereotypically kooky role as Hart and Gad attempt to woo us with fratty broadness. I'd like to see Josh Gad handle the drama and heartbreak of “The Last Picture Show.”
Kristin Chenoweth in “The Boy Next Door”
For a thriller about a psychotic neighbor, “The Boy Next Door” is perfectly watchable. There”s just one catch: Broadway legend Kristin Chenoweth is reduced to a best friend role that gets her called “a dried-up c*nt” during one chilling sequence. This is how we treat the good witches of “Wicked” now?
Judy Greer in “Grandma”
“Grandma” is a dynamic movie for one reason: Lily Tomlin”s rad, cynical performance. So many supporting players get little to do, and one such character is Judy Greer as Tomlin”s melancholic ex. Though they have one or two lively confrontations, Greer doesn”t get to be insightful or multidimensional. The same can be said for Laverne Cox, who plays an old crony of Tomlin”s, and Marcia Gay Harden, who appears for two scenes as an aggressively unsympathetic daughter.
Helena Bonham Carter in “Cinderella”
Some say the role of the Fairy Godmother is critical to the story of “Cinderella,” but in Kenneth Branagh”s version, she”s only a gorgeous kook who shows up for three minutes to bestow magic. There”s no symbolism or meaning to her gesture, and thus Helena Bonham Carter – who is a dead ringer for Madeline Kahn in the godmother getup – gets to do nothing with the role except mug and chirp.
Ellen Burstyn in “The Age of Adaline”
“The Age of Adaline” may be the weirdest film of the year. An eternally youthful woman endures generations of unfulfilling relationships thanks to her age-freezing dilemma, and she eventually finds herself dating the son of a man she abandoned decades before. Stranger yet, Adaline (Blake Lively) has a daughter – and it”s Ellen Burstyn. Burstyn is genteel and understanding as one of the few who knows Adaline”s secret, but the role is awfully soft for a woman who once throttled our senses as the drugged-up grandmother in “Requiem for a Dream.”
Monica Bellucci in “Spectre”
Before “Spectre” arrived in theaters, we prayed that James Bond had a trick up his sleeve: We wanted the commanding and austere Monica Bellucci to play the Blofeld-esque villain, not Christoph Waltz, the more obvious choice. But we were disappointed (and I guess unsurprised) to find that Waltz was in his familiar villain mode while Bellucci only earned five minutes of screen time in a brief love scene. She”s stunning while we have her in the movie, but Bellucci's disposable role felt completely anachronistic. It's 2015 and we still have sultry, meaningless roles like Teri Hatcher”s in “Tomorrow Never Dies.”
Bill Murray in “Aloha”
“Aloha” is not just one of the longest and most boring movies of the year; it also gives Bill Murray nothing to do. As a billionaire land developer, Murray”s big scene comes during a casual dance with Emma Stone at a party. He doesn't boast his signature drollness or even add interest to the story. He”s just Bill Murray in an unimportant role in an overly expensive, under-rewarding movie. And you thought Emma Stone's casting was the only offensive part of this sprawling non-caper.
Connie Britton in “American Ultra”
Last year Connie Britton had nothing to do in “This is Where I Leave You,” a comedy so incompetent that even Tina Fey looked lost. This year she played a CIA agent in “American Ultra,” a dark comedy about stoner spies who get wrapped up in a diabolical plot. It”s unnerving to see Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart land roles very specific to their appeal while Britton seems like a random choice for her role. Tony Hale, the “Veep” Emmy winner, also gets the shaft in a bland supporting part.
Meryl Streep in “Suffragette”
We knew going in that Meryl Streep”s role in “Suffragette” would be brief and contained. We didn”t know it would be a two-minute appearance confined to a few lines in a speech. Though Streep”s presence is always welcome on the silver screen, she makes so little of an impression in “Suffragette” that you wonder why she bothered in the first place. It was fun to entertain the thought of “Suffragette” earning Streep a 20th Oscar nomination, but now we're sure she'll have to wait until next year.