What is there to say about Adam Driver that hasn’t already been said? The New Yorker called him the “Original Man.” GQ named him “Our Generation’s Greatest Yeller.” Both Vulture and Vice have launched investigative pieces on his towering height and its effect on his acting performances.
Plenty of critical praise and public scrutiny and fan adulation has been heaped on the Julliard grad who got his big break playing another Adam, Adam Sackler, on Girls just seven years ago. He’d probably hate it, judging by his self-deprecating attitude during in interviews (the ones he doesn’t storm out of, anyway) and movie promo tours, his relatively quiet life away from the cameras, and his insistence on focusing on the work, whether he’s playing a theatre director going through a brutal divorce in Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story or a dark space prince struggling with his very nature while commanding a galactic empire in Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker.
And yet, here we are, making him suffer through more flattering drivel in an attempt to qualify the inexplicable “it” factor Driver seems to possess, the immeasurable “thing” that’s helped him evolve from a gangly, wayward former Marine to the hottest (both figuratively and literally in the Tumblr blogs are to be believed) actor of his generation.
Because it’s (almost) Christmas, and at Christmas, you tell the truth.
And the truth is, Adam Driver really is that good. He’s been good, starting with his work on Lena Dunham’s millennial coming-of-age comedy in which he played a 20-something artist living in Brooklyn who had an on-off love affair with Dunham’s Hannah Horvath. Driver bared both oversized body and artistic soul in the role, playing an awkward, endearing reformed a**hole and former addict, transforming an unlikeable character into one of the more relatable figures on the show by series end.
He steered indie vehicles and supported big-budget passion projects in-between, switching from Martin Scorsese-directed religious epics to ensemble comedies, Coen brothers dramas, Soderbergh heists, and more Baumbach musings.
And somewhere in that time-frame — between the near-ending of Girls but before Spike Lee helped him snag an Oscar nomination for BlacKkKlansman — Driver was launched into our collective conscious with the arrival of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, playing a millennial Darth Vader successor with a troubled past and a dark future. It’s one of the characters that’s come to define his career. It’s certainly a character that’s defined the success of the rebooted Star Wars universe, and though the recognition and bankability of Driver now that he’s fronted a franchise guarantees him any role he desires, the actor has continued to push himself; to test his comfortable boundaries and eschew more action-fronted fare in favor of projects that help to establish him as an artistic chameleon.
This is where we find him now, earning nominations for his role in Baumbach’s Marriage Story, acclaim for his approach to Amazon’s CIA drama, The Report, and more fandom fawning as he hangs up his helmet in The Rise Of Skywalker.
Which is why, instead of celebrating Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza, or any other traditional, cultural holiday celebrations, we’re ringing in the season of Adam Driver. It’s that most wonderful time of year when we give jolly old Saint Nick the big middle finger in favor of another gift-giver, an actor who’s demonstrated incredible range and delivered nuanced performances to those of us who needed a reason to believe in the power of cinema again. Cheesy? Sure, but if we’re going to do this, we’re abandoning our self-respect at the door.
Whether his turn as Charlie, an egotistical theater genius struggling to manage fatherhood amidst an exhaustive legal battle with his actress ex-wife tugged on your heartstrings or not, Driver’s vulnerability and commitment to the role must at least earn him some respect. He manages to pull focus from co-stars Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, and Ray Liotta through wild meltdowns, lip-quivering breakdowns, restrained fury, clueless exasperation, and narcissistic ramblings. He’s neither a good nor bad husband, just an indifferent, self-centered one — an easily detestable figure who somehow manages to win you over with raw charm, sharp wit, and his love for his young son.
His onscreen emotive explosions have already been immortalized in meme-form. His heartbreaking rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s “Being Alive” is soul-shattering and understated and perhaps the best narrative use of the karaoke art form we’ve seen since Paul Giamatti and Andre Braugher did a rendition of “Try A Little Tenderness” in Duets.
In The Report, Driver inhabits another tortured man, Daniel J. Jones, a Senate staffer whose relentless pursuit of the truth puts him on a warpath with officials at the highest level of government. Unlike in Marriage Story, where he weaponizes the smaller, more silent moments of Charlie’s battle, The Report sees Driver play Jones as a fast-talking, obsessed pursuer of larger truths. He’s playing on the biggest stage and Driver’s performance reflects that, amounting to huge data dumps in monologue form and a building intensity that lends the film just enough drama to keep audiences interested.
And in The Rise Of Skywalker, perhaps one of the most highly-anticipated films of the year, Driver will return to add yet another layer to his complex villain. It’s near impossible to give a larger-than-life antagonist like Kylo Ren enough dimension to justify, or at least offer insight, into their indefensible behavior in a franchise verse like Star Wars and yet Driver takes us through his character’s moral labyrinth in ways that challenge our own tolerance for evil, our capacity for forgiveness, our hope in redemption.
If we were to evaluate the effect Adam Driver had on us this year versus cultural and religious icons like Kris Kringle or Baby Jesus, there’d be no contest as to who had the more impactful year, so why shouldn’t we dedicate this holiday season to recognizing a man who made high-waisted leather pants fashionable again? A man who altered the biological standard of beauty in our primate brains? A man who continues to produce the kind of on-screen shape-shifting and powerhouse performances we’ll still be discussing 10 and 20 years from now?
So yes, this is just another ode to Adam Driver, one to join the millions of think pieces already populating the internet, but it shall end with a cry for change. A cry that we finish out this year, this decade, by celebrating what some have labeled the greatest actor of a generation, a man affectionately known on fan blogs as a Dark Space Darcy, a tangible talent who makes any film he’s in more interesting?
Christmas comes every year, but Adam Driver season? That’s a holiday miracle that deserves to be recognized.