Today I’m bringing back Movie Monday to feature an actor I’ve come to admire greatly — he’s not yet 25, and already he’s been awarded and nominated for numerous awards for his performances in indie and blockbuster films alike. In interviews you’ll see he’s passionate about what he does, he’s aware of what’s important and going on outside the Hollywood celebrity bubble, and he’s often, quite frankly, endearingly awkward — even a little shy.
A few weeks ago, it was announced that Timothée (which, as fans know, he has people pronounce “Timothy,” since he doesn’t “want to be completely unrelatable“) would be joining the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Leo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep and many more in a dystopian satire called Don’t Look Up. This announcement came on the heels of the very disappointing news that the hotly anticipated remake of Dune (starring Timothée) would be delayed another year (thanks COVID). The French Dispatch — a Wes Anderson film Timothée will be featured in alongside another star-studded ensemble — has also been delayed, as has the Bob Dylan biopic he was supposed to headline.
So, what’s a girl to do?
Watch every single one of his other movies, of course — and then rank his performances for this blog post.
We’ll start at the bottom.
15. Young Sam in Worst Friends (2014)
In this lackluster indie movie about two dudes who are basically only “friends” as adults because they were as kids, Timothée appears in all of like, two scenes: the opening and the closing. (If he showed up anywhere else, it clearly was not very memorable.) Although this wasn’t his first-released movie, I think he was at his youngest during filming (I believe he’s supposed to be an 8th grader in the movie), but honestly his screen time is so short it’s hard to tell what acting skills he did or didn’t have. I guess he plays the bespectacled introvert well-enough, but the acting of the guy who plays the adult version of his character is so bad, and the story so pointless, this movie deserves to be ranked last.
14. Danny Vance in Men, Women & Children (2014)
I think I actually disliked this movie the most, but it’s not at the bottom of my list in terms of Timothée’s performance, because A) he has a few more scenes, and B) he does a decently good job of playing the douche-y football player Danny Vance. Timothée’s real-life high school classmate, Ansel Elgort, takes center stage with Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, and a few other names/faces you might recognize, but it just seemed like everything was a bit of a caricature. Plus, the narrative skills of Emma Thompson are wasted on a flat script that’s meant to be funny, which kind of makes it worse. Basically, I wouldn’t recommend it.
13. Young Tom Cooper in Interstellar (2014)
You can’t go wrong with a Christopher Nolan film (Dark Knight, Inception, Tenet), but we are ranking performances here, not plotlines, soundtracks or cinematography. Timothée plays the younger version of Matthew McConaughey’s son, played by Casey Affleck as an adult. To be honest, I didn’t even remember Timothée was in it until recently, which is probably because the role was so small (and, as all his fans know by now, this was surprisingly upsetting to him). In short, his performance was fine, but not anything memorable. Still, I highly recommend you watch this movie if you haven’t already.
12. Private Philippe De Jardin in Hostiles (2017)
As my husband will tell you, I have a somewhat inexplicable aversion to Westerns (maybe because of the old ones?), but of course, I had to watch Hostiles for Timothée (spoiler alert: his character dies like a half hour in). It’s a good movie (Christian Bale has some serious chops, you can’t deny), but Timothée does have a pretty tiny role. He plays the timid but kind French expat really well — from the time he’s chosen for an arduous journey across the plains to his painful (but predictable) death. But I do have one critique: While his French was impeccable (his dad is French, and they spent his summers growing up in France), when Timothée would speak English in the movie, he didn’t always have the Frenchest accent. I probably wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t already watched a bunch of movies and dozens of interviews with him, but I noticed nonetheless.
11. Charlie Cooper in Love, The Coopers (2015)
I don’t generally like Christmas movies, but I actually enjoyed this one (except for the voice over, which was terrible and unnecessary). While it does rely on the hackneyed tropes and stereotypes of a dysfunctional family and a Christmas dinner gone wrong, I still laughed out loud more than once, and had no problem sticking it out to the end. Timothée plays a dorky, moody teen disgruntled by his parents’ divorce, who gets his first kiss with a Jewish girl at a mall — it’s not pretty, but it’s hilarious. He even puts on some classic “Timmy T” dance moves at the end, which his young female fans will probably appreciate.
10. Teenage Stephen Elliott in The Adderall Diaries (2015)
This movie did not do well in theaters, but I can tell how much effort Timothée put into it. He plays the teenage version of James Franco’s character, Stephen Elliott, an Adderall-addicted writer whose world comes crashing down when everyone learns his best-selling memoir might not be entirely true. For instance, his dad’s not dead, and according to his best childhood friend, he has “a convenient way of remembering things.”
Timothée only has like, two lines in this movie, but he has a number of slow-mo scenes that illustrate how Franco’s Elliott initially remembers his childhood, as well as how he later remembers it (or how his father remembers it). The fact that Timothée is able to put on such a convincing and emotionally charged performance with essentially no words and not a ton of screen time is impressive to me, and it kept me engaged in the story. However, the movie wraps up a little too neatly at the end, and I’m still not sure exactly what parts of it are based on a true story — I just know the real Stephen Elliott didn’t like it.
9. Gatsby Welles in A Rainy Day in New York (2019)
There are a lot of reasons to rank the movie lower than this — I wouldn’t recommend it — but I have to give Timothée credit for the moments he kept me watching. I had never seen a Woody Allen movie before this, and if I had, maybe I would have been prepared for this seriously lame production (which, by the way, came out on iTunes just last week, a year after it was supposed to have a theatrical release, thanks to #MeToo accusations leveled against Allen, as well as his defense of Harvey Weinstein, but that’s another conversation).
The biggest con was probably the style of acting, which I have no doubt was a result of the directing, having seen the main actors (Timothée, Selena Gomez, Elle Fanning, Jude Law, Diego Luna) do much better work on earlier projects. About 10 minutes in, it struck me that I felt like I was watching a play, which doesn’t sound inherently bad, but that style usually doesn’t translate to the screen, and in this case came off as over-acting. Ashleigh (Fanning) was just an idiot, and both she and Gatsby (Timothée) were not particularly likeable. That said, I did laugh out loud when Gatsby made a joke about the escort he brought to a party, and Timothée did make the character seem a lot more real (with less play-acting) in his conversation with his mother near the end. This was also a movie in which he got to play piano, which is always nice, though his singing is still bad (in an endearing way, at least!).
Long story short, I can see why one reviewer called it “a dated and unnecessary story,” while complimenting the actors (it wasn’t their fault, after all). So, don’t watch it unless you just want to see TC wander around New York for 90 minutes (I’d understand).
8. Kyle Scheible in Lady Bird (2017)
Timothée’s first movie with director Greta Gerwig and actress-turned-bestie Saoirse Ronan, this one got a lot of hype. Frankly, I didn’t like it as a whole, despite my love for both aforementioned actors. I thought it was boring and not nearly as relatable as people made it out to be. But. Once again, Timothée does a great job playing a jerk, the “cool,” contradictory, conspiracy-spinning Kyle, whom Lady Bird falls for after realizing her previous boyfriend is gay. So, Timothée made this movie tolerable, and showed his versatility as an actor, because he is not like that in real life (as far as anyone can tell — I, of course, have never met him).
7. Billy Mitman in Miss Stevens (2016)
While this one obviously had a lower budget than some of the previously mentioned movies, and it wasn’t a terribly original story, I actually really enjoyed it. I mean, I laughed, and I almost cried (almost), which is usually a good sign. Timothée plays a high school student with bad grades but good acting skills. He joins two other kids on a weekend trip to a drama competition with their teacher, Miss Stevens, on whom he’s been crushing for some time.
Fans who have already seen Miss Stevens will tell you the most iconic scene is when Timothée performs Biff’s final “monologue” from Death of a Salesman, a play that seems to be simultaneously well loved and much hated by the literary community IRL (or, by any high school student forced to read it). It actually made me go and read the play afterward, and having his performance layered on top of that scene while I was reading it was pretty awesome.
Of course, there’s also the charming and cheeky “don’t be sad” scene, which you can watch here.
6. Zac in One & Two (2015)
Although this sort of sci-fi thriller didn’t do well commercially, I think it really highlights Timothée’s abilities as an actor. He plays the son of an Amish-like couple and older brother to Eva, played by Kiernan Shipka (if you’re wondering where she went, she now stars in Sabrina on Netflix). The siblings essentially just have the ability to teleport, which the father forbids because he thinks it’s connected to their mother’s seizures. The rules of their powers and the back story of their family history are a bit too vague, but the relationships are strong, thanks to the actors. The narrative is slow and certainly favors the sister, but if you aren’t moved by Timothée’s expressions of the brother’s grief and anger in this movie, I can’t help you.
5. Daniel Middleton in Hot Summer Nights (2017)
I didn’t expect this one to rank as high as it does (it’s really tied with One & Two and Miss Stevens), and I honestly don’t know why it stuck with me so much. This is the IMDb synopsis: “In the summer of 1991, a sheltered teenage boy comes of age during a wild summer he spends in Cape Cod getting rich from selling pot to gangsters, falling in love for the first time, partying and eventually realizing that he is in over his head.” While the story may not seem altogether realistic or relatable, the director (who was born in 1992) said it was actually loosely based on real people he knew, and contextualized with footage from a storm that actually ravaged Cape Cod in August of 1991.
But we’re getting bogged down in the details. The fact that Timothée somehow was able to make the story feel relatable and real as his character transitioned from a culture-shocked nob to a legend rolling in dough — and back down, of course, to a disgraced man on the run — is a testament to his performance (and my explanation for the high ranking of this movie).
4. Hal/King Henry V in The King (2019)
No lie, Timothée is a skinny dude who often looks younger than he is on camera, but he really pulled off his royal role in this Netflix hit. The fact that he was even afforded the opportunity to embody such a commanding presence surprised even him (I think this is the interview where he talks about that), but there’s no doubt he did the story justice. Like in Hostiles, Timothée had to adopt an accent not his own to play the king, and there’s at least one instance where his British English sounded a liiiittle American, but it’s super super minor, and I mean, he just rocks in this movie. He plays the transition from drunken I-don’t-wanna-be-a-royal punk to strategically smart and badass yet compassionate leader like I bet no one else could. And when Lily Rose Depp as puts him in his place at the end as his bride-to-be, Catherine? Epic.
3. Theodore “Laurie” Laurence in Little Women (2019)
Laurieeee! What a charming character played by an equally charming human being. I actually never read Little Women in school (or watched any of the earlier film versions), so I rushed to read it before this movie came out last year, and I’m glad I did. It prepared me for the total weirdness of Laurie going from obsessed with Jo to (spoiler alert!) marrying Amy, although to be honest, Timothée played that transition much gentler than it went in the book. That character development — in any movie — is so key, and while he has a lot more screen time to make it happen in Little Women than he does in other movies, that also means he had more opportunities to falter in his portrayal, and he didn’t. Instead, his depiction of a multi-dimensional Laurie makes the experience of the story and his role in it so much more immersive.
But hey, I’ll be honest: I’m a sucker for romances, and that ache in his voice when he gets rejected — ugh! My heart!
2. Elio Perlman in Call Me By Your Name (2017)
Speaking of being a sucker for romance, that’s straight-up what this one is, though I’m still a bit conflicted about it. See, my second, third and fourth rankings in this list are really a tie in terms of Timothée’s performances, because I think he delivers each character equally well. And while there are movies in this list that I liked better than this one, there’s a reason this is the one that launched him into the limelight. There’s not doubt about it — this movie is beautifully shot (in sequence!) in Northern Italy, and Timothée delivers an emotional performance as the precocious 17-year-old son of a professor of Greek something or other, opposite Armie Hammer, who plays a 24-year-old visiting scholar. The (sexual) relationship itself is the biggest conflict for me, particularly because of the age and positional difference between the two people — call me a prude, but as a young teacher of high school students, it strikes me as highly inappropriate. (It should go without saying that seven years between a teen and a twenty-something is different than between people in their 30s or 60s.) That said, it’s hard not to sympathize with Elio because he plays his role so well, and that’s what we’re here to gauge, right? Most of us have been (or still are) a young person struggling with identity and ethics, and that’s the main aspect of this movie that resonated with me. That’s why this movie ranks so high.
Also, he plays guitar and piano and speaks French and Italian in this movie. I mean, come on!
1. Nic Sheff in Beautiful Boy (2018)
This movie is far and away my favorite of Timothée’s — narratively and thematically, as well as in terms of his performance. This is also the movie that kicked off my effort to watch his entire catalogue. Again, it comes down to transitions and emotion. He plays the real life drug addict and best-selling author of Tweak, which details almost two years of his path to recovery in near-real time. The movie is actually named after the memoir written by his father, David Sheff (played by Steve Carell) and it supposedly favors that account, though I can clearly see the influence of both books. In any case, the main thing I recall from the movie is just that it seemed like I was feeling everything Nic was feeling while Timothée was portraying him. “Moving” isn’t even sufficient to describe his incredible acting. I don’t want to try and analyze it for you, just go watch the movie! (I saw it on Amazon Prime, but you can probably get it elsewhere, too.)
Timothée Chalamet is a damn good actor who’s already been in a bunch of great movies. Now, you might think it doesn’t take a lot of skill for a 20 year old to play a high school student, but that could just be the cynic in you repeating what parents and teachers and middle-aged people like to say. Yes, he’s played several characters caught up in familiar teenage problems: sibling conflict and male responsibility in Interstellar and One & Two; first love in Love, The Coopers, Miss Stevens and Call Me By Your Name (although each of these are VERY different movies, and that motif is probably oversimplified); variations on the “cool” kid in Lady Bird and Men, Women & Children; the drug addicted youth in The Adderall Diaries, Hot Summer Nights and Beautiful Boy. But, and this is key: he manages to bring something totally different and 100 percent believable to each role, and that, I say, is talent.
The aforementioned titles are the only ones out at the moment, but I am greatly looking forward to Dune and The French Dispatch, both of which I expect will rank high when added to this list. In the meantime, please enjoy one more sketch, and one of my favorite interviews with Timothée on The Graham Norton Show, from a few years ago.