Exhibit A: Dan in Real Life. Some people will like it more than others, but almost everyone who sees it would have to agree that Steve Carell runs through the entire comedy acting spectrum. Slapstick, buffoonery, romance, sarcasm, farce, awkwardness, dramedy... it's all there. The movie is a remarkable showcase in what only appears to be an ensemble work; the other actors exist only to frame and support Carell's high-wire act.
I caught an advance screening 2 weeks ago. Thinking about it further, I can't say that I loved the movie, but it generated a lot of my appreciation. I don't want to talk too much about the plot -- most of the audience was unaware of the central premise (not revealed in the TV ads, thankfully), and probably enjoyed the surprise more.
Carell plays a widower and single parent who faces circumstances during a family reunion weekend that open the floodgates of emotion he'd kept closed for four years. The film allows us to share in his devastation and anguish. Oh, and it's funny.
As I said, the rest of the cast acts in a supporting capacity, but it was nice to see so many recognizable faces willing to take a backseat here. And I liked seeing Juliette Binoche doing comedy. Heck, I liked seeing Juliette Binoche. Where's she been?
Back to Carell. I've seen enough of his work now that I can say this: his performance here is the first to make me realize that he's a fully formed actor, and not just a comedic TV personality. I liked him a lot in Little Miss Sunshine, but part of me wondered if it was an anomaly. No more.
I suppose I'll evaluate his future projects based on how well they utilize his talents.