Monday, October 1, 2012

Small Roles, Big Performances: Johnny Simmons

This post is part of Ruth's "Small Roles, Big Performances" in which participants are asked to feature an actor who has given a big and memorable performance in a small role.

Ruth gave everyone a month to pick the actor and the role, to possibly re-watch the films, and then finally to write a post on it. Of course, since it's me, I waffled up to the very last minute about which actor/performance to talk about. So it was not until last night I actually picked someone and by that time I really didn't have time to re-watch the film, etc.

With that said, I want to begin by asking a question: Do you know who Johnny Simmons is? If you answered no, then you'll probably be in the majority. In any case, he's a young up-and-comer actor who has been working since 2006 and has only really appeared in a handful of Hollywood films and never as the lead. Most recently, he currently plays the character "Brad" in Stephen Chbosky's delightful The Perks of Being a Wallflower where not shockingly (to me) he makes the most of his very little screentime and dialogue. Many more people might know him as "Young Neil" in one of my favorite films from a couple years ago Scott Pilgrim vs. the World where he again did good work as part of a talented and young ensemble. He also appeared in The Conspirator as the little seen, but narratively important character John Surratt. As you can see, he is definitely living up to the whole "small roles, big performances" ideal.

But the role I would like to briefly talk about for this blogathon is the first of his I had seen which is that of Ryan Brewer in the film The Greatest. The film revolves around a girl (Carey Mulligan) who gets tangled up in the lives of one family who is grieving the recent death of their eldest boy (Aaron Johnson) after she tells them that she is carrying his baby. Simmons plays the younger brother of the deceased sibling whose shadow he still has to live under even after death. For me, Simmons impressed me by infusing his character a sense of loss and grieving that felt more real to me than any of the other characters. This, of course, is saying a lot since along with Mulligan, Simmons had to also share screens with veteran actors Susan Sarandon and Pierce Brosman who played his distraught parents.

One scene in particular stood out in the film and it was when Ryan finally tells his support group how he felt about his brother's death. It's the emotional climax in the film for me wherein the thread of his character's substance abuse, self-loathing, strained relationship with his parents, and guilt regarding his brother's death are all elegantly pulled together in one affective speech. Of course screenwriter (and director) Shana Feste should get some credit for writing the words, but Simmons really does the heavy lifting by delivering them in such a raw and honest way.

Overall, Johnny Simmons delivers a poignant and sincere performance that to this day I was glad to have called out back in the summer of 2010 as one of the best performances of the year so far. I'm quite looking forward to following his career as it grows and hopefully flourishes.


  1. Good writeup. I'll have to see if i can find this one(I'm hoping the film is god overall?).

  2. I haven't heard of this film, and it sounds very good. I'm adding it to my list. Great post!

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