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Which is better: subtle performances or bombastic performances?

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Which is better: subtle performances or bombastic performances?
Subtle performances
Bombastic performances
  • Marcus Snowden (The Artist Formerly Known as msnowden1)
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    Which type of acting performance do you prefer: subtle or bombastic?

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    kbfr12
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    I like good performances, and they don’t necessarily have to be one or the other.

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    Thatcher
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    It really depends. I prefer complex performances over one-note performances. It doesn’t depend on ‘bombasticness’ or subtlety.

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    KarlVillalobos
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    It depends on the actors… If I want to watch a bombastic performance I go watch Bette Davis and If I want to watch subtle I go watch Streep, Brando and Spacek.

    I prefer complexity.

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    Foolio
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    Impossible to choose! I may sound lame but the only sensible answer to your question is: depends on the performance and the context.

    Some actors excel at being subtle (Montgomery Clift, Ryan Gosling), some are better at being showy (Vivien Leigh), some pull off both remarkably well – for instance:

    Bette Davis in Baby Jane is no-holds-barred bombastic but incredibly nuanced, whereas Bette Davis in The Petrified Forest is slyly subtle but incredibly nuanced. That’s because the movies were different and therefore called for different acting. While Baby Jane was a juicier and showier role and thus “better”, such an over-the-top approach would never have worked for The Petrified Forest, or vice versa.

    Same for…

    subtle Philip Seymour Hoffman in Magnolia vs. showy PSH in The Talented Mr. Ripley;

    subtle Lauren Bacall in Dark Passage vs. showy Bacall in Murder on the Orient Express;

    subtle Meryl Streep in Kramer vs Kramer vs. showy Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins;

    subtle Marilyn Monroe in Don’t Bother to Knock vs. showy Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

    …and so on and so on.

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    AWDubay
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    depends on the movie …. Viola Davis couldn’t have been subtle in Fences it would have ruined it and if Eddie Redmayne had pulled a Denzel in The Theory of everything it wouldn’t have worked either.

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    distain
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    I like actors who make the right choices. If the right choice is to be subtle, then great.If the right choice is to be bombastic, then also great. Sometimes an actor can be giving a subtle performance for a role that really requires something bigger and louder. And other times, an actor can be giving a huge bombastic performance, when they’d be better off dialing it down a few notches. So you can screw up a performance by being too subtle, and also screw up a performance by being too bombastic.

    It’s entirely about context. You can’t know for certain till you see the performance and character, whether the actor is making the right choices.

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    BamaEd
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    I agree, it depends on the role and the performer. Sometimes you need the bombast and sometimes you need the subtle. Anthony Hopkins did both perfectly in Silence of the Lambs, while Jodie Foster stayed beautifully subtle. Yet, Foster had her big moments in The Accused and Nell. Christian Bale was a lot of bombast in The Fighter, but if you saw the footage of the real Dicky Ecklund in the credits, you know it was warranted.

    I wouldn’t want to see Shirley Maclaine subtly telling the nurses to give her daughter the shot, you need her freak out in the hospital.

    So, to me, this is an impossible question to answer, so I didn’t.

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    LangeWeaver2
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    I agree it’s absolutely about context, and both types of performances can be pulled off or miss the mark.  Both can be a lot of fun to watch.

    I voted for subtlety, though.  I just really enjoy being so absorbed watching someone’s performance who is pulling off brilliantly detailed nuances in vocal inflection, facial expression and body language.  That’s one of my favorite parts of watching movies.

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    Miles
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    I also didn’t vote. It’s all about character. It’s not much a decision of subtle vs. bombastic when acting, it’s about how the character would respond to the different situation. I think in general, I’m a fan of subtle acting because it provides nuance, but there can also be a lot of nuance found in bombast when done correctly.

    I also think bombastic characters need the quiet and subtle moments to really show who they are or risk becoming caricature, and subtle characters need loud and emotional moments to show contrast and expression, because people don’t hold everything in all the time.

    I prefer subtle performances personally but I don’t feel comfortable choosing which is better.

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