Thursday, October 23, 2014

Carrie Coon's Having an Excellent Year

Actress Carrie Coon is far from a household name. But thanks to a pair of terrific performances - one in a major blockbuster - it seems like the spotlight has finally found her.

You'd be forgiven for not really recognizing her at first. With only a handful of television guest spots to her name before this year, Coon spent most of her time on the stage, particularly with Chicago's esteemed Steppenwolf Theatre Company. There, she starred in a number of acclaimed productions, but the game-changer was starring in the role of Honey in Steppenwolf's 2010 production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. That production earned raves, eventually transferring to Broadway two years later with the Steppenwolf cast intact. There, the play earned three Tony awards, with Coon also receiving a nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Play.

Now she's reaping the benefits of that exposure. On the big screen, Coon made a huge impact in this month's Gone Girl, despite her limited screentime. As Nick Dunne's (Ben Affleck) twin sister Margo, Coon is given some the film's most darkly humorous lines, and she delivers them with just the right level of cutting sarcasm and genuine affection. More importantly, though, she takes a character that's designed to be the "voice of reason" for the audience and turns her into a real human being, one who is as biased and unreliable for the audience as anyone else on-screen. She leaves a lasting impression, which is an even greater accomplishment considering everything else that happens in the film.

On the small screen, she played a critical role in HBO's sci-fi literary adaptation The Leftovers, based on Tom Perrotta's novel of the same name. The show revolves around the lives of the people of Mapleton, New York, one year after 2% of the world's population suddenly vanished without a trace. Coon plays Nora, a woman whose entire family - husband and two kids - were taken in what's dubbed the "Sudden Departure." Naturally, she brings a lot of pathos to her few scenes in most episodes, but when she's front-and-center in the first season's sixth episode, "Guest," she delivers a phenomenal performance. The episode explores Nora's near-suicidal coping with her loss, her job with "Departure-Related Occupations and Practices," and her attempts to come to terms with her new reality. And Coon is nothing short of remarkable, a perfect blend of wit, despair, and curiosity that perfectly represents how unmoored Nora is in her own life. "Guest" is, without a doubt, the show's best hour so far by a long shot, and so much of the credit belongs to Coon.

As for what's next, all that's listed on her IMDB page is the second season of The Leftovers, which should air sometime next year. But given the quality of these performances, she should be getting her pick of offers right about now. Go ahead and familiarize yourself with her talent; if there's any justice, she should be showing up in a lot more in the future.

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