For Your Consideration–Best Supporting Actor–Charlie Day
Film: Horrible Bosses
Director: Seth Gordon
Screenplay: Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, and Jonathan Goldstein
Realistic Oscar Chances: None
Oscar Scene: Stabbing Kevin Spacey with the EpiPen
Move over Melissa McCarthy, because the best comedic performance of the year by a landslide was Charlie Day in Seth Gordon’s Horrible Bosses. Mind you, I had never heard of Charlie Day before I had watched the film, and had never really bothered to watch any episodes of the popular series, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, so I was going in completely unaware of the uncontrolled fits of laughter I was about to receive by this comedic genius. In Horrible Bosses, Charlie Day plays Dale Arbus, a dental assistant who is an unfortunate (or fortunate if you agree with the choice of all time sexiest woman in the world) victim of on-the-job sexual harassment from his dentist boss, Dr. Julia Harris, played with such sexually volatile glee by Jennifer Aniston. After his boss uses duplicitous methods that implicate Dale in a false sexual involvement with her as leverage if ever he were to suggest she was sexually taking advantage of him, Dale finds himself stuck in hole he cannot easily climb out of. Julia blackmails him into having sex with her, or else she is going to tell his new fiance about a false affair, and Dale sees no solution in sight. His only source of hope comes from a suggestion from his good buddy, Kurt (played with dark wit by Jason Sudeikis), that Dale and their other friend, Nick (Jason Bateman), should take matters into their own hands to rid themselves of the evil entities that are their bosses and find a way to — for lack of a better term — kill them. And so this premise begins a series of unforgettable laughs and moments that make Charlie Day shine into a potential mainstream comic star.
What makes Charlie Day rise above any other comedic performance I have seen all year is the fact that his humor derives from his innocent naivety. Dale always tries to act sensible and rational, but such outlandish events push him to the brink of madness, and his outbursts catch you off-guard, but make you laugh so hard because you can completely relate to the frustration he feels over the trepidation of attempting to murder his boss, even if she is a crazy you-know-what. The moment that draws the biggest laughs for me, and is the scene ACCA members should take note of when casting their votes for best supporting actor, is when Charlie Day’s character stabs Kevin Spacey with the EpiPen. Spacey, who plays one of the evil bosses, Dave, begins to have an allergic attack outside of his home, and Dave rushes to save him, completely unaware he is one of three bosses the trio is trying to kill. The ironic humor is if Dale only knew his allergic victim was Dave, he would have realized not to save him, but Day’s innocent and moralistic portrayal of Dave just cannot help himself watch someone die right in front of him. The biggest laughs come when the camera cuts to a point-of-view shot of Nick and Kurt watching nearby, where they think Dale is stabbing Spacey to death instead of trying to save him with the EpiPen. Day’s innocence and infantile behavior is stretched out even further to brilliance when Day accidentally gets cocaine blown right in his face after he clumsily drops the box of drugs on the floor of a home the trio break into. Dale’s switch from a moderately calm and sensible individual to a high-out-of-his-mind dude who is frantic and talks faster than lightspeed is a hysterical transition that only an expert in comedy could successfully make convincing. Charlie Day does this with aplomb, and more. His rationality and calm demeanor are what makes the audience latch on to his character in identification, but the events that his friends have dragged him into amps up his paranoia and turns him into a justifiably unhinged person, who breaks out into screaming, into song, and into our hearts with a lovably batty performance.
I hope ACCA voters are reading and listening, and remembering that what made Horrible Bosses into one of the most unlikely successes of 2011 was the sheer gravitational force of comedic power that is Charlie Day. There is no question about it — Charlie Day made this film. He turned what could have been a completely convoluted and incredibly dark plot into something you could not keep your eyes away from unless they were closed howling in laughter at Charlie’s antics. This performance did not rely on toilet humor, getting beat up constantly, or being so outrageous to the point of stupidity. It succeeded because of Charlie Day’s ability to balance the innocent, average man who gets caught up in a crazy situation, and the consequential nuttiness that comes from such involvement. We do not laugh at Charlie Day in this film, we laugh because of him and the reminder that he could easily be any of us just trying to do good in this world when our friends raise the stakes and pour a storm of insanity over our comfortable, innocent lives. Charlie Day not only made my “day” after watching this film, he made my year, and elevated Horrible Bosses to the best comedy of 2011. Readers, the power is left in your voting hands, but I implore you to review all that I have said, and take into great consideration that Charlie Day deserves a best supporting acting nod for his breakout role in Horrible Bosses.