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Top 10: Best Performances In Kevin Smith Films

Throughout the filmography of Kevin Smith, his work has been littered with underrated performances. In honor of his most recent outing “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot,” which we reviewed last week, we’re going to be looking at some of the acting turns that most made his dialogue soar throughout the years. Smith has always been known as a writer first, so these instances are some of the top instances of his scripts meeting the perfect actor or actress.

Below you will see ten of the best performances in Smith’s movies. Honorable Mentions go to Ben Affleck in “Jersey Girl” and Michael Parks in “Tusk,” both of whom appear on the following list for other work, as well as Kerry Bishé for “Red State” and Seth Rogen in “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.” They just missed the cut. Plus, a special citation to Smith himself, who has perfectly played Silent Bob since the start, from his facial expressions to his unexpected monologues.

Justin Long in “Tusk” (2014)
dir: Kevin Smith

Consider the challenge that Kevin Smith presented to Justin Long. Not only would “Tusk” be a mix of comedy and drama for Long, but he’d be spending much of the third act buried in walrus makeup. His commitment to an absolutely crazy premise is one of the reasons why the film manages to work. Monster movies rarely have the actor in the monster costume end up the most captivating element, but that’s the case here with Long.

Jeff Anderson in “Clerks” (1994)
dir: Kevin Smith

The acting in “Clerks” is naturalistic, yet not the first thing people think of when they think of Smith’s debut work. However, Jeff Anderson is the one in the film who really makes the script sing. Whether he’s insulting customers, bantering with his co-worker, or just musing about pop culture, Anderson brought a lived in quality to the part. He may not have been the best actor, but in this case, he decidedly was the right actor.

Rosario Dawson in “Clerks II” (2006)
dir: Kevin Smith

Everything was bigger in “Clerks II,” including the star power. Getting Rosario Dawson as the romantic lead was a coup for Smith, especially considering how lovably she is here. Able to go toe to toe with her co-stars in regards to raunchy conversations, Dawson also is easily able to infuse her part with more melancholic reality. She would have felt out of place in “Clerks,” but with the deeper thinking sequel, she was a fantastic addition to the group.

Alan Rickman in “Dogma” (1999)
dir: Kevin Smith

Has there ever been a classier actor in a Smith flick than Alan Rickman? Getting him for “Dogma” lent a dramatic heft for the filmmaker’s then most ambitious work. Rickman plays up the idiosyncrasies he’s long been known for, making his angel essentially a stand-in for his own self. It’s not his most challenging role, but he’s clearly enjoying himself, standing out in a large ensemble that also includes the likes of Matt Damon and Linda Fiorentino.

Elizabeth Banks in “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” (2008)
dir: Kevin Smith

The run up to “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” was focused on the Seth Rogen/Kevin Smith pairing, but Elizabeth Banks walks away with the film. Banks and Rogen are a crackerjack comic team, but they wind up being a wonderful romantic entanglement as well. When the raunchy comedy gives way to a mushy heart at its core, Banks’ emotions are front and center. Without her honest portrayal of a confused friend, the third act would not have worked at all.

George Carlin in “Jersey Girl” (2004)
dir: Kevin Smith

Largely playing a dramatic role, George Carlin shines in “Jersey Girl,” which has long gotten a bad rap. Carlin is playing a traditional disapproving dad, providing a picture of old school dependability and stability. It’s not a showy part, but it gives the legendary comedian a serious part to showcase just how underrated an actor he truly is. It’s a shame that only Smith saw the untapped potential within Carlin.

Ben Affleck in “Chasing Amy” (1997)
dir: Kevin Smith

Ben Affleck has never been better than he is here. Smith was the first filmmaker to make Affleck the lead of a movie, and he relished the opportunity. Until then, he was just a supporting player or a villain, but here he’s the conflicted dramatic/romantic protagonist, standing in for the filmmaker. The pain on his face late in the game is beautifully tragic, while his final words sum up the thesis of “Chasing Amy” brilliantly.

Michael Parks in “Red State” (2011)
dir: Kevin Smith

Long a favorite supporting player of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, Smith saw fit to give Michael Parks a juicier role in “Red State.” Given the chance to spread his wings, Parks seized the opportunity, making his vile preacher a combination of charisma and venomous bile. Even while the audience is horrified by what the man is saying, it’s impossible to take one’s eyes off of him as he’s ranting. Parks’ sermons are unlike anything else Smith has ever penned, mixing a great character actor with a verbose write to form something wholly stirring.

John Goodman in “Red State” (2011)
dir: Kevin Smith

The aforementioned Parks has the showier role in “Red State” and is fantastic, but John Goodman is the film’s secret weapon. Sardonic and world weary, Goodman is the most grounded character in the film. Smith doesn’t bring his ATF agent into the plot until midway through, but he opts to end the movie on a powerful yet brief monologue of his. With Goodman in the role, it ends the dark work in a perfectly biting manner.

Joey Lauren Adams in “Chasing Amy” (1997)
dir: Kevin Smith

The only performance Kevin Smith directed to a major award nomination, Joey Lauren Adams was robbed of an Oscar nod for “Chasing Amy.” The Golden Globes were smart enough to give her the Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy nom, but she was snubbed by the Academy. Adams is heartbreakingly real here, especially during her showcase outburst midway through the movie. Funny, honest, and raw when the moments call for it, Adams stands tall as the best performance not just in Smith’s best film, but throughout all of his career, to boot.

Which performances in Kevin Smith films are your favorites? Comment below and share!



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Written by Joey Magidson

When he’s not obsessing over new Oscar predictions on a weekly basis, Joey is seeing between 300 and 350 movies a year. He views the best in order to properly analyze the awards race/season each year, but he also watches the worst for reasons he mostly sums up as "so you all don't have to". In his spare time, you can usually find him complaining about the Jets or the Mets. Still, he lives and dies by film. Joey's a voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.


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