My Year Of posts focused on six performers who gave audiences a memorable 2022 culminates with what I’ll consider the Utility Player prize. This goes to a character actor who improves the viewing experience of the projects they’re in. We could coin it the Patricia Clarkson or J.T. Walsh Award.
This year, I’m giving it to Hong Chau. Five years ago, she received Golden Globe and Critics Choice nominations for her supporting part in Alexander Payne’s Downsizing. An Oscar nod was expected to follow, but didn’t materialize.
In the half decade since, she’s been seen more in small screen material. That changed in ’22 with two critically heralded roles in Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale and Mark Mylod’s The Menu. For the former, her Liz (caretaker and confidant to Brendan Fraser’s lead) could mark Chau’s first Academy recognition. For the latter, her Elsa (second in command to the sadistic chef played by Ralph Fiennes) was a highlight in a terrific cast.
At the Cannes Film Festival in May, another Chau performance received acclaim. Kelly Reichardt’s Showing Up features her with Michelle Williams in a dramedy that sports a 95% Rotten Tomatoes score. It’ll be released stateside in 2023. So will Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City where she’ll be part of his typical impressive ensemble that includes Tom Hanks, Tilda Swinton, Margot Robbie, Edward Norton, and many more. Chau is also cast in Yorgos Lanthimos’s And with Emma Stone, Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe, and Margaret Qualley.
Among all those well-known filmmakers and stars, Chau stands out and earns a final slot in the Year Of write-ups.