We’re knee deep in Oscar season, and we still lack a true frontrunner for Best Picture. Roma is majestic and Black Panther changed the game, but there isn’t that true intersection of award buzz and stuffy prestige trappings that really mark something for Oscar Gold. Or there hasn’t been … until now.
Ladies and gentlemen, for your consideration: Jake Gyllenhall Corrects Filmmaker Dan Gilroy’s Pronunciation of ‘Melancholy,’ brought to you by the Hollywood Reporter.
i can’t stop watching this pic.twitter.com/xQhCiymaIQ
— hunter harris (@hunteryharris) January 28, 2019
Perfect. That is a perfect movie. You could spend your life trying to find a better movie and you’d die a failure. It has it all. Fully fleshed out characters with deeply realized inner lives. Rising tension. An explosive climax. A shocking plot twist near the end. And finally, a soothing resolution in which all our characters have grown a bit for everything they’ve endured together.
Watch it again. Behold how Gyllenhaal, from the very first frame, bears the visage of a tired man who knows his unique talents will be called upon to right a wrong. Look at Dan Gilroy, carelessly discussing his latest film Velvet Buzzsaw, unaware of the coming crisis. And then the moment that hardly needs revisiting: when Gilroy says “Mel-LONK-Auly” and you can feel the temperature in the room drop to a polar vortex, and Gyllenhaal snaps in the manner of a man who has been pushed too far, his tone sharper than any blade.
And the brief, treacherous respite, in which everyone — even Gilroy’s wife, Rene Russo — laughs, thinking their journey is at an end, and they have come through this trial unscathed, battered but not beaten. Until Gyllenhaal, his eyes burning holes in the floor, delivers a knockout shocker that would that would make O. Henry weep in jealousy: “That is NOT the first time today.” His words land like stones in a pond, the ripples wafting across the room, leaving not a soul unchanged.
The pep. The fire. The drama. A reminder of the power of cinema to unite us in these divided times, as the pure struggle of what it means to be a human in this age is unspooled before us in all its suffering and glory. The Academy can not deny this moment its Oscar, and we as people cannot deny a powerful new piece of art its place in the medium’s canon as one of our finest contemporary stories, and the marker of an astonishing new talent in Hollywood.
Tyler Huckabee is RELEVANT's senior editor. He lives in Nashville with his wife, dog and Twitter account.