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Graham: Haddish, Jones among year’s breakouts

These scene stealers from “Girls Trip,” “Get Out,” “Good Time” and more are the year’s freshest faces

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

He was the guy who creeped you out in “Get Out,” the aggressive brother who wanted to fight Daniel Kaluuya’s character, MMA-style, at the dinner table.

Then he popped up again in “American Made,” and then in “The Florida Project,” and then in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and in TV’s revival of “Twin Peaks.” Suddenly this year, Caleb Landry Jones was everywhere.

If there was a rookie of the year award for film, Caleb Landry Jones would win it. But he’s not the only actor who came from out of nowhere to make his presence felt at the movies this year.

Here are the new faces who made a big splash in cinema in 2017:

Caleb Landry Jones. Looking like a demon Culkin kid, Caleb Landry Jones had such an off-kilter presence in “Get Out” that he singularly embodied the film’s sense of societal unease. Then in each subsequent project this year, he showed different sides of himself: in “Twin Peaks” he dropped the Ivy League shtick and came at you with pure backwoods filth, and in “Three Billboards” he played a slick ad man excited to rile up the local authorities. Which is to say this 27-year-old has layers, and you can’t paint him into a corner. But you probably don’t want to invite him over to your house for supper, either.

Barry Keoghan. If Caleb Landry Jones makes you feel uncomfortable, Barry Keoghan chills you to the bone. That’s what he did in “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” the year’s strangest film, in which the Dublin-born actor plays a troubled kid who puts a curse on the family of a Cincinnati surgeon (played by Colin Farrell). In the film, Keoghan is cold and affection-less, and is perfectly at home with the rhythms of writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos’ dialogue and atmosphere. There’s a scene where he’s eating spaghetti that might be the most frightening scene of the year. If that’s not enough, Keoghan also had a role in summer’s WWII blockbuster “Dunkirk.” We’re going to be hearing from him for awhile.

Timothée Chalamet. He pops up as a too-cool-for-school bad boy in Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird” and has a small role in the bleak western “Hostiles,” but where the 21-year-old New Yorker really makes his mark is in “Call Me By Your Name,” which opens in area theaters early next year. In the film, Chalamet’s character shares a summer romance with a house guest of his family’s, played by Armie Hammer, and their exploration of love is the year’s most touching, honest, heartfelt romance. The “Call Me By Your Name” role is earning Chalamet big Oscar buzz, and deservedly so. If you don’t yet know his name, you will soon.

Algee Smith. Kathryn Bigelow’s harsh, unrelenting “Detroit” is still a tough watch, but Algee Smith makes it go down a little bit smoother. The Saginaw-born actor — who also played Ralph Tresvant in BET’s “The New Edition Story” — is a scene-stealer as “Cleveland” Larry Reed, whose involvement in the Algiers Motel incident snuffed out a promising career. Smith is a double threat, as he’s a gifted singer as well, but it’s his work in the final third of “Detroit” that resonates beyond the brutality of the film. He is “Detroit’s” heart.

Benny Safdie. The rollicking “Good Time” is a dark thrill ride, and “Twilight’s” Robert Pattinson is born again as its scruffy, scuzzbucket anti-hero. But Safdie — who wrote and directed the film alongside his brother and creative partner, Josh Safdie — proves not only to be a talent behind the camera, but in front of it as well. As Pattison’s character’s hard-of-hearing brother, Safdie is in his own orbit, and his mesmerizing opening scene leaves an impression that hangs over the whole movie. He’s one of the year’s most exciting discoveries.

Tiffany Haddish. Alongside Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Regina Hall, Haddish came into “Girls Trip” as its fourth-stringer. By the time the end credits rolled, she was its undisputed star. Haddish’s breakthrough in “Girls Trip” is a knockout, like Melissa McCarthy in “Bridesmaids” or Kathryn Hahn in “Bad Moms.” She took an ensemble piece and made it a solo show, and gave us some of the year’s heartiest laughs. She rode the “Girls Trip” wave to a hosting appearance on “SNL” and now has an outside shot at an Oscar nomination for the role. Root for her.

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