Steve Carell dazzles in ‘The Patient,’ but he’s been in dramatic roles for years
When most people hear the name Steve Carell, they naturally think: “comedy”. After spending nearly a decade studying improvisation at The Second City in Chicago, Carell served as a correspondent on The daily show before playing the role of the best boss in the world Michael Scott in Office for seven seasons.
That seminal role, along with a number of other comedic characters Carell brought to life over the years, helped shape his exceptional comedic legacy. But his latest role in Hulu’s psychological thriller The Patient, which premiered two episodes on August 30, recalls that Carell’s talents are not limited to humor. Not only is he able to handle dramatic roles; he excels at it.
In The patient, Carell plays Alan Strauss, a therapist whose patient Sam Fortner (Domhnall Gleeson) kidnaps him and chains him to the floor of his basement. Sam reveals he is a serial killer and expresses hope that easily accessible home treatment from Alan will curb his murderous compulsion. Over the course of 10 episodes, Alan navigates emotional turmoil, intense introspection and enlightened empathy, as Carell delivers one of his best dramatic performances yet. He plays the captive character with extraordinary control, displaying palpable patience and restraint, while bursting with raw emotion and regret when warranted. Carell dives to new depths to deliver excellent acting in The patient. But his complex portrayal of Alan Strauss is just the latest in a long line of dramatic roles he’s nailed since leaving. Officemany of which remain seriously underestimated.
Rather than playing it safe by only seeking more laughs after Dunder Mifflin, the actor set out to further explore and flex the dramatic chops we tasted in 2006, when he played the angsty and vulnerable suicide survivor. and scholar of Proust Frank Ginsberg in tragicomedy Little Miss Sun. With the years 2012 Looking for a friend for the end of the world and 2018 Welcome Marwen, Carell gave us moving, heartwarming moments and characters steeped in humanity that closely match his own reputation as a good guy in Hollywood. But some of Carell’s most powerful dramatic roles have been totally transformative. In 2013 The way back, he played a demeaning dorky boyfriend and an irresponsible stepfather figure. He gave a dynamic portrayal of tennis champion Bobby Riggs in the 2017 biopic Battle of the sexesand peeled back the layers of angry, conflicted, budding business leader Mark Baum (inspired by hedge funder Steve Eisman) in 2015 The big short. Most notably, Carell was nominated for an Oscar for his creepy, prosthetic-heavy performance of real-life convicted killer John du Pont in 2014. Foxcatcher.
Some of Carell’s most emotional scenes in The patient — triggered by his character’s estranged relationship with his son — are unmistakably reminiscent of two past fatherly performances. In the 2017 war drama Last flag waving, Carell plays Larry Shepard, a grieving father and Vietnam veteran who finds comfort in old friends and finds pockets of joy as his son’s funeral approaches. And in the 2018 biographical drama Handsome boy, the actor poured his heart into David Sheff, a heartbroken father who watches drugs destroy his son Nic (Timothée Chalamet). Carell invokes the same excruciating pain he expressed in those heartbreaking roles to illustrate the fear that he will never have the chance to redeem himself with his son in The patient.
After saying goodbye to such an iconic and enduring character as Michael Scott, it makes sense that Carell took a nearly decade-long hiatus from big TV roles after Office. But when he finally makes a comeback, the success of his drama series, The morning showlargely eclipsed that of his now canceled comedy flop, space force. In the Apple TV+ drama starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, Carell played Mitch Kessler, a beloved former broadcast presenter whose career suffered when he was the victim of sexual harassment and abuse allegations. . The actor makes a valiant on-screen effort to shake off his overwhelming sympathy and put himself in the shoes of a despicable and deceitful man. And though from beginning to disconcerting end, The morning show Repeatedly missed opportunities to write fleshed-out scripts and direction for Kessler, the series’ narrative shortcomings did not hamper Carell’s performance.
The morning show also highlights Carell’s ability to access several different versions of a character – drawing on both humor and tension – in a single project. We see this same talent in The patient when we went from defeated Alan in Sam’s basement to flashbacks that show him happily cherishing times with his wife and children years earlier. Even in his funniest role on Office, Carell showed a glimpse of his poignant potential by bringing expressive eyes, a vulnerable core and an essence of innocence to Michael Scott. Carell is a comedic genius, but if you’ve been sleeping over the fact that he’s one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors dominating dramas, let The patient be your long-awaited wake-up call.