The Art of Overacting: How Going Big Can Make a Scene Better

Sometimes overacting is good, actually.
Mandy Nic Cage Overacting Smile

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on how overacting can enhance a scene.

Previously in this column, we’ve discussed how the primary mode of communication in Mandy is sound. Paired with its trippy, enveloping visuals, the experience of watching Panos Cosmatos‘ 2018 revenge film is kinetic, primal, and damn near post-verbal. Propelled by expressive music and larger-than-life performances, it’s like an inversion of a silent film. And speaking of silent films, let’s talk about Nicolas Cage’s acting for a second.

In Mandy, Cage plays Red Miller, a logger whose idyllic life is ripped out from under him when his partner is burned alive by a scorned cult leader. Before this inciting incident, Red is gentle, loving, and subdued, with a calm and peaceful demeanor that we don’t exactly expect from Cage and all his Nouveau Shamanic bombast. But Cosmatos is no dummy. And once the story calls for it, Cage unleashes his teeth-gnashing, wild-eyed powers in a way that feels fully deserved and all the more powerful for it.

Nicolas Cage’s overacting has a tendency to eclipse and distract in lesser films. But here, pointed in the right direction, it deepens Mandy‘s story, careening Red’s journey into surreal, unhinged, and expressionistic territory. Cage’s performance in Mandy is hard proof that overacting can actually enhance a movie, and push the limits of what acceptable film-acting can look like. Cage’s Red is just one example of many.

And as the video essay below argues, the key to “good” overacting may actually stem from a place of honesty. The key is not “going big for big’s sake.” It’s going big and letting go because it makes sense in context and in character. Bluntly put, per Chris Michael of The Guardian: “overacting is believing.”

Watch “How Overacting Enhances a Scene”:

Who made this?

This video on the art of overacting is by Karsten Runquist, a Chicago-based video essayist. You can check out Runquist’s back catalog and subscribe to his channel on YouTube here. You can follow Runquist on Twitter here.

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    Meg Shields: Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.