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Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
After establishing himself as a force in the comedy world, Carell took on his most dramatic departure in the Oscar-winning hit movie Little Miss Sunshine. He plays Frank Ginsberg, the suicidal gay brother of Sheryl Hoover (Toni Collette), who ventures on a road trip across the country with her family, in order to enter Sheryl's young daughter Olive (Oscar-nominated Abigail Breslin) in a beauty pageant. Carell gives an impressive performance in a dark comedy that asks him to dial down his comedic instincts and convey a man who has receded from life, but through the course of the movie, finds his way back to embracing life. Carell effectively mixes the sadness of the character with glimmers of comedic touches. He holds his own in a cast of strong performances. It ranks as one his most nuanced and memorable turns.
Dan in Real Life (2007)
Following his critically acclaimed performance in Little Miss Sunshine, Carell took on the role of a widowed father in the dramedy Dan in Real Life. In the movie, Carell's Dan falls in love with the girlfriend (the luminous Juliette Binoche) of his brother (Dane Cook). The role allowed Carell to explore some new dramatic notes, which is beautifully illustrated in his tender romance with Binoche. On paper, the premise could have been played like a reductive sitcom, but in Carell's deft hands, Dan is a fully formed character, someone who has experienced loss and is trying to regain his happiness. It gave Carell a chance to show his paternal side in his touching interactions with his daughters. Dan ranks as one of his most moving works, mixing his expert subtle timing for comedy, with romantic yearning and an emotional depth. His performance also ranks as one of his most underrated.
Carell would go on to expertly explore sad/funny characters in movies like Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and Crazy, Stupid, Love. He has made his mark in the world of movies, jumping back and forth seamlessly between comedies and dramas. I look forward to seeing his new dramatic milestone in Foxcatcher and discover new depths yet untapped.