Emmys 2014: Eszter Balint's subtly beautiful 'Louie' role deserves a nomination
Can an actress win an Emmy for a performance that's largely nonverbal, and when she does speak, most of the words are in (unsubtitled) Hungarian?
It's a long shot, to be sure. But that's part of what would make a guest-acting Emmy nomination for Eszter Balint's role on "Louie" all that much sweeter.
Her role as Amia, the niece of an elderly woman in Louie's (Louis C.K.) apartment building, formed the heart of the acclaimed FX show's fourth season -- and also a literal illustration of its theme about Louie being unable to connect with the women in his life. Here was a woman who literally could not understand what Louie was saying and vice versa.
Yet over the course of Balint's six episodes, Amia and Louie formed a bond that showed maybe there was hope for him after all (even if the "Pamela" story that followed it squandered some of that). Although she said maybe a dozen words in English, her expressive eyes and body language conveyed everything about her warm but tentative feelings toward Louie. It was one of the more subtly beautiful performances on TV this season.
All of which may end up working against her. Guest performers submit one episode for Emmy consideration, and she chose part 5 of "Elevator." It's a good choice, since she gets to go through a wide range of emotions after telling Louie (or rather, having her aunt (Ellen Burstyn) tell him) she's returning to Hungary. What it doesn't convey, though, is the full depth of the performance she built over six episodes -- which is a flaw in the Emmy process itself. Single-episode submissions make more sense for guest stars than for series regulars, but here it's doing a disservice to Balint and "Louie."
"Louie" had several strong guest performances this season, including those of Jeremy Renner and Sarah Baker, whose praises I sang after her episode aired. It wouldn't be a surprise to see either or both of them nominated on Thursday. It would, however, be something of a surprise to see Balint alongside them, both because of the way the Emmys are structured and because her contained performance doesn't call out for attention the way showier guest roles do.
But we're talking about pie-in-the-sky hopes here, and seeing Balint's name among the nominees would be one of the more pleasant surprises I could imagine on nomination day.