Sunday, August 01, 2010

Lazy actors, distracting actors

Ed here: On the A.V. Club there's a discussion about actors who are either a) always the same no matter what role they're playing and/or b) so distracting that their mere appearance takes you out of the movie. The most interesting comment came from a woman named Tasha Robinson. I think she articulates the problem very well. for the full discussion go here:

Tasha Robinson

"I recently pitched an Inventory on once-talented-and-diverse actors who have fallen into a rut and just play the same character over and over, essentially serving as parodies of themselves. Keith said “What, you mean ‘movie stars’?” Oh. Yeah. Right. I guess that is a lot more common than I thought. After a certain point, I tend to find really big stars distracting in a film because of the likelihood that they’ll just be going through the motions of the familiar role that made them famous. Much as I love Samuel L. Jackson’s charisma, I’m with you on him as someone who can no longer disappear into a role. (Which for anyone who saw him in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever is a serious pity.) I also get this from Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis, George Clooney, Al Pacino, and Keanu Reeves, who all these days either feel like themselves in roles or themselves shouting “Look at me putting on a mask!” But the two actors who most throw me out of movies are Jim Carrey and Robin Williams. In their comic roles, they’re both so mannered and routine-bound and artificial that they tend to throw off even the most mannered, artificial movie. (A Series Of Unfortunate Events, for instance.) I recently re-watched The Truman Show, and I felt more than ever that it’s a really good film that could have been a masterpiece, if not for Jim Carrey doing the exact same gestures and grimaces and squinting and flailing he does in all his other comic roles. "


Richard S. Wheeler said...

In the High Hollywood days, actors pretty much played themselves. Gary Cooper played Cooper. John Wayne played Wayne. James Stewart was largely himself. Marilyn Monroe played herself. Doris Day played herself. Character actors did, too. James Mason was always himself. No one objected; perhaps there was an unwritten understanding that we went to films to see the stars--not the characters they played.

Ron Scheer said...

I agree with Richard Wheeler. Not much has changed. Except with the vast exposure these "stars" get in the media today, it's easy to see too much of them. The old publicity system was better at engineering public demand.

Peter Rozovsky said...

James Mason certainly played James Mason in "Odd Man Out," which gave an occasional odd tinge to his role as an IRA-like terrorist.

And Woody Allen -- an actor at one time, too, don't forget -- had no interest in playing anything but Woody Allen. His performance in "Hannah and Her Sisters" produced the odd sensation of an acceptably funny comic performance cut and pasted into an acceptable dramatic movie with which it had nothing to do otherwise.

The old publicity system may have been better at engineering public demand, but stars today expect to be taken seriously as thinkers (Clooney, Sean Penn). Perhaps this somehow makes the old game of playing one's self harder to take that it was in the days of the stars.

Humphrey Bogart tried at least once not to play himself, in "Sabrina." I have never seen an actor look lesss comfortable in a role.
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Peter L. Winkler said...

Stars are immediately recognizable, which is why they're paid so much. To then expect them to be chameleons is silly. The difference between today's crop of stars and those from the Golden Age is that most contemporary stars are less attractive personalities and, on average, make worse movies.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Robin Williams has ruined more movies than he's made, I think.