Thursday, June 29, 2006
#20 (Male Performances in Review 2000-2004)
I suppose this is my equivalent of Javier's unexpected (but most welcome) inclusion of Toni Collette on his list for The Hours; I posit here that Kevin Bacon gave the best performance in Mystic River's powerhouse ensemble. Yes, it is not a showy submission (a la Penn, Robbins and Harden), nor does Bacon's character have the benefit of a sly, shockeroo twist coming his way (see Linney's Lady Macbeth monologue). In short, he has minimal time and space to make an impression, especially with so many actors making Oscar-bids around him. And yet, watching him softly and wholeheartedly support everyone else - all the while quietly experiencing a tragedy of his own - is like watching a different film entirely. Make no mistake, I am not attempting to disparage the other actors in Mystic River, who are stunning in their portrayals. As well, perhaps many would rather I turn to Bacon's work in The Woodsman to shower hosannas (as well they should - Bacon is so very underrated: still nomination-less!), but something about him here in this film always has me looking back over my shoulder. Consider how Bacon nails every one of those difficult scenes on the phone with his wife, never resorting to hammy dramatics and doing his best to remain composed despite the fact he is surely breaking down inside ("Yeah, nice talkin' to you too"). He is frustrated by her silence, yet he depends on them to give him some degree of sustenance and comfort (to his partner: "She calls all the time"). And then there's the scene where he is shown the resting place of Katie Markum's body, and the hardened way it all registers ("What the fuck am I going to tell him?"). Watch carefully at his eyes while Jimmy grows increasingly desperate outside for an answer ("Is that my daughter in there, Sean?") with a fatigued visage, unable offer any befitting response. It's a stunning moment. And recall that final, ambiguous gesture when he aims at Jimmy, determined to bring him down (and let him know about it). Underplaying every "big" moment with the confidence of a seasoned pro, I love this performance because it is so solid and lived-in. It defines "supporting". With all respect to Tim Robbins, who I greatly admire as an actor (especially in this film), he should hand over his statuette to Bacon.