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.

7 comments:

Nick said...

This is so awesome to finally find someone who is just as obsessed with films as me!!!

Kamikaze Camel said...

hmm, that's an interesting choice. I didn't think he was as good as you seem to (Penn was best in show for the males in my book).

JavierAG said...

Wow. Very interesting choice. And the weird thing is, I totally think it IS the best performance in this overwrought film, but it is just because he seems to be working in a different, better movie that I find it hard to be involved in this turn. He's sort of lost, to me, in a sea of overacting and theatricality, and Eastwood's holy quest to find the Next American Masterpiece.

But it's a great choice - and the movie's best performance.

jesse said...

I have to say that I didn't like Mystic River or anybody in it. But judging from my opinion of his other films, I have a suspicion that has more to Eastwood than any of the individual actors.

Ali said...

The first time I saw Mystic River, I awarded it four stars. Since then, the film has not really aged well in my mind (and on a second viewing), and Eastwood's score and some of the performances now feel a bit overbearing (all except Bacon's of course). Still, there is something compelling about it nonetheless - the rich cinematography, the writing and that knock-out scene between Penn & Harden at the end.

DL said...

I thought all the actors in Mystic River were wonderful - though I understand where everyone is coming from when they call it over-acting. Sean would have gotten a silver medal (Best Actor) and Tim and Marcia maybe would've gotten into my top five in their respective categories.

Nick M. said...

I mostly like Mystic River, and Bacon does his best to handle the really silly phoen calls from his wife (bleech).

I'll give you a "decent choice" with this one.