Friday, August 04, 2006
#16 (Male Performances in Review 2000-2004)
Truth be told, I was tempted to give this spot to the entire cast (including Carly Schroeder, even though it would be cheating) of Jacob Aaron Estes's Mean Creek, each actor having shown range and depth beyond their few years (in fact, beyond most other adult performers currently basking in the limelight). Indeed, the acting featured in this film is, simply put, an embarrassment of riches - from Rory Culkin's soft, tender adolescent to Josh Peck's unexpectedly complex bully, any choice would have been befitting. But since I already barred myself from group citations early on in my rules, Scotty Mechlowicz it is (the film's stand-out). This performance was my pick for the Best Supporting Actor of 2004 (and I would have handed a Best Ensemble prize to the entire cast), and it still holds up even now. His compelling characterization of Marty may initially seem like nothing more than the standard teenage troublemaker, but Mechlowicz is always aware of how the history of violence and abuse inflicted against his character fuel his manipulation and degradation of others. In fact, Marty has grown to normalize this behaviour, erupting with fury when plans to humiliate Peck's George are called off ("I'm a man who likes to follow through with his plans."). There is a sense that this is all he knows how to do ("[I'm] bored as fuck."), and that he is unable to attain power any other way. At the same time, he is hungrily desperate for validation, trying to impress these young adolescents by boasting of his defiant accomplishments and demonstrating that rumours about his large penis are not without basis. However, once conditions during a boating trip quickly spiral out of control, the façade of leadership begins to disintegrate - Marty is unable to fix the dilemma with his usual shortcuts. Indeed, the film concludes providing little hope for Marty's salvation; he continues to believe that a life of intimidation and crime provides the only future for him. Mechlowicz's devastating breakdown while holding up a convenience store is a stunning moment of acting. Without the need for words, the actor perfectly exposes the traumatized child behind the posing exterior. In that moment, it is clear that Marty is just as much the inexperienced, painfully vulnerable youth as Schroeder's Millie or Kelley's Clyde. It's an image of openness and truth that stays with me even now, despite the fact I have only seen the film once.