Friday, 19 February 2010

Performances of the Decade: Male

Here is the second entry in my running feature on the fifteen male performances of the last decade. I’m on to a supporting performance that amused me much in 2008 that unfortunately saw little love from the Awards bodies, but that doesn’t stop me from remembering it here.I suppose it would seem like an off kilter choice, but isn't that why you love me?
#14 Brad Pitt in Burn After Reading (2008)
"I thought you might be worried about the security of your shit."
I’ve never been too fond of the Coen Brothers. They have their ardent supporters, of which I am not one. It’s sort a knee jerk effect actually. A favourite film of mine The English Patient trumped a critical smash of theirs Fargo and the backlash against the former was unabated...and it’s been pretty much downhill since then, especially considering that I didn’t even like Fargo. But I digress. Burn After Reading is one of the most atypical comedies I have seen. It made the top ten of 2008 (#6) and featured one of the best ensemble performances bringing together everything the Coens were notorious for – irreverence, dark humour, witty dialogue and surprises. And in a task of great characters stood Brad Pitt’s Chad.
Chad plays the friend to our female protagonist Linda played by Frances McDormand. The two work in a gym; and Chad is the prototypical exercise obsessed man child. I saw man child because I’m not sure how old Pitt’s Chad is supposed to be. He looks younger than he did a decade ago in Fight Club and he sounds even younger than he did in Thelma & Louise. It’s the ultimate vacuous male and Brad pulls out all the stops for the performance playing Chad for all the comedic effect necessary.
The scene that stands in my memory as Brad’s big scene occurs in the middle. After he and  Linda have found that very "important" disk he places a call to the irate John Malkovich. His inane telephone abilities are hilarious and it leads to the strongest scene of the film. Actors’ act – we know that, but it’s chilling to see Brad Pitt (as we know him) completely immersed in Chad. There are no traces of the suave, svelte celebrity: all that is there is an empty (albeit good looking) idiot. And it doesn’t go downhill from that scene. He and McDormand continue their crazy antics leading to a ridiculous attempted exchange which culminates in Brad suffering a broken nose. I love his delivery of his line “He took my bicycle.” It’s so ridiculously childish, and yet so goddamn hilarious.
The thing with the Coens’ though is that they are as impertinent as it comes and even though Chad is the light of Burn After Reading he’s extinguished before long, though I will admit in hilarious fashion. It’s probably a good time to note that despite all his insipidity Chad is actually a good person, sort of. I always marvel at his devotion to McDormand’s Linda. She really is quite nasty at times, but for inexplicable reasons Chad latches onto her, nonetheless. I’m not quite sure if he is gay (his sexuality is actually never examined), or has some twisted school girl crush on her or is just really loyal. Whatever the reason he breaks into ( ) to help her and after some funny antics George Clooney (the bastard) shoots him. Dead. And that’s the end of Chad.
Burn After Reading probably won’t work for all, I know a few who hate it much actually. But I can’t resist its brilliance – especially the tour-de-force performance of Mr. Pitt. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Despite his obvious celebrity his acting talent is vastly underrated and when little gems like this come along to remind us I’m always ready to appreciate it.
Were you a fan of Burn After Reading? And Brad's antics?


CrazyCris said...

You're spot-on why I couldn't resist this movie! In fact all of the actors were just wonderfully off-kilter in this movie, it was a BLAST!!! :o)

Mike Lippert said...

I love this movie as well. I hope one day it will find the kind of cult status that The Big Lewbowski found, which was also an irreverant comedy that came out after a huge Coen Bros. hit and was panned by critics but is now considered a classic. Burn After Reading is about just as funny and just as pointless as that movie and has every right to be just as much of a classic. You're right about Pitt, he basically steals the show. His character here is like what would happen if his charater from True Romance stopped smoking weed, got off the couch and tried to intergrate himself into society. Funny stuff.

James D. said...

I enjoyed the performance as well, but 4th of the decade? It is a nice change of pace for Pitt, but it isn't the hardest role around.

Danny King said...

Part of me agrees with James, but part of me also loves the pick as well. This is perhaps my favorite comedy from the Coen brothers, and Pitt is absolutely hysterical in this film. I just have trouble picturing a role like this on a "decade" type of a list. Not to discount the range that Pitt showed with this performance, but there's just no way I would put a performance like this on a list of this magnitude.

Something else worth noting is that I though Malkovich was just as good as Pitt, although that type of role isn't ntecessarily new ground for Malkovich.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

i am glad that mike and cris agree with me but i have to say that i'm shocked that james and danny are actually surprised by something i did ;). brad did top my 2008 list of supporting actors and i just kept coming back to the performance...

14th not 4th james and danny i did like malkovich much, but i would have liked if he'd gotten more work to do.