Friday, 12 March 2010

Performances of the Decade (Male)

Sometimes – often I should say – I doubt my credibility when it comes to making these best of lists. Yeah, yeah it’s all subjective and whatnot but some actors just work for me more than others but then again maybe I’m just being paranoid. The whole point of making this list is to highlight those performances that have impressed me the most, so it would be remiss of me not to have this on the list...even if no one agrees.
#8 Jude Law in Closer (2004)
Not to regress, but when I spoke about The Messenger (one of my favourite films last year) I remarked that I couldn’t quite understand who all the critics could remember Harrelson’s (admittedly good) performance and ignore Foster’s brilliant one. It’s one of the many things I don’t understand about awards. You can’t notice one good thing about a film while being oblivious to the rest. The same thing happened in 2004. Natalie Portman and Clive Owen picked up accolades left and right for their performances in Closer but Julia Roberts and Jude Law earned few. The thing is, I was particularly angry since Jude’s Dan continually emerges as the best performance of the film for me and nothing short of excellent.
Jude Law’s most memorable performance is probably The Talented Mr. Ripley and Dan is different and yet similar to Dickie, though the two do have the same face. Dan is a struggling writer slumming it as an obituary writer at a newspaper. He meets the irrepressible Alice and after a traffic accident he takes her to the hospital. Closer is a play, and though it’s no Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (another Nichols’ piece) it depends on its dialogue, and Jude sells it. His first conversation with Portman in the hospital is perfectly executed and it’s nice to see him turn on his charm (albeit a boorish one) for her. There’s a hint of slyness about him and you notice his eyes seem to be taking in more than just the obvious, but he’s not suave. I remember the scene where Portman tells him she was a stripper, his knee-jerk response as his eyes widen is perfect. But like all the characters in Closer Jude is no angel.
As we flash forward to his first meeting with Julia I wonder why he’s less nervous now. Is it Alice? His novel? But there is a pep in his step now and he flirts with Anna his charm is undeniable. As cute as he and Natalie look together I remain convinced by the relationship between he and Julia here, even before it begins. The two work brilliantly together, and as they drift into their banter it’s a delight to watch. It’s obvious what’s coming next, or is it? I, surely, wasn’t expecting Dan’s chat-room liaison with Larry. But it’s the appearance at the Julia’s party where Jude has another brilliant moment. Most recall Portman and Owen’s scene but it’s the adjacent scene between Roberts and Law that impresses me. The attraction between the two is palpable and the resulting confession Dan gives to Alice is no surprise. It’s memorable as being Portman’s moment but the sincerity of Jude here is worth remembering. “I want someone who doesn’t need me” is what he tells her. Dan is selfish, perhaps the most selfish of the story, but Jude is careful not to make him unredeemable and that’s an important quality of his because even though he’s the most selfish he’s also the most sympathetic.
His final scene with Julia always saddens me a little. It’s the lone moment of happiness the two share, and they’re soooo comfortable together it’s a pity they couldn’t remain thus. That solitary moment in the bathroom when he realises what has happened is superb. It’s a talent Jude has of showing his emotions with the slightest movement. If I have to single out a moment it’s his breakdown to Clive Owen. It’s pathetic and shameful and Jude sells it completely. It’s difficult not to pity this poor fool – and it’s really downhill from there, relationship-wise. The romance with Portman isn’t as authentic anymore and that defining moment (the “slap”) is unfortunate. I know that many feel Dan gets what he deserves but as Julia and Clive return to each other and Natalie returns to herself I feel badly for Dan as he remains there and learns in the most pitiable of ways who Alice Ayres really was. It’s right, I guess, that the last moment of him features him using his excellent facial expressions again.

Closer was underrated upon its release, but do you remember it? More importantly, did you appreciate Jude’s performance?


Burning Reels said...

I don't think you should doubt youself at all - it's always alot more interesting to read about performances and films you don't hear raved about all the time...even if i don't agree, it provides a new perspective on things and makes one consider their evaluation of a film, film aspect or performance:)

I need to see Closer again - is it ageing well?

Caz - Lets Go To The Movies said...

Love seeing this on the list. Closer is one of my favorite films as the performances are all brilliant. Jude Law was outstanding. I find this film closer to real life than a lot of other films.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

burning reels i think it has aged excellently. i love it now even more than back then, probably growing older and all that.

caz i'm so glad you're a fan. jude is so underrated in it.