Thought we could use a fun post as we may be nearing the constitutional abyss….
I just read there’s a one-man show about Lester Bangs playing in New York and I wished that I could go! It got me thinking about “Almost Famous”. I thought the movie was fun but a bit of a snooze when Philip Seymour Hoffman wasn’t on screen killing it as Lester Bangs (F-Mac was good too, but that was really comic relief). Billy Crudup is a wonderful actor (“Jesus’ Son” is great), Kate Hudson is charming in her own way, and the kid was fine but…they’re all a bit boring. When PSH comes on screen, you suddenly wake up and pay attention. The content of his speech about being uncool was stupid — come on, if good-looking people’s art doesn’t last, then why do people still watch Audrey Hepburn and Paul Newman movies, why do they still listen to Marvin Gaye and early Sinatra, why do they still love early Hemingway and Welles? But the delivery…
I felt a bit the same way about PSH, and also Jude Law in Mr. Ripley. When they were both dead, I wanted to leave. Do I really want to spend an hour with Matt Damon and Gwyenth? No.
I was thinking, what are other examples where one particular actor blows everyone else off the screen? Could be more than one actor but has to be a supporting role, no Mommy Dearest or There Will Be Blood.
For me, the first time I was ever struck by this was Jack Nicholson in Easy Rider. Another more recent example was Holly Hunter in Big Sick. I liked the movie but the two kids aren’t engaging screen presences, the movie only took off when Holly Hunter came in. Though it’s a larger role, I also think of Denzel Washington in Philadelphia as opposed to Tom Hanks. The stuff with Denzel coming to grips with not being homophobic draws you in, then you have to watch Tom Hanks pretend to love opera and musical theater for ten minutes. I guess this one’s twofer: Denzel is infinitely more charismatic than Tom Hanks and he also has a more interesting role.
Another good one is Daniel Day Lewis in “Room With A View”. That character he plays is a prig, but he’s just got an intensity and presence the others don’t have.
What are some other good examples?