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On the Rocks

There are two movies I had been wanting to see for a while but they were Apple TV+ exclusives and maybe I was gonna get a free preview to check them out or something but I never got around to it. But recently due to a housesitting situation I had access. So, Spike Jonze’s BEASTIE BOYS STORY is a really great “the story of the Beastie Boys as told live on stage by Mike D and Ad Rock” documentary that made me cry from both laughter and the other kind. The humbly told autobiography of an all time great band and a moving story of friendship. I don’t really want to review it though, just want to say if you love them try to find a way to watch it, you won’t regret it.

The other one is Sofia Coppola’s ON THE ROCKS (2020), and this one I can write a little about. Also, it’s one you can watch without subscribing or housesitting, because they just put it out on regular old blu-ray and DVD. It stars Rashida Jones (COP OUT) as Laura Keane, an author in Manhattan trying to work on her new book while her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS) is launching a new company. (A “tech startup” they call it, so our suspicions are up.) He’s been doing all these business trips and she sees how he’s surrounded by all these young attractive women, and then a couple weird things happen like she finds a toiletry bag in his luggage that he admits belongs to his co-worker Fiona (Jessica Henwick, UNDERWATER). And at a work party she sees Fiona touching him, and the other women get real quiet and awkward around her when they find out she’s Dean’s wife. It doesn’t look good.

Laura’s actually pretty good about not jumping to conclusions, but after she tells her dad Felix (Bill Murray, OSMOSIS JONES), a very-well-off art dealer and life-long playboy, he becomes obsessed with proving that Dean’s cheating on her. It’s partly protectiveness and partly a low opinion of maledom because of his own sins and sexist philosophies. She tries to rationalize it all, but as he quizzes her he’s able to pick holes in all the stories. Like, he knows the hotel he stayed in on one of his trips, where it’s located in relation to where he’d be going for business, why this would be good for an affair, etc. He even knows guys who work at the hotel and calls them for intel.

On her birthday, Laura tries to keep herself out of shenanigans and just stay home and be depressed. But Felix has Dean followed by private investigators, finds out some more eyebrow-raising details, and eventually pushes Laura into joining him on a stakeout of Dean and his co-workers. Real inconspicuous like, in his 1959 Alfa Romeo convertible. And it gets more ridiculous from there.

So there’s your comedy premise, but this is largely a hangout movie. I think for both Felix and Laura this adventure is as much about spending time together as it is about her marital issues, and for viewers it’s about getting to hang out with these characters, and these actors. Full disclosure: I have historically had a celebrity crush for Jones, and in this movie she wears both Run-DMC and Beastie Boys t-shirts, so it’s hard to be objective. But I think I can objectively say that they’re both very likable people with a good chemistry. I also love them together in Coppola and Murray’s A Very Murray Christmas, which I watch every year now. In fact, this reminds me quite a bit of what I love about that special – it’s very funny, but with a real sense of melancholy, tempered by the feeling of sad people getting together to spend time, talk, laugh, have some drinks. And of course it has Coppola’s beautiful visuals (cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd also did her THE BEGUILED – and THE GRANDMASTER!) and that aspirational quality of amazing New York locations I can’t picture being able to go to, ranging from her amazing apartment to the same bar from A Very Murray Christmas – Bemelmans (no apostrophe) Bar in the Carlyle Hotel, where they sit surrounded by murals depicting Central Park in all four seasons, painted by Madeline illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans in 1947.

(According to its websight the bar “draws socialites, politicians, movie stars and moguls with its extensive drink menu and live entertainment.” Probly better for me to enjoy vicariously because I’d have a hard time enjoying a $36 cheese plate and $26 Negroni even if there wasn’t a $35 cover charge. I saw Prince for less than that.)

And it’s fun just to watch Murray joke around with everyone he meets, or play with the grandkids, though there’s an underlying discomfort as we recognize Laura’s resentment that everyone is so delighted by him without having to ever have been failed or disappointed by him. Or that he can swoop in every once in a while and be adored by the kids despite his own failings in being there for Laura when she grew up.

So much of the humor of this movie is in Jones’s eyes as Laura listens to people and fails to hide her feelings, realizing that the person isn’t paying attention to her anyway. She spends so much of her life either rolling her eyes or half-assedly feigning interest in people’s ramblings. Every day when dropping her daughter off at school she half-listens and nods her head to another mom (Jenny Slate, VENOM)’s rapid fire monologue about her dating life drama and feelings – really funny shit that I wonder if Slate improvised. I love the dynamic of Slate’s character being so convinced Laura has been dying to hear all about this while Laura keeps looking around trying to figure out when she can escape. It’s so ridiculous and yet so relatable.

But the movie is primarily about her relationship with her dad, and with him it’s a different look that’s about 90% annoyance and 10% being begrudgingly charmed. Her sister (Juliana Canfield, THE ASSISTANT) questions how she can stand to have him in her life, and that latter portion is part of the answer. And we get it more than her sister because we’re watching a movie and that’s Bill Murray, and that’s how most of his characters are – we know he’s an asshole but also he makes us laugh and want to hug him.

So she can roll her eyes at him knowing every waiter by name or using ballet knowledge to flirt with the kids’ dance instructor or getting pulled over for his reckless driving and then talking to the cop about his father and grandfather and getting out of it. And we understand why she both knows it’s funny and wants to fucking strangle him. Sometimes it’s just because he’s this art dealer and schmoozer so he knows people all over the city, but he can even go far away and do it. There’s a scene where she arrives at the bar at an outdoor beach resort in Mexico only to find her dad goofily singing “Mexicali Rose” with guitar accompaniment and a small, enraptured audience. She stands and watches long enough for her look of horror to melt into an actual smile.

But part of the journey of the movie is getting to a place where she can (EMOTIONAL SPOILER) unleash on him about all the ways he hurts her, the things his charm has protected him from, a sort of FIRST BLOOD climax where maybe nothing is solved or changed but at least something is exorcised by her finally being able to voice it.

Coppola’s movies often have what seems like an autobiographical component to them. She’s been married for ten years to Thomas Mars, the singer for the band Phoenix, who provided the score to the movie. I’m sure it’s easy to jump to conclusions when your spouse is a rock star on tour. You could also imagine having a dad who directed THE GODFATHER, CAPTAIN EO, etc. could be like having Felix for a dad, but her parents have been married for almost 60 years! So I doubt it’s too much about ol’ Francis Ford. But it feels very true.

Another thing I really like about this movie is that (BIG ASS ENDING SPOILERS) she ultimately finds out that it actually was a misunderstanding, she should’ve fuckin talked to him about it and it would’ve been all right. And she has to kinda eat shit/face the music when he realizes not only all the ridiculous shit she did spying on him, but the fact that she thought that about him. He’s rightfully upset about it, but also forgives her. It’s a movie that’s honest about complicated familial relationships (particularly father-daughter), but it’s not cynical about love or marriage.

I love most of Sofia Coppola’s movies, so I’m not surprised I loved this one too. I hope being exclusive to, like, the fourth or fifth place streaming service for so long doesn’t keep this out of reach for most people. I’m glad they figured out some people like their movies round.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021 at 9:51 am and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

46 Responses to “On the Rocks”

  1. I had no idea that this movie exists, to be honest. One would think a new Coppola/Murray team-up would’ve been all over the blogosphere. Maybe I just ignored it because of Rashida Jones’, but I don’t wanna start another “seperate the artist from the art” discussion.

  2. …musn’t….ask…what…did…

  3. It took me some searching but the closest thing I could find to dirt were criticisms of “flawed coverage of the sex industry” in a documentary about porn actresses she was one of the producers of. C.J., are you trying to trick us into saying that Cancel Culture Has Gone Too Far?

  4. Maybe he hates how she broke up Pam and Jim?

    Anyway I really liked this movie, low-key and charming. Jones and Murray work great together, you really buy that she can both be annoyed by and charmed by him at the same time.

  5. Well, she produced a documentary about sex workers (Porn actors, cam models, etc) for Netflix and basically lied to all of them. The documentaries were highly anti-sex work, while the appearing women were promised that they were allowed to tell their side of the stories. Interviews were edited to the point were pretty much everything positive they said about their work was removed and they seemed to say the opposite of what they actually said, but the worst thing was that they were all credited by their real names, even those who asked not to for safety reasons. When the respective women demanded an apology and get the doc pulled from Netflix, Jones just offered a pretty victim-blaming non-apology.

    And no matter what you think of pornography and the people who appear in it, asking them to tell their story, then removing all the important parts because you didn’t agree with them and giving potential and already existing stalkers an easier way to find them by exposing their full names on the world’s biggest streaming service, then blaming them for everything that might happen because of you, is a real shitmove.

    Sadly the whole thing didn’t gain much traction in public, because what’s another dead hooker, amirite? I only heard of it, because a good friend of mine works as a cam model and pointed me towards the outcry that was happening in the scene.

  6. Agree with everything CJ said about the Netflix thing. As an ex-pornographer myself (5 years on the print magazine side, early 2000s) I have a ton of sympathy for sex workers and all the shit they take from the public at large.

    The reason I’d been skipping this movie, though, is that as much as I love Coppola (I thought her version of THE BEGUILED was really good, and MARIE ANTOINETTE is a goddamn masterpiece), I’ve kinda soured on Bill Murray over the last decade or so as he’s passed firmly into his “…as himself” period. He’s not an actor anymore; he’s a living prop, and when you see him in a movie you know immediately everything you’re expected to feel about the “character” he’s “playing.” So I’ve been steering away from this one. But maybe I’ll give it a chance.

  7. I’ve kinda felt that way about Murray for about 15 years. It generally didn’t go down too well when I used to express that, but it seems I’m a little less alone these days (not saying that’s a good thing exactly mind you).

  8. To quote the Cox: “I wouldn’t describe Michael as my favourite, but he’s Michael Caine. An institution. And being an institution will always beat having range.”

  9. What?! Fellow print pornographers unite! I got more than a decade in and out of the game, 2000 to about 2012, writing and editing smut digests and the occasional glossy. It kind of freaks me out that the kind of material that we were peddling to a tiny niche of dedicated perverts has gone fully mainstream.

    To this day, I refuse to write a sex scene.

  10. That’s a funny quote, and a solid point. But some Institutions have fewer rooms than others and so repeat visits to them aren’t as rewarding. (Yes, I’m aware that this is some pretty shameless metaphor mixing)

  11. Wait, Bill Murray showed range at one time? Okay, name this movie! “Murray plays a wry snarky guy in this 80s OR 90s comedy.”

  12. Or even “Bill Murray plays wry snarky guy in this 80s or 90s drama!”

  13. If you compare his Anderson and Coppola joints to his 80s-90s broad comedy vehicles, I think you can see range their. Steve Zissou or Rushmore guy vs. Phil Connors or Peter Venkman? Quite different. But I agree that the proliferation of “Bill Murray is the best / so savage, etc.” anecdotes and urban legends, combined with him only doing prestige joints where he plays morose dudes leaves me longing for him to be funny again. Or for someone to be funny again in a film.

  14. there, not their — damnit

  15. Murray DOES have range, but just saying people wishing he was showing range now is just saying he’s not being funny enough for them now. And hey, he’s 70, he’s interested in other shit, I’m not doing the same crap I was ten years ago. He still does comedy, it’s just more minimalist than the old days. The Dead Don’t Die, he did that Rock the Kasbah, some assorted tv shows that were comedies.

    Funny though, just came from the Scream 4 thread where people were complaining about too much comedy stylings in movies. Marvel was mentioned and apparently Murray’s doing a Marvel movie so I guess he’ll be funny in that one.

  16. Had not heard that. I hope he’s Whistler in the new BLADE. This conversation is amusing me because I wrote my ANTLERS review in terror of the A24 conversation coming up again, since I was accurately describing it as gloomy, atmospheric and emotional. I didn’t need to worry though because many aren’t going to theaters and those who are mostly aren’t going to ANTLERS.

    This discussion of Bill Murray though makes me wonder if no one has seen A Very Murray Christmas. If you haven’t, and you get Netflix, do yourself a favor and watch it this year. I get being sick of Bill-Murray-is-awesome memes, but that special perfectly captures the funny/sad Murray, and it’s about a bunch of strangers in various sad predicaments finding some comfort in drinking and singing together at a hotel bar. I watch it every year now and there are parts that make me cry and I don’t even know why. It’s beautiful.

  17. Murray would be a really interesting Whistler to be sure, but no…he’s in the next Ant Man.

    I REALLY want to see Antlers. I’m not an A24 hater but I also laugh if people make fun of them because it’s not like it ain’t true.

    Want to see Lamb but I know I’m probably gonna be bored.

  18. All those who are considered great have their own style. And it works up to a point. But it didn’t take us long to get tired of Sean Connery being Sean Connery, Anthony Hopkins being Anthony Hopkins or Dennis Hopper being Dennis Hopper. I guess it’s Murray’s turn now.

  19. What?! Fellow print pornographers unite!

    Another one here.
    I didn’t know Jones was responsible for that doc. I bailed after like 45 minutes as it was TERRIBLE. Not just for it’s ‘point,’ I’ve suffered through and even liked docs I didn’t necessarily agree with, but it was just really poorly made.

    As I’ve very, very often explained to people outside of the industry (and I apologize to those who were in the industry because they’ve probably heard this one WAY too much): Porn is the WWF(e) just with fucking instead of fighting.

  20. Haven’t caught this one yet, and didn’t know it was out on Blu– will have to keep an eye out. Unfortunately, while I should’ve loved A Very Murray Christmas (Bill Murray! Jenny Lewis!), I bounced off that one pretty hard.

    As for Murray’s range: I mean, Groundhog Day is probably my favorite movie of all time, and I think he finds some nuance within what on the surface is a standard Murray role. I really liked his early dramatic turn in The Razor’s Edge, as well– that was an overlooked flop and I wish it would come back around for a critical reevaluation.

    I feel like ol’ Bill puts out a masterpiece about every 10 years or so, and we’ll be coming due for another one in a couple years. Of course, I happen to think The Life Aquatic and St. Vincent are the best things he’s done in the last two decades, so YMMV.

  21. Do people really give a shit about range or is that just something they say? Like, if an actor is the best in the world at doing one thing, why do we care if he never does anything else? Isn’t it a bit like slagging on a great guitarist for never picking up the tuba?

  22. I find it difficult to get on board with arguments like “This ACTOR’s just been playing himself” the last 20 years.

    It’s like when I told someone how much I like Gene Hackman the retort was “Why? Hackman only plays Hackman. What’ so great about that?”

    So I say, well have you seen “GET SHORTY?” Or “THE ROYAL TENNENBAUMS?” That look like typical Hackman performances to you? But here’s the thing, for every 1 “SHORTY” or “TENNENBAUMS” which landed on his desk, Hackman most likely got 250 scripts whose characters were defined according to instructions he most likely got on set ” Uh, Gene, you, uh, just do your thing man, you’re this bad-ass who shows up, gives the thousand yard stare to the first shit heel who looks at you cross ways, march up to him, and in that gravelly voice oozing with barely repressed violence say “Listen cocksucker, you don’t tow the line, I’ll kick the shit out of you twelve different ways and then piss on your wounds”. What was Mr. Hackman, prior to retirement, expected to say? Sorry, this does not fulfill me as an ARTISTE (although like every other jobbing actor, I have bills to pay and I really like working), so don’t call me unless you have another “THE CONVERSATION” or “THE FRENCH CONNECTION” in the works.

    Substitute Hackman for any other actor and you get the same story.

    Ah, Mr Pacino sir, we would like to request you once again to lose your shit and YELL VERY LOUDLY; Mr. De Niro, you can lose your shit too, just make sure you repeat every thing 5 times, even the questions; Sir Anthony and Sir Sean, we once again call upon your dulcet British tones to convey a mixture of gravitas and don’t-fuck-with-me-authority; Mr. Morgan Freeman, just show up, your very presence means we’re about to get a heaping helping of sage wisdom. Mr. Michael Caine, everything we expect from Mr. Freeman, just the English version. Mr. Tommy Lee Jones…you know Marshall Sam Gerard, we’d like you to be him in every movie please.

    Look, these are all actors of amazing talent who are more than capable of shading layers and nuance into any character, but if they are asked to replicate certain styles and mannerisms, let’s not forget it’s because WE ASKED FOR IT, by enjoying the ever living fuck out of them every time. Can anyone remember a time Ryan Reynold’s WASN’T playing DEADPOOL in every fucking movie?

    From as far back as GHOSTBUSTERS, Bill Murray was marching to the beat of some weird, wonderful drum in his head, frequently veering Peter Venkman off into wild and wonderful comedic tangents. And LOST IN TRANSLATION and “BROKEN FLOWERS” were just natural progressions from there, layering an ageing Venkman with a hint of melancholy. We loved it, but now find it easy to excoriate Murray for regurgitating this sardonic man-child in every movie, when we clearly put him in that space.

    Which brings me to ON THE ROCKS which I loved! There’s a nice scene where Murray’s character and Rashida Jones share a quiet moment. She asks him, why he cheated on his wife, her mother, and he mentions he was the center of her mother’s universe and suddenly with the birth of her child, he was no longer the center of that universe. A typical lament of spoilt man-children, but watch Murray’s expressions in that scene. How he shades rue and regret into his reminiscences. There’s layers and nuance for those paying attention.

    But CJ, that shit about Rashida Jones…agree. Bloody awful! Sorry to indulge in a spot of gender stereotyping but I would have thought a woman would have displayed more empathy.

  23. It is true that a lot, perhaps most, Hollywood stars generally do variations on the same schtick, and that’s probably more and more true the further back in Hollywood history you go (at least as far as talkies are concerned). However, there is some schtick you’re happy to see over and over again, others that get tired over time, others where you didn’t care for it in the first place, and some that grow for you over time. I don’t think anyone dislikes recent Bruce Willis’s movies for him doing the same old schtick, so much as him seeming to put little effort into it. For me recent Murray has been like the indie-cred Willis, but then I don’t really like Wes Anderson or Sofia Coppola all that much, so maybe I just don’t get it.

  24. KayKay –

    I agree with your general point that a LOT of actors are used as props by directors – “insert Pacino here” – but I don’t think Hackman (or my other perennial nominee for Best American Movie Actor, Ed Harris) is one of them. He is genuinely, subtly different in almost every movie he’s in, not in a showy, “look! I’m fat now!” way like Christian Bale or some other try-hards, but because he seems to have really thought about what kind of person he’s playing. I really mean it when I say I’ve never seen Hackman give a bad or lazy performance. Harris, either, though both of them have been in some crappy movies.

  25. See, I always thought it was GREAT that Hackman always gave more or less the same performance. He didn’t play a bad guy like a bad guy or a good guy like a good guy, because that’s not how people work. You can be a blunt, hard-nosed prick with a twinkle in your eye and be a villain or a hero. It depended on the context provided by the script for the audience to know if he was good or bad. And even betterm when the script didn’t tell you (like, say, UNFORGIVEN), you had to interpret for yourself. He’s like the C-3PO’s face of leading men.

  26. I don’t personally expect or demand that a performer show range as a rule. If an actor has range, then I think exploring that range and mixing it up can be fun and exciting to watch. Like, seeing that Jim Carrey could be an effective dramatic actor or seeing that Vince Vaughn could be funny (I will defend that he is funny and can act, both) or that Bill Murray can pull off a dramatic role — that is a neat watching experience. It was fun for me, initially, seeing De Niro appear in comedies. Likewise, it is possible to get sick of a talented performer just going through the motions doing the same old shtick (or, for that matter working too hard and seeming sweaty).

    So, I don’t think there’s any particular need for a person to show range, or for a person who’s been in one pocket to go revisit an earlier style or bag. But I do think it’s possible to get bored with a performer returning to the same well over and over and over.

    Now, exception to that rule — I could listen to 100 different Conway the Machine songs where he raps about selling drugs and killing people and never tire of it. Or at least I havn’t yet.

    Have not seen VERY MURRAY CHRISTMAS. Will check it out!

  27. And I agree about Hackman. He works as Hackman, and I don’t actually particularly enjoy him as Lex Luthor, which is a broader, more comedic type role. (He was great in Tennenbaums, though, Coltrane!). On the other hand, I never felt like Hackman was being stuffed down our throats as America’s sweetheart the way Bill Murray is. Hackman is not showy or cast in showy roles, he just do him. Robert DuVall is another — I could watch Robert Duvall be Robert DuVall all day.

  28. Also, people get mad at actors when they DO try to transform themselves all the time. I hear way more people complaining about, say, Christian Bale and Tom Hardy doing weird accents and changing their body size and stuff than I hear getting joy out of it the way I do. Or look at the response to Jared Leto playing that Jeffrey Tambor guy in the Gucci movie. Or any time any American actor tries to play a different nationality or age or something.

    However, I think the original point was just that you can be tired of a particular actor’s thing, which is perfectly understandable. I don’t relate to it with Murray but it’s certainly a thing that can happen after you’ve seen an actor in different variations over time, even if you don’t require everyone to have range.

  29. I think that’s why a lot of actors have somewhat short shelf lives…people get tired of them. Actors like Hackman can go way longer because they’re SO good and he mixes it up…doesn’t need to be the star, he plays support a lot too. If Carry kept only doing his comedy shtick he would have burned out long before he did. I love Jackie Chan but he hasn’t changed his fighting style and now you see him constantly using wires and doubles…yo, change it up old timer, you can’t do that shit anymore, we all know it, it’s okay. Doing stuff like that Pierce Brosnan movie was a good idea…smaller, tougher fights, he can still do that stuff.

  30. Yeah I don’t get people slagging a guy like Hardy for changing it up…I think he’s great. And also, like Bale, he can pull it off.

  31. Hardy has definitely proven to be a reliable chameleon. The fact that the guy with the steal mask in FURY ROAD is also the same dude from BRONSON, the lobster scene from VENOM and Not Picard amazes me. He doesn’t always pull it off like when he played The Krays or Al Capone but I appreciate that like Bale he always shoots for the stars when he could easily just play it safe and cash in on being the generic leading man type for the rest of his career. It’s also why I really appreciate the acting trajectory of the foster kid from Growing Pains.

  32. Hardy and Bale are a couple of always-electrifying guys to watch, one reason TDKR is my favorite of that series. Don’t watch everything they put out, but I can’t think of anything either of them has done where they’re haven’t brought their a-game, pushed themselves, and made whatever they did better that it otherwise would’ve been.

    Yeah, personally, I’m not actively hating on Murray (I hope! if so, my bad). I just grew less interested in it after LOST IN TRANSLATION. It’s a little bit similar with Will Ferrell — good for him that he can also do good dramatic work, and I’ve enjoyed his dramatic work okay, and I don’t love every comedy he puts out, but when he connects comedically, there is nothing like it. Jim Carrey is a very talented comedian, but most of his comedy annoys me. I could go on. The point is, there are some useful generalizations (in the very limited sense that they apply to more than one person) that characterize some of my reactions. But it’s not a formulaic, one-size-fits-all thing. For example, I loved the first couple Adam Sandler comedies, and then Mr. Deeds, and I really loved PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE. And his SNL hosting the other year was very solid. Pretty much everything else he’s done, though — including and especially his biggest hit, WATERBOY — just grates on me. That’s probably just my own idiosyncratic shit, which is always a major factor.

  33. Yeah I can’t think of the last Sandler movie I watched. I forgot that I still haven’t seen that diamond related one from recent times but I’m pretty much a BILLY MADISON and HAPPY GILMORE fan for life and also have a soft spot for THE WEDDING SINGER. No matter how hacky he gets that will change. Same with Carrey and his run from ACE VENTURA – THE CABLE GUY.

  34. *will never change

  35. Yes, same. I liked young, scrappy pre- HAPPY MADISON Sandler. When WATERBOY opened huge, I felt like the whole country must have been watching a different movie, b/c his character annoyed the fuck out of me. ACE VENTURA — I will make a very strained analogy to SCREAM in the other thread: Jim Carrey as bonkers manic-zany Jim Carrey worked really, really well once, but then it crossed over into insufferable, not just diminishing returns. DUMB AND DUMBER was also good, can’t hate on that, but the buddy dynamic is a big part, and it’s a different kind of stupid role. UNCUT GEMS reminded me that Sandler is legit and can still do great things — and surprising things. For all I know, some of his NETFLIX joints are okay (I heard the Chris Rock one was okay), but I need a very, very strong buy recommendation to venture there again.

  36. Also, I think what can get blurry in these convos is the line b/t “what I’d like to see” vs. “this guy is in a rut.” For instance, I dig Czarface, but their newer shit is mostly too electro, and I’d like it better if they went back to EVERY HERO NEEDS A VILLAIN and the first one. Their last several joints after the first DOOM collab (which is incredible) have disappointed me. But did you see they did a track with Tom Hardy for VENOM, along with another one, and those have more of the boom-bap sound I crave. Point being, I’m not hating on them for being more electro, b/c they gotta follow the muse and mix it up or whatever — it’s not shittier music, just less my taste.

  37. The thing about these extreme transformations is that one of 2 things happen: You’re so fixated on said transformation you’re not paying attention to the performance, or the acting tips over into a collection of distracting tics and mannerisms. In this aspect, Hardy is kinda hit or miss for me. His character delineation of the identical Kray twins was masterful. As was BRONSON. But the extremely overdone mumblecore shit in CAPONE and THE REVENANT was annoying as fuck (thank God the latter had a bunch of other things going for it). A performance had officially become an affectation. It’s the point I go, stop hitting me in the face with so much ACTING, man! Now Bale’s performance in THE MACHINIST was actually pretty good, but all everyone could talk about was his alarming state of emaciation. I mean, the film was ultimately about a man losing his sanity through extreme guilt-induced delusions, a question could be asked if it needed levels of weight loss which most likely required a doctor to standby off camera? Do this enough times, and what happens is a couple of really good actors get more talked about for their “chameleon-like transformations” rather than their amazing performances.

    In that sense, guys like Hackman, Duvall etc, within the admittedly narrower RANGE of characters they played, still imbued each performance with enough variety to make each one unique. And without the need to subsist on salad and water for 6 months nor affect a distracting style of speech or mannerism. The exception to the rule is when you’re portraying real life personas.

    And Pacman 2.0, I will say that indie-cred Murray is at least 5 galaxy hops away from DTV Willis. One keeps playing variations on a similar role with conviction, the other doesn’t give a flying toss as long as the check clears, unless the guy behind the camera happens to be called Wes Anderson or M.Night Shyamalan.

  38. Actually KayKay when listing the options for acting transformations you missed the third thing: people think it’s awesome and love to see an actor flex their gotdamned chops. I’ll take a tic-filled Hardy performance over Hackman sleepwalking his way through one of those 90s thrillers he made a million of. Talk about tics, I watch him saying a snide line that breaks into a laugh in five movies in a row and I’m good. Still like him, but he’s all meat and potatoes and sometimes I want some schezwan shrimp.

  39. Hackman NEVER sleepwalked over anything. Movies Sleepwalked AROUND him.

    Having said that, I too like it when a talented performer chooses to flex their acting muscles, I just dislike it when the sheer EFFORT of that flexing starts punching me in the face.

    It’s like listening to Michael Bolton. I know he’s going for soul and emotion, but all that effort makes him sound like like he’s attempting to crap one out after a week of chronic constipation.

  40. I actually prefer actors who stay the same and let the movie tell the story. It builds confidence. It worked for Bronson, Mitchum and Marvin, and seem to work for Neeson, Statham and Adkins now.

    And kids, never ever listen to Michael Bolton!

  41. Except Steel Bars.

  42. How does anyone how much effort Hardy puts into his acting? Maybe he’s so good he puts less thought into his stuff than someone who sucks.

    It’s easy for a guy like Liam Neeson to play the same basic character each time when he makes the same basic movie each time.

  43. Somewhere in one of David Mamet’s books he makes a distinction between “good acting” (good) and “great acting” (bad), the former being the actor working in the service of the play/film, and the latter being an actor making a great effort to draw attention to their acting. I like that, mostly. I just don’t see the two as mutually exclusive, and I don’t know that the latter is always detrimental. But that’s the way to bet on it.

    I think Muh is right that we can’t ever know how much effort an actor is actually putting in, but I think most of us have an eye for how much effort they appear to be putting in.

    Personally, I think Neeson brings a lot of subtle variation to his movies and it’s one of the reasons he’s been so successful at it. If Vern was still writing his Profiles in Badass, I’d argue that Neeson would be a worthy subject.

    I gotta say, I’ve loved where these comments have gone, and I can’t wait for the review of NO TIME TO DIE.

  44. I do think the distinction with a guy like Hardy is that he takes big swings. In recent years, I don’t see Neeson as someone who’s taking big swings. Similarly, after the 1990s, De Niro mostly stopped doing that. There’s an element of coasting to that, resting in your laurels. To me, this is not the same as “phoning it in,” though I confess that I may not be using the best words. I think certain actors take roles that they know will really challenge them, will force them to dig down and to experiment, and where there’s a risk and vulnerability to that, because if it does not work…oof, it could be ugly. That is the laudable side of “showy” roles — yes, they may end up being showy in the sense of capturing your attention, possibly self-consciously so; however, a showy role also reflects a degree of creative and reputational risk, sticking yourself out there. Bale and Hardy are examples of actors who really do that. Will Ferrell does that consistently, and I don’t think he gets a lot of credit for it. Denzel did that in TRAINING DAY. Hackman did it in TENNENBUAMS and Sandler did it in PDL and UNCUT GEMS.

    Doing that is not the difference between great vs good or hardworking vs. phoning it in. It’s the difference between playing to your strengths and playing it relatively safe vs. finding your limits. There can be a tendency to degrade that as show-offy or to love the schaudenfraude if it’s an epic fail, but the other side is that you’re seeing someone try to be bold and inventive when they could perhaps do something much less challenging. And, whatever his process, I don’t think anybody can take and perform the kinds of roles Hardy does the way he does without having a very strong work ethic and creative/technical courage. I don’t think it makes him a better actor than Hackman, but it does make him a different and perhaps more interesting actor. We need them both, and I’m sure I’ll find things to appreciate about Hardy’s 2030s-2040s De Niro payceck phase.

  45. Also, yes, I did jam about 1000 cliches and idioms into that last post — my bad. Motivatioal poster / sports commentary -speak aside, I do think it reflects a real distinction in terms of the drive to do a bold performance. Some of it seems developmental / age-related, maybe some of it is just a function of changes in the industry or the types of roles one can get as s/he ages.

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