Incidental Acts of Spontaneous Cerebral Violence

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The curse of Sadie Frost

Take a look at Jude Law’s imdb entry. Go ahead. Right now. Guess what? There’s not a homerun to be found. Not a one.

On paper, Jude looks like he should be the most successful actor in the world. Think about it:
--Steven Spielberg directed him in a picture inspired and developed by Stanley Kubrick.

--He co-starred with Tom Hanks and Paul Newman in Sam Mendes’s follow-up to “American Beauty.”

--He played the glamour role opposite Matt Damon, Gwyneth and Cate Blanchett in Anthony Minghella’s follow-up to “The English Patient.”

--Minghella cast him as the lead (undeservingly Oscar-nominated) with Nicole (coming off her Oscar win) and Renée (Oscar winner) in an adaptation of Charles Frazier’s National Book Award-winning novel.

--Independent auteur and enfant terrible David O’Russell cast him as part of a great ensemble (Hoffman, Tomlin, Schwartzman, Huppert, Watts, Wahlberg, etc.) in an incredibly quirky, challenging and idiosyncratic motion picture.

--He plays the lead (and gets a producer credit) alongside Gwyneth and Angelina in Paramount’s visually groundbreaking attempt at a grand summer adventure.

--Clint Eastwood directs him in the adaptation of one of the best-selling nonfiction books of the 90’s along with Kevin Spacey and John Cusack.

--He takes on a paradigmatic title role in Charles Shyer’s remake of an all-time classic Oscar-nominated movie.
Not one of these moves is a classic. Arguably, at least half of them don’t even rise to the level of “good.” It’s as if Jude’s career has been genetically engineered for perfection, however, what works in theory does not succeed in practice (à la “Gattaca”).

Within its billing block, “Closer” looks like it can not miss: (i) Patrick Marber adapted the screenplay from his own award-winning play; (ii) Mike Nichols is directing and (iii) it co-stars with Julia Roberts, Clive Owen and that girl from “Garden State.” Despite this pedigree, I'm tempering my expectations. (Yeah, I’m going to see it multiple times, but there’s a whole different motivation there.)

And “The Aviator”? Talk about the perfect motion picture: Howard Hughes biopic, Scorsese, Leo, Blanchett, Beckinsale, Baldwin, etc. Hopefully Law’s cameo as Errol Flynn is not significant enough to make or break “The Aviator” and that it will either succeed or fail regardless of, or despite, his presence.

Jude’s presence alone foreshadows a motion picture’s devolution from extraordinary in conception to merely ordinary in execution. Cause & effect? I’m not certain. Is Jude Law the catalyst that turns otherwise outstanding films into throwaway movies of good intention and wasted potential? Could very well be. Ask me again after “All the King’s Men.”

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