With a special edition of Gattaca and the flop remake of Sleuth both out on DVD today, I thought we'd take a look back at the career of Jude Law. He's still a staple of the gossip set but his star seems to be flickering weirdly and not so very brightly these past two years. I hope there's a resurgence of respect for his talent and another impressive role soon. I can dream...
Ten Best Jude Law Performances
10. I've yet to rent Breaking & Entering (2006) which was barely and poorly distributed at the tail end of a busy film year (I hate when they do that) and the other major Law lead that I missed was Enemy at the Gates (2001). So this spot stays open for the time being.
09. Wilde (1997) He's played more than his share of callow pretty boys but this is where it essentially began as Oscar Wilde's unfaithful manipulative lover "Bosie" in the minor biopic. Stephen Fry played the witty playwright.
08. Closer (2004) All three of his co-stars (Natalie Portman, Clive Owen and Julia Roberts) received more praise but in a film full of selfish players, he's the most unlikeable so even if his performance had been as mesmerizing as Clive's (it wasn't) as against-type as Julia's (definitely not) or as fresh as Natalie's (how could it be?) he would've been ignored. But it's still incisive character-serving work. Even if you do want Clive Owen to beat the crap out of him whenever they're both onscreen.
07. Road to Perdition (2002) Sam Mendes' follow up to the Oscar-winning American Beauty gave Jude one of his rare opportunities to de-glam. That's something usually reserved for actresses but since he's as pretty as any of them, he got to ugly down to play the sadistic photographer. It was a surprising character and an unnerving diversion in his star trajectory (and he probably needs to do something equally head turning again soon).
06. Alfie (2004) A remake that's much better than it gets credit for being (with a delicious parade of underused and talented actresses including TFE favorites Marisa Tomei and Jane Krakowski) probably because it's difficult for people to feel much sympathy for the devil when he looks like Jude Law and his playboy luck starts running out.
05. Cold Mountain (2003) His second Oscar nomination and without question the best performance in a crowded uneven film. Renée Zellweger serves her statue-seizing role with an entire ham, not just a side. Jude meanwhile merely acts the hell out of Inman but goes so internal that it's quietly devastating. Natalie Portman proves a worthy scene partner and they did right by each other the following year in Closer, too. Can we get a third pairing, please?
04. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) Some cinephiles swear by this odd Spielberg/Kubrick mash-up but I think it's a botch --albeit a botch with several masterful elements. One of them is Jude Law as "Gigolo Joe" a robot built for pleasure. Spielberg isn't the sort of director who has a sure hand with erotic elements (consider the unintentionally funny sex stuff in Munich and that's just one example) or perhaps he just isn't that interested in them. He doesn't make as much of this witty committed supporting turn as an adult-driven auteur (like say Kubrick himself) might have but Jude still makes the very most of his material. He's in the mood for love(ing this role)
03. Gattaca (1997) This thinking person's sci-fi drama was my first exposure to the British beauty. He and Uma play genetically perfect human specimens. Good casting, right? He's mesmerizing and bitter, having lost his perfection in an accident, and completely steals the show from Ethan Hawke (flawed specimen). I haven't seen it in years but I'd love to hear from anyone who has recently. Does it hold up?
02. I Heart Huckabees (2004) He's my choice for Best Supporting Actor of 2004, just barely ahead of Mark Wahlberg in the same film, they're both superb in sneaky multi-layered comic roles. I'm sure this movie's fan base will only continue to grow as it ages. More Huckabees posts here, because I heart it.
01. The Mysterious Yearning Secretive Sad Lonely Troubled Confused Loving Musical Gifted Intelligent Beautiful Tender Sensitive Haunted Passionate Talented Mr Ripley (1999) The title character may have been complex enough to require multiple adjectives but it was Jude Law (as Dickie Greenleaf) and not Matt Damon (as Mr Ripley) who owned the film. It could have been as accurately titled The Cocksure Selfish Sexual Mean Outgoing Carefree Seductive Musical Privileged Beautiful Glowing Amoral Temperamental Passionate Charismatic Mr Greenleaf. It was the film that rightly made Law a major star and delivered him his first Oscar nomination. "Dickie Greenleaf" was an indelible creation and will be forever fused to notions of who Jude Law is as a movie star and celebrity, for better and worse. He richly deserved the Oscar which would instead go to Michael Caine. In a bizarre twist worthy of Hollyweird, Jude has become a reinterpreter of Caine's work, recreating two of his roles already in Alfie (2004) and Sleuth (2007).
I'm ready for a comeback. Here's hoping Jude has got at least one more Dickie in him.