Dave from Victim of the Time here, wondering why Eric Bana isn't a legitimate movie-star yet. I don't like to be an undue influence, but if I were in charge of Nat's Film Bitch awards for this year, Eric would be the current front-runner for the 'Body of Work' award. You'll all remember Star Trek, of course, where Bana played the main villain, the Romulan Nero, and put a lot of energy and zest into a role that wasn't given as much attention as it probably should have been. Since then, he's recently had two more roles that amply show off both his acting chops - in strikingly different ways - and his almost limitless charisma. (He also starred in the Australian film Romulus, My Father, but who knows when that'll reach my eyes...) In a coincidental move that surely inspired this post, I happened to see both of these Bana-starring films within the last week.
The Time Traveler's Wife is a disappointing adaptation of Audrey Hiffenegger's immersive, emotional novel, but you can't blame the cast (or indeed the casting director). Rachel McAdams is tender and sympathetic as Clare, perhaps missing a bit of the fierce passion and independent spirit of the book's Clare, but then the script goes for the romantic heartbreak rather than the book's mixture of romance and intellectualism. There's only so much you can fit into two hours, I suppose. But Bana is really the star here. Working within the script's slimmed down plotlines, he effortlessly conveys the bizarre difficulties and odd pleasures of the time travelling concept, instantly makes you comprehend why he loves Clare, while maintaining the book's unspoken edge that part of his love for her might be the simple need to have a purpose. Bana provides the movie with an emotional weight it would otherwise lack; the movie provides him with a chance to prove he is the romantic leading man the industry seems to be without at the moment. (Feel free to challenge me on this, but I can't think of anyone.)
But he saved the best for last. Or, for you Americans, he served up a rather lovely sandwich (choose your own filling for this metaphor), for Funny People, despite what the poster might pretend, is Bana's film. He steals it from under the noses of more seasoned film comedians (admittedly not particularly good ones) and jolts the film out of the odd, pitiable funk it's descended into. It's well-worn trivia that Bana was a stand-up comedian before he was spotted for his break-through performance in Chopper, but, despite Funny People's premise, Bana's character Clarke asks a different kind of comedic poise from Bana. Clarke is a stereotypical Australian dominant male figure with a rabid business sense and an aggression in both his humour and his temper. Bana displays impeccable comic timing in his interactions with Adam Sandler, Leslie Mann and Seth Rogen (as well as his on-screen children - their Chinese conversation provides the film's biggest laugh) as well as fine balance in keeping Clarke out of the realm of caricature. It's not a stretch to say his work here is a film-saving turn.
Bana's filmography since Chopper is a selective bunch of films, and it has to be said he's not always saved it for the best roles - Troy was a disaster (Bana emerged as the best thing in it), as were Lucky You (again, not his fault) and The Other Boleyn Girl (I don't who to blame for this), and, despite my opinion being that it wasn't half-bad, Hulk was hardly the vehicle to stardom anyone would have wanted. Maybe this terrific year will propel Bana to better things. He has the charisma, the talent, and the looks. Now he just needs to be allowed to use them more often.