Thursday, November 12, 2009

Oh Father.

Jose here. Last night after watching Two Lovers (my review here) there was one plea I kept repeating in my mind: please Joaquin Phoenix don't stop acting.

A lot was said earlier during the year about his retirement from acting and foray into rapping (I'm still trying to erase from my mind that unfunny, awkward Ben Stiller stint from the Oscars in February). And while he's been one of the most consistently fine actors in recent years (despite of some of the film choices he's made) and has received two Academy Award nominations this decade, he's truly remained underrated in a way.

People are used to his affecting Method acting and his superb impersonating skills (I still think his Johnny Cash from Walk the Line was robbed of the Best Actor Oscar), but when it comes to the one performance of his I think is pure genius, it's none other than the Abbe de Coulmier in Philip Kaufman's Quills.

The movie is a treasure chest of underrated performances (not even Kate Winslet got enough recognition for this!) perhaps because all of them were overshadowed by the extraordinary Geoffrey Rush playing the Marquis de Sade.

But back to Joaquin, notice how he literally inhabits the madhouse of Charendon in the movie. His every move is filled with grace and quiet domination. He might not be liked by all the patients, but he belongs there more than they do and they respect him for that.

His character is forced to go through "typical" movie problems priests must endure (duty vs. lust, good vs. evil etc...) but Phoenix manages overall to be human. His scenes with Winslet (who plays the virginal, sexy chambermaid of his dreams) sizzle with erotically charged innocence (sounds like an oxymoron, but you have to see these two together to understand).

His hidden passion and angst evoke Natalie Wood's glorious performance in Splendor in the Grass. You know they're going through something terrible, you wish to help them, but they exert a power over you that inspires guilty pleasure. Phoenix was nominated for an Oscar that year for screaming and hating Russell Crowe in Gladiator, but it was the Abbe who showed us the actor's divine gift.
*

10 comments:

Flosh said...

wow, Quills! a terrific, underrated movie, and you're absolutely right - phoenix is wonderful in it.

joy said...

Didn't like "Two Lovers", but Joaquin was good.

I happen to think "Quills" is his performance, following by "Walk the Line" and "The Yards".

Agent69 said...

Let us make one thing clear.
Ben Stiller's Joaquin joke at the Oscars was HILARIOUS.

Scott said...

Nice to know I'm not the only person who thought he did more impressive work in Walk the Line than PSH did in Capote.

mripley said...

I always thought he shoulda won 1995 supporting actor oscar for to die for.

Janice said...

//I always thought he shoulda won 1995 supporting actor oscar for to die for.//

What ripley said. Kidman's Oscar snub that year was deservedly much-noticed (as was her perf - again, deservedly) but Joaquin's warmth and heart balances her cold malice perfectly. You know he's a bit of a moron but you feel for him and even root for him to figure out what he's gotten himself into.

I wasn't overly impressed with his perf in WTL but that had less to do with him than the conventional "Hollywood biopic" quality of the script. And the real Johnny Cash was such a gentle giant, looming large in my mind that any substitute would be a poor thing indeed. I must add Quills to my Netflix, however.

Julia said...

I have always thought Joaquin's performance in Walk the Line was phenomenal, and frankly, better than Reese's. It was an incredible year for the "best actor" category, but I do think he earned a nom at least.

pomme said...

Phoenix is so great in many movies(Gray movies,...) except in "Ladder 49"(awful movie) and in "8 mm"(awful movie)
it's crazy the number of awful movies i saw and whom i remember!

NATHANIEL R said...

hmmm. i can't say that i'm a fan of this performance (at all) but maybe i should give it another shot.

i do remember loving the saucy minx Winslet. but loving her is so easy to do.

Glenn said...

It was always going to be hard to standout from behind Geoffrey Rush playing, of all people, the Marquis.

Two Lovers was alright, but I was more taken by Paltrow and Shaw.