Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Good Old Fashioned Mystery, Charles Ives, and Mark Ruffalo (film - Zodiac)

Went it came out, Zodiac was hyped as a bang-em-up, bloody, serial killer movie and was further criticized for a lackluster performance by Jake Gyllenhaal, but we borrowed it from the library and I didn't have that reaction at all. It's a good, old-fashioned thriller mystery - a puzzle to be solved - with good suspense, interesting characters, and a real idiosyncratic soundtrack. That's a big plus with me, I find as the opening credits roll, that most feature film soundtracks sound so obviously imitative that I want to walk out of the film. I know that if that's the music they chose, the film is likely to be built on cliche. But this was really original, some of it jazzy, and some of it quoting Charles Ives' The Unanswered Question, for good reason.

Jake Gyllenhaal was playing a uncharismatic character, so his performance seemed spot on. It seems to me he's often stretched in the wrong way when he's cast as edgy or unusual, but when he's playing white-bread ordinary he's relaxed and open, willing to do whatever is asked - he just doesn't bring much individuality to it. To be honest, I can't tell if he has any depth. Zodiac also features Robert Downey Jr. who turns in a fun performance as a quirky, boozy reporter (surprise, surprise). He's such a good actor, I hope people will think to cast him as something other than a drug addict. But the performance to see this film for is Mark Ruffalo's. In fact, there is no film I've seen him in where he isn't the reason to see it. He's always a whole, complicated person really behaving - when he's woken up out of bed by a phone call, he's not just squinting his eyes, it seems as though he's really been asleep. When he eats half his partner's BLT, he takes off the tomato. He just does whatever he does - it's all individual - no one else would do it that way. At the same time, that's never the point, he's creating a character and if that character requires a certain behavior then he's really behaving. And you can see the thought driving that behavior, and the emotion bubbling below the thought that not even he knows is there. A real actor. If you haven't yet seen him in You Can Count on Me, I can't recommend it enough. He's beautiful in it, so is Laura Linney. But back to Zodiac, it's good, satisfying mystery and suspense that will keep you guessing. Get the popcorn.


Anonymous said...

I love Ruffalo too in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - which was my favorite movie of the last decade. He's so scruffy and WEIRD in it ... and completely blase about the fact that his job involves zapping memories out of people's minds. He doesn't seem to question the larger implications - it's like any other minimum wage job. It's a very funny performance - and his hair is spectacular in it - like Heat Miser hair.

Ted said...

I'm taken with the theme of that film but I've been avoiding because.... well you know our little disagreement about Jim Carey. Just can't stand him. Don't know what it is. But I may have to see it if Ruffalo is in it. Did you see You Can Count on Me? I just loved that film.

Anonymous said...

Yes! I loved You can count on me! There's another good movie with Ruffalo in it called In the Cut (I think that's the name of it - with Meg Ryan - it's a great noir performance from him. Very Bob Mitchum-esque)

Eternal Sunshine. I probably think about that film once a day, Ted - in my everyday life. It comes up ... as a reference point ... I don't know what it was, it just really got INSIDE me in a way that few films do. Fearless did that as well - that's another movie I probably think about, on average, once every couple of days. Weird.

Anonymous said...

You Can Count On Me is the only time where I have been able to BEAR Laura Linney. I can't stand her acting normally. She makes me insane. But I really liked her in that. In my opinion, though, Ruffalo walks away with that movie (him and the little Culkin kid).

Ted said...

S - I know, I'll just have to see Eternal Sunshine at some point as a reference point to you.
I don't have your visceral reaction to Linney but while I always feel she's very skillful and her choices faultless, I never taste blood, you know? She gets an A in her Italian class, but would never be mistaken for a native.

Anonymous said...

Oh please don't feel that you HAVE to see Eternal Sunshine ... if you can't get past the Carrey thing, then perhaps it is not for you! I don't know what it was - but that movie speaks to me, and every time I see it - it feels like a different movie. !!! Amazing!

I think Linney is best when she has to play something abstract and mannered - like her performance in The Truman Show (a movie I didn't really like - starring your favorite actor!! hahaha) - but she had to play a caricature - someone who was already acting a part - and she was quite funny and good.

I don't buy her when she just has to play a normal woman surrounded by normal people - but she managed to pull it off quite well in You Can Count On me - but I have to say: I think the main reason for that is because she was playing off Ruffalo - who FORCED her to be good, and in the moment.

My 2 cents.

I miss talking with you in person! :)