Archive for the ‘Renée Zellweger’ Category


13 Nov

Appaloosa – directed by Ed Harris. Western. Two gunfighters are hired to save a New Mexico town from an outlaw gang leader, when a lady of fortune enters the picture. 117 minutes Color 2008.

What is wrong with Ed Harris as an actor?

He is good looking enough, even sexy. He is actually a real actor, not someone thrust forth into the métier. But nothing I have ever seen him do quite works. It lacks center. So I usually stay away from him. I sense a real actor-talent in him, and a ground of technical prowess, but it misses. He never gets to what lies behind it. With one exception, The Human Stain, I have never seen him succeed in bringing forth a character I could care about or get behind. It looks like he counts on his masculinity to carry him. He seems to use it as a weapon of stardom, which doesn’t work, since masculinity works only when it is not used. He looks like he has abandoned his knowledge of being a second son to play the first son, but he is not a first son, he is a second son, with the vast vulnerability inherent in that position of being superfluous.

Here again we have him in a leading role one simply can, in the end, feel nothing for. And yet one can see his real talent in the scene when Renée Zellweger comes on and Harris falls all over himself like a bashful schoolboy. Harris is a cold person. But he is playing a cold person who heats up, and he never heats. We are told he does, but he doesn’t. With Viggo Mortensen he plays not friends, but something deeper, mates, much as Astaire and Rogers were – a couple allied more deeply than marriage. They have lots of scenes together as they take on Jeremy Irons, the local nasty, who is grotesquely suave in a courtroom scene opposite a judge deftly played by Harris’ own father, Bob L. Harris. Irons can carry a film all by himself, but Harris cannot. You don’t give a rap about him at the end.

The problem here is exacerbated by the failure of the story to attend to the Zellweger character once it is clear that she and Harris are a couple. René Zellweger is never given a single scene of her own. What lies behind the fact that she chooses her survival to depend upon her sexuality, and how does this fact engage Harris more deeply when she betrays him? This whole relationship should drive the story.

But no, the story veers off into nailing the Irons character and getting him executed. Zellweger herself is an actress, like Shirley MacLaine, who cannot rise beneath her quirks, and, while she has her moments, you never see that her terror is the terror of the terrorized town, her disloyalty the town’s disloyalty, her thin culture the town’s hope for survival. In fact, the town’s survival story, once the copper mine is closed, is let flag. The ton’s survival is what is at stake, however unworthy. Cut from the film, the town lacks attraction as a place to make a home in, and therefore lacks temptation to Mortensen when the time comes for him to leave it.

Mortensen we care about, because he, as an actor, has done all of the work of creating the relationship as junior partner between himself and Harris. His playing-innocent-of-the-guilty-schoolboy in the exposition scene when he has to explain how Zellweger came onto him is a lovely unexpected choice, and so right because he is not guilty at all. There is a second son, for you. A part Harris had been better cast in than the starring role he fancied himself qualified for.

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