The Role of a Lifetime: 6

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Photograph of Christy Leonardo, actor.

Such roles can seem competitive – who will nab Hollywood’s most tragic protagonist? Will it be Colin Firth in A Single Man, playing a gay, suicidal teacher whose lover has died? Or will it be Jared Leto, who gained 70 lbs. to play John Lennon’s toad-like assassin in Chapter 27? Some actors have become lifelong sad-sacks, such as Paul Giamatti, who suffered onscreen as an awkward cartoonist in American Splendor and a broke, divorced schoolteacher in Sideways (also, he steals money from his own mother. Why? To get drunk in Napa). The most shocking example is Bill Murray, who has become an icon of late-life crisis: a lousy father and pothead in The Life Aquatic, a washed-up actor (and lousy father) in Lost in Translation, and a former playboy-turned-loner in Broken Flowers (and again, a lousy father). Murray’s come a long way since Meatballs.

Even comedies have come to embrace the Role of a Lifetime. George Clooney shows charisma and devilish good looks in Up in the Air, but he was instantly lauded as an Oscar contender – for playing a homeless, rootless, workaholic “corporate downsizer,” who fires people for a living. For a comedy, Up in the Air has a disquieting end: Ryan Bingham loses his girlfriend and remains lonely and airborne, probably forever. The same goes for The Informant!, in which a flabby, bald, incompetent Matt Damon embezzles millions of dollars out of a Midwestern corporation. Damon and Clooney stretched for their roles, and they succeeded – and their characters are misguided failures, right to the end.


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