Tuesday, August 18, 2009

façade: Thomas Jane

Thomas Jane, the definition of a Late Bloomer, is channeling William Holden, circa 1955, in HBO's "Hung"
It's rather remarkable to think that Thomas Jane has been making films for about 25 years now but in the past few months has become something of an overnight sensation as the hapless hero of "Hung," HBO's latest (and very good) envelope-pushing series.

The show's title is terse, to the point and wildly accurate.

For some reason, stardom has eluded Jane. He's appeared in good films (Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia" and Terrence Malick's "The Thin Red Line") and bad films (Roger Kumble's "The Sweetest Thing" and John Duigan's "Molly"), but no one paid much attention.

His best shot seemed to be Renny Harlin's wonderfully absurd action film, 1999's "Deep Blue Sea," which may have been about a medical team inexplicably fighting off sharks but also boasted the eclectic cast of Saffron Burrows, LL Cool J, Michael Rapaport, Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Aida Turturro and ... Jane. I loved it. But it wasn't meant to be.

Ten years late, Jane is now proving his mettle as Ray Drecker, high-school coach and accidental stud, and watching Jane tear into the role brings to mind a young William Holden. In fact, Jane seems to be channeling Holden's Hal Carter character from Josh Logan's "Picnic" here, as he engages in fake bravado and pathetic strutting, while failing to conceal a deep-seated insecurity. And he's abetted by the very fine Jane Adams and Anne Heche. (Adams' appearance is a hoot: She looks like a Roz Chast creation.) Anyway, Jane's turns in a subtle, quietly complex performance, week in and week out. Perhaps, it's a new beginning.

Jane has just finished directing his first feature, "Dark Country," and his leading man is a hot one - you guess it! - Thomas Jane.


Tammy said...

"Hung" is awesome - subtle yet complex - and it says a lot about the times. Its message comments on the current economy but it doesn't preach. I think that's largely because of Jane's easy-going presence.

wwolfe said...

I couldn't agree more - particularly your comparison with Holden in "Picnic." And Tammy is also right on target: "Hung" is one of the few shows that says something about today's economic world. You should try to see Billy Crystal's "61*" - also made for HBO - with Barry Pepper doing good work as Roger Maris and Jane doing even better as Mickey Mantle. (Anthony Michael Hall, for that matter, is good as Whitey Ford, too.)