Wednesday, March 31, 2010

façade: Pierce Brosnan

"Pierce Brosnan gives the strongest performance of his rather lazy career."


So wrote
The New Yorker's David Denby in the strongest review of his rather lazy career. (I'm joking!) Speaking from experience, when a person spends 20, 30 years reviewing movies, he/she is apt to run out of things to say and write something inane, usually in haste ("deadline" being the most convenient excuse for the lapse).

The aforementioned quote is from Denby's 8 March review of Roman Polanski's "The Ghost Writer," in which Brosnan indeed gives his strongest performance to date. That's not my quarrel. My problem is with the critic's rather facile use of the word "lazy." Brosnan may have made some dubious career decisions, as most actors are apt to do during lengthy careers, but that's different from a "lazy career." I think Denby simply selected the wrong adjective. Hastily.

As far as I'm concerned, Brosnan is in his prime and "The Ghost Writer," in which he indulges in a fascinating cat-and-mouse duet with Ewan McGregor (that's them together in the photo at the very top of this post), shows the actor in complete, effortless command of his craft.

Actually, Brosnan's post-007 career has been varied and impressive but then, even during the years he played James Bond, he managed to juggle things so that his resume would include such worthy films as John Borman's excellent "The Tailor of Panama," Bruce Beresford's "Evelyn," Richard Attenborough's "Grey Owl" and John McTiernan's "The Thomas Crown Affair" which, arguably, is better than Norman Jewison's original.

But it's what Brosnan has been doing in recent years that have made him so hugely watchable. He sparred aimably with Julianne Moore in Peter Howitt's "Laws of Attraction," a take on the Hepburn-Tracy flicks; he was paired with Salma Hayek and Woody Harrelson in Brett Ratner's "After the Sunset"; he was sensational as the oddball hitman hanging out with Greg Kinnear and Hope Davis in Richard Shepard's "The Matador" (great performance); he hooked up with with countryman Liam Neeson is David Von Ancken's "Seraphim Falls"; he teamed with Maria Bello and Gerard Butler in Mike Barker's curiously little-seen "Butterfly on a Wheel" (aka, "Shattered), and he, Patricia Clarkson, Chris Cooper and Rachel McAdams examined "Married Life" in Ira Sachs' dark comedy.

And, of course, there was Brosnan's game, playful turn as one of Meryl Streep's former lovers in Phyllida Lloyd's film of "Mamma Mia!," in which he demonstrated a raspy, lived-in singing voice that reminded me of an old rocker. Very appealing (but then I have a weakness for non-singers).

But, yes,
"The Ghost Writer" is the film that puts him on another level altogther, and currently surrounding it are roles in no fewer than three titles - Chris Columbus's "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief," Allen Coulter's "Remember Me" and Shana Feste's "The Greatest."

And that's not all. Coming up are George Ratliff's "Salvation Boulevard" with Jennifer Connelly, Marisa Tomei, Ed Harris, Rebecca Hall and Brosnan's "Matador" co-star, Greg Kinnear, and Brian Levant's "Vanilla Gorilla" which reportedly is actually about a gorilla. Whew. Lazy?

I think not.


Jeff said...

Joe, I've also ben enchanted with Brosnan's work of late and I was happy to read this. I get the impressiont hat you are not some sort of status quo critic. I like that you don't spout the usual company line of conventional wisdom but stand in brave defense of non-conformism. All I ask of a critic is to provide some justification for his opinions, which you do.

Asher said...

You know, I haven’t seen much of Brosnan's early work, but I agree from what I’ve seen recently that he’s been fairly remarkable. It's not much of a role but I particularly like the way he plays off Streep in "Mamma Mia!" I like the light-handed cynicism he brings to the part. I remember him only as a TV actor and just barely. But these days he shows an impressive confidence.

Mercedez said...

Just wanted to drop you a line and say 'nice blog'

wwolfe said...

"The Matador" was one of my favorite movies of the Aughts. That was the first time Brosnan really made me sit up and take notice of his acting. I'm looking forward to seeing "Ghost Writer," too, when I have a chance. I appreciate the fact that he's tried to do interesting work, when he could have easily coasted in Bond-like roles. That actually seems very un-lazy, now that I think of it.

Carrie said...

Brosnan possesses Cary Grant's touch in being able to play lightness and darkness simultaneously. I thought him merely attractive an affable until the remake of "The Thomas Crown Affair" and the dementedly entertaining "Matador." Now I think he's consistently turning in great work. Thanks, Joe.

S. Sunshine said...

Sounds like jealousy on Denby's part. Most beautiful actors (and actresses too, although less so), aren't taken seriously. That's probably the reasoning behind his Kim Cattrall comment; of the 4 S&TC gals she was by far the most gorgeous and underrated.

joe baltake said...

Jeff, Asher, Bill & Carrie- I personally think that Brosnan has the personality and doing the kind of work that are bringing George Clooney so many comparisons to Cary Grant. I agree with Carrie. Brosnan has many of Grant's contradictory qualities, only he presents them with atypical subtlety.

Saufi's Mind said...

this is a bit late, but i just found your blog, and im quite a movie enthusiast myself. from malaysia. so i dont actually hv access to a lot of movies u mentioned elsewhere here, but at least i get more titles from hongkong, india, asian countries etc.

nway, am a big fan of brosnan,
watchd nearly all his movies, and he showed since steele that he has impeccable charisma and comic timing.. i wonder y he hasnt got more comedic roles...

hey enjoyed ur blog so very much!