Alternate Option
Thoughts from me.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005 9:57 pm
Relook at Tom Cruise in The Color of Money
In an effort to forget Tom Cruise’s War of the Worlds “performance”, I watched one of my favourite movies The Color of Money on DVD yesterday.

The Color of Money (TCOM) was released almost 20 years ago, and was a sequel to The Hustler which had been made 25 years prior (therefore 45 years ago, yikes). TCOM is not considered one of Martin Scorcese’s better movies. And I suspect the Oscar the Paul Newman won was due to sympathy from the Academy. However, since I watched TCOM at age 13, I always felt it was something special.

Tom Cruise plays one of his first adult “Tom Cruise character” roles—i.e. a cocky brash young man with one exception skill who needs some encouragement (in the form of a mentor, or reminder from a dead father, or a woman, or a war, or Jack Nicholson, or an autistic brother etc) to become someone exceptional by the end of the movie. In this movie, his exceptional skill is pool, or 9-ball.

TCOM was made when TC’s popularity was increasing exponentially—right after he had stripped off his Top Gun flight suit. At such an early part of his career, his acting was still fresh and inspiring; as was the “Tom Cruise character” and the famous smile. His role called for an irritating young prick, and he delivered in spades. And showed star quality far beyond the rest of the Brat Pack (see All The Right Moves, The Outsiders or Risky Business). He even holds his own as an effective foil opposite screen veteran Paul Newman.

I think TCOM shows TC in his element—right before he had to grow up and (fail to) mature. And I’m glad a director other than Tony Scott captured that time.

Just a point about the movie’s ending: TCOM is not the Rocky or Karate Kid of pool. Who wins the final game isn’t the point of the story. The movie is a character study that revolves around the behaviour, changes, manipulations and responses of the 2 lead characters. I’ve often wondered about the ending, and found it unsatisfying for a while. But after re-watching it 20 years later, it made sense that it be a mystery. I disagree that the movie was “building up” to a final confrontation. And I certainly would not want a Director’s Cut, to reveal any alternate ending. That would not make it more satisfying.

Although I am a fan of TC, I do wonder about whether overexposure of any actor makes it harder for him/her to deliver effective performances. I find Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Nicole Kidman, Keanu Reeves, Tom Hanks, Nicholas Cage, and even Kevin Spacey or Jack Nicholson to currently deliver very average performances, while their early work were surprisingly good. 3 of those actors were magnificent in Se7en many years ago, as was Brad Pitt in The River Runs Through It. Nicholas Cage became boring after the action hero era. Robert De Niro is a screen legend, but definitely not because of his recent movies.

Unfortunately the current method of “good acting” starts with the actor simply having a different haircut or a different accent. Or acting as a mental patient.

On the other hand actors who haven’t been bitten by the overexposed “bug”: e.g. Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Otto or Emma Watson—seem to be able to make their characters come alive.

It is possible that this overexposure is an inevitable result of the endless churn movie releases. Or maybe the result of having vast video libraries from which we can see any actor's past performances on crystal clear DVD. IMHO it is unfortunate phenomenon, because movies, and their actors are becoming more tedious and a bore.

[posted with ecto]

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