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Streaming for Your Pleasure: Comedic Actors Gone Serious

Streaming for Your Pleasure: Comedians Gone Serious

Article By: Dan Clark

Welcome to the latest installment of Streaming for Your Pleasure. In this series I look at films currently Streaming on Netflix that fit into a specific topic. This week I’m looking at comedic actors that attempt to reinvent themselves as serious actors. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but in the end you have to at least respect the attempt of someone trying new things. Listed are films that are successful enough to garner your attention for a watch or two. Feel free to list you thoughts, opinions, or ideas in the comment section below

 

Buried

Directed By: Rodrigo Cortes,

Written By: Chris Sparling

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jose’ Luis Garcia Perez, and Robert Paterson

Synopsis: While on a job in Iraq, civilian contractor Paul Conroy is attacked and kidnapped, then awakens to find himself buried alive in the middle of the desert with nothing but a lighter, a candle, a cell phone and a knife.

Why You Should Check It Out: Ryan Reynolds is often a fanboy punching bag, and with the disaster that was Green Lantern last year it has only intensified. People argue that he simply plays the same role in every movie and refuses to do anything different. While that my be the case he does show he is able to play a role completely straight from time to time. Buried would definitely be one example. While it is a better concept then an actual movie it is worth a watch, even if you are a Ryan Reynolds hater.

 

Broken Flowers

Directed By: Jim Jarmusch

Written By: Jim Jarmusch and Bill Raden

Stars: Bill Murray, Jessica Lange, and Sharon Stone

Synopsis: After being dumped by another girlfriend (Julie Delpy), serial bachelor Don Johnston (Bill Murray) vows he’ll be alone forever. But when a mysterious unsigned letter arrives in the mail, he’s surprised to learn he has a 19-year-old son. With no idea who the mother is, Don sets out on a cross-country journey to confront his past, surprising a series of old flames (Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, Sharon Stone and Tilda Swinton) along the way.

  • Why You Should Check It Out: Bill Murray has had many films that have helped redefine his career, with Lost in Translation probably being the bunch. However Broken Flowers is a film that shouldn’t be forgotten. Even with his legendary status Bill Murray is still able to pull off the everyman role. Jim Jarmusch uses that ability to great success. Murray is endlessly charming in this tale of great emotion.

 

Precious

Directed By: Lee Daniels

Written By: Geoffrey Fletcher (screen play), Sapphire (novel)

Starring: Gabourey Sidibe, Mo’Nique, and Paula Patton

Synopsis: Viciously abused by her mother (a riveting, Oscar-winning Mo’Nique) and pregnant by her father, Harlem teen Precious Jones (Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe) has an unexpected chance at a different life when she enrolls in an alternative school. Teacher Blu Rain (Paula Patton) encourages her, but Precious must battle unimaginable barriers everywhere in her life. Lee Daniels directs this drama that features appearances by Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz.

Why You Should Check It Out: Up to this point the “comedian gone serious” was in the lead role, but it can also be effective when a comedic actor is placed in a supporting position. In Precious  Mo’Nique tries to shed the persona she has crafted for herself through her work in comedic films and reality shows. Apparently she did such a fine job she won herself an Oscar. People can debate all day about how deserved that Oscar win was, but you can’t deny she shows she has some pretty good acting chops.

 

World’s Greatest Dad

Directed By: Bobcat Goldthwait

Written By: Bobcat Goldthwait

Starring: Robin Williams, Daryl Sabara, and Morgan Murphy

Synopsis: After his son (Daryl Sabara) dies in an awkward freak accident, high school poetry teacher Lance (Robin Williams) ghostwrites a suicide note to spare the family embarrassment. But when the note becomes an unexpected hit, Lance sees a chance to resurrect his writing career. In a bid for literary fame, Lance writes his son’s journal and passes it off as his own. Writer-director Bob Goldthwait’s comedy debuted at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

Why You Should Check It Out: It’s one thing for a comedic actor to go serious in a drama, it’s a whole other thing for a comedic actor to play the straight man in a comedy. While Robin Williams performance isn’t without its laughs, his laughs are earned not through his normal persona of the crazy man with a million voices. It’s a more subdued and restrained performance that allows the world around him to explode in a fit of craziness. Perhaps Williams can be controlled if you have the right person to pull the strings.   

 

Insomnia

Directed By: Christopher Nolan

Written By: Hilary Seitz

Starring: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hilary Swank

Synopsis: Sent to investigate the murder of a teenage girl in a small Alaska town, police detective Will Dormer (Al Pacino) accidentally shoots his partner, Hap (Martin Donovan), while trying to apprehend a suspect (Robin Williams). But in spite of his guilt, he’s still determined to solve the case. Hilary Swank co-stars as a local detective who hampers Dormer’s efforts based on her suspicions about the circumstances of Hap’s death.

Why You Should Check It Out: Insomnia is looked at as Christopher Nolan’s weakest effort, and  though that may be the case it is still worth a watch. Robin Williams has a knack for playing a psychotic, which is best exemplified in One Hour Photo that is unfortunately not currently Streaming on Netflix. So check out the next best thing with just happens to be Insomnia.

 

Good Will Hunting

Directed By: Gus Van Sant

Written By: Matt Damon and Ben Affleck

Starring: Matt Damon, Robin Williams, and Ben Affleck

Synopsis: When professors discover that an aimless janitor is also a math genius, a therapist helps the young man confront the demons that are holding him back in this uplifting drama about friendship and risk.

Why You Should Check It Out: Good Will Hunting will forever be known as the movie that broke the careers of both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. It also holds the honor of being the film that won Robin Williams his Oscar. Personally Good Will Hunting is one of my favorite films of all time and Robin Williams is one of the biggest reasons why. He has great chemistry with Matt Damon and is able to hit that sweet spot in-between his dramatic and comedic personas.

 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Directed By: Michael Gondry

Written By: Charlie Kaufman and Michael Gondry

Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, and Tom Wilkinson

Synopsis: When professors discover that an aimless janitor is also a math genius, a therapist helps the young man confront the demons that are holding him back in this uplifting drama about friendship and risk.

Why You Should Check It Out: Jim Carrey has tried harder than anyone to be taken seriously as an actor. Overall his success at this has been inconsistent. The peak of his dramatic acting career is easily Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Not only is it looked at as a great film but is also considered one of the best films of the past decade.  Most credit that achievement to the writing of Charlie Kaufman, the direction of Michel Gondry, and the performance of Kate Winslet, but forcefully forget  about Jim Carrey. I feel that is unfair because he is what ties the entire film together. Sure his character isn’t all that dynamic, but that plainness allows him to be a window for us to this strange world.

 

Everything Must Go

Directed By: Dan Rush

Written By: Dan Rush and Raymond Carver

Starring: Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, and Christopher Jordan Wallace

Synopsis: Director-writer Dan Rush makes his film debut with this dramedy based on a Raymond Carver short story about Nick (Will Ferrell), a good-hearted but relapsed alcoholic who decides to live on his front lawn after losing his job and being thrown out by his wife.

Why You Should Check It OutT: Will Ferrell has planted a lot of seeds to make himself a more well-rounded actor. The most recent example was last year’s Everything Must Go. To Will Ferrell’s credit he really sold his character and realistically came off as  depressed alcoholic going on through a downward spiral.  Ferrell has an uncanny ability to get unhinged, which is typically used for comedic purposes. In this Ferrell directs that walk the line sense of craziness to bring the life a character that has this dark sole that is just waiting to break.

 

Punch-Drunk Love

Directed By: Paul Thomas Anderson

Written By: Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson, and Philip Seymour Hoffman

Synopsis: Barry Egan (Adam Sandler) — a bathroom supply salesman prone to paroxysms of destructive rage — finds his life refreshed when he meets Lena Leonard (Emily Watson), who falls in unconditional love with him. Meanwhile, Egan tries to escape constant harassment from his seven sisters as well as three thugs who have implicated him in a phone sex extortion scam. Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood) writes and directs.

 Why You Should Check It Out:  Paul Thomas Anderson has the ability to pull out the darkness that festers inside the hearts and minds of most comedians. The best example of this is his work with Adam Sandler in Punch-Drunk Love.  Many thought this departure would lead to bigger and better things for Sandler, however that has yet to come to pass. Again this isn’t a role absent of laughs, but the difference is Sandler gets his laughs in a different way. He channels his typical awkward persona into a character of mystery and repressed rage. While I enjoy a Sandler comedy from time to time I would love to see more of this Sandler and less of the Jack and Jill Sandler. He defiantly has the talent, but lacks the drive to be more then the guy with funny voices. 

 

Creepshow

Directed By: George A. Romero

Written By: Stephen King

Starring: Hal Holbrook, Leslie Nielson, and Adrienne Barbeau

Synopsis: Based on the E.C. comic books of the 1950s, this horror anthology includes radioactive meteorites, a creepy Father’s Day party, a monster in a crate and thousands of cockroaches. Venerable horror director George Romero (Night of the Living Dead) and screenwriter Stephen King are responsible for the creepfest, which features performances by Leslie Nielsen, Hal Holbrook, Ted Danson, Adrienne Barbeau, Ed Harris, E.G. Marshall and even King himself.

Why You Should Check It Out: Leslie Nielson wasn’t an established comedic actor when Creepshow hit movie theaters in the early 80’s , but in today’s world people often forget Nielson was once a straight faced serious actor.  All his work in Airplane! and the Naked Gun series have out shined everything he did before, which is understandable but unfortunate. Creepshow came out as the transition was in its futile state so it’s a good place to see the other type of roles Nielson can pull off.

 

 

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