Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Best Actor 1974: Dustin Hoffman in Lenny

Dustin Hoffman received his third Oscar nomination for playing controversial comedian Lenny Bruce in Lenny.

Lenny is not a great film. It is a bit too random in the early moments. It fails really to show any greater significance of Lenny's life. It is slightly to introverted in its view, and it gets repetitive in the second half. Lenny gets in trouble for his speech and he tries to fight back, then repeat. Also what kills Lenny really is not dealt with.

Dustin Hoffman first of all never for a second really seems like Lenny Bruce. I never felt he really was Bruce, but I always saw Hoffman playing Bruce, but that does not mean this is a bad performance. Throughout the film Hoffman does performs a Bruce act which interconnects with everything else occurring in the film. He handles all of this well, not as Bruce but he does seem like a competent comedian.  In the actual story part of the film, Hoffman starts out as the up and coming comedian. In these early scenes he is a bit dull, and just does not really put that much energy in his performance.

His scenes with Valerie Perrine  who plays Lenny's wife Honey, are all very good though, they are not really romantic but they work in their own strange way. Honey and Lenny's relationship is very strong but I find both of them make it work well. I find though most of the effort seems to come from Perrine, who I find is actually more essential to making it work. Hoffman is generally the reciprocal one and the non emotional one of the two. Although the scene where they get into a car accident, Hoffman shows his grief and anxiety incredibly well.

Later though Perrine goes away and it starts to focus much more on Lenny and his censorship. Hoffman is strong in these scenes very strong. Everyone one of these scenes Hoffman handles them very well. His fights in the courts and his playing around with his own censorship are well handled by Hoffman. The best part of his performance is his final act. His tired, manner and dread are perfectly handled by Hoffman, and it is a memorable scene. Overall the performance is good despite having problems, such as never seeming like Bruce, or the fact he never really presented Bruce's morphine problems well, or his affairs well. The film itself doesn't deal with these problems well either, so it really is not Hoffman's fault. Still overall a very good performance from Hoffman.


Anonymous said...

I just didn't really like his performance, nice work as always but I failed to see Lenny Bruce.

Louis Morgan said...

I did not see Bruce either, but I thought it was still a good performance.

joe burns said...

I agree on everything you said!