Friday, 28 October 2011

Best Supporting Actor 1981: Jack Nicholson in Reds

Jack Nicholson received his sixth Oscar nomination for portraying Eugene O'Neil in Reds.

Reds is not a film I particularly care for because it takes too much of a sentimental and romantic view of its subject matter. In turn I thought many of the performances did exactly the same, but one person who rips right through any sort of sentimental ideas is Jack Nicholson as Eugene O'Neil. For me he is the only real reason to watch the film because he is almost on an entirely different level than the rest of the actors in this film, and is the only character I was really at all interested in.

Nicholson successfully steals every single scene he is in as the cynical Eugene O'Neil. He even steals the scene when he barely says anything, or does not say anything at all. Nicholson is very good in these basically silent scenes as he channels O'Neil complete disbelief in the fervor that rules the people he is around, as well as subtly channels the clear attraction he has Louise Bryant (Diane Keaton). Nicholson does an enormous amount with no dialogue far more than say Warren Beatty as Jack Reed who sometimes never stops talking.

His best scenes though come when he does get to talk a little bit more which are the scenes where O'Neil attempts to go after Louise despite her being attached to Jack. Nicholson is simply amazing in this scene as he portrays O'Neil attempt to show how he loves Louise. Nicholson is brilliantly subtle of honestly showing this without for a moment overplaying it. O'Neil never fawns over her, but rather shows it with O'Neil it something deeper within him that really makes him want her for his own. Nicholson is calm, and concise in these scenes and his performance always has a low key charisma that makes not at all question the affair.

This is a fascinating performance by Nicholson because of how well he realizes O'Neil as a person despite the fact that he is given little screentime and very little background information. O'Neil is always looking for a drink Nicholson never plays him drunk but rather shows that he has been an alcoholic for a very long time, since Nicholson always shows O'Neil drinking to be simply something he just does. It is part of his always  state of a sort of semi depression that Nicholson conveys brilliantly, he never forces it on the viewer but it is clearly always a part of O'Neil.

Nicholson though never lets one aspect of O'Neil override all the aspects as characters with a little screentime can sometimes be reduced to. He has enough nuance in his performance to turn Eugene O'Neil in to a full fledged human being. In fact he brings O'Neil more to life than some of the other actors do with their characters. He creates a fascinating performance of a cynical somewhat depressed man, who finds a certain joy, as well as pain with his affair with a married woman. This is great performance that not only stands out in this long film, but is in fact by far the best part of the film.


RatedRStar said...

I thankfully have never seen Reds so I dont know whether I should watch it just for this performance =D

RatedRStar said...

although Jack in most things is fine for me =)

Anonymous said...

His best supporting actor performance, hopefully he wins here

Fritz said...

I agree, he's excellent.

dinasztie said...

He's indeed fantastic but I still hope Gielgud wins.

Michael Patison said...

I totally agree that Nicholson's performance was great, though I side with Gielgud. I do, however, disagree with you on the tone of the film. While some of the performances (especially Beatty's) lend themselves to a romantic view of the subject, in this case communism and socialism, I couldn't help but feel that the film wasn't all that romantic about it. I am quite conservative and I got through it without any frustration (aside from its somewhat unnecessary length), quite unlike the Born on the Fourth of July, which I ceased viewing with 53 minutes remaining and will likely never watch again. Despite its length, I was actually less bored by Reds than by Chariots of Fire, and I'm a member of the cross country team at my school for Christ sakes. Again, though, I totally agree that Nicholson was brilliant in his portrayal of probably the greatest playwright in American history.