Thursday, 3 May 2012

Best Supporting Actor 1998: Robert Duvall in A Civil Action

 Robert Duvall received his sixth Oscar nomination for portraying Jerome Facher in A Civil Action.

A Civil Action tells about a lawyer Jan Schlichtmann  (John Travolta) who goes all in a civil lawsuit for families effected by the dumping of chemicals in the local water supply.

Robert Duvall portrays a part similar to those portrayed by George C. Scott in Anatomy of a Murder, and James Mason in The Verdict (Both my winners of their respective years) which is that of the legal adversary to the main character running the lawsuit. Like Mason Duvall portrays the defense lawyer in a civil lawsuit trying to protect his big pocketed clients. Unlike Mason and Scott, Duvall shows the veteran lawyer has a very different sort of approach in his methods as a lawyer. Where Scott was loudly confrontational, and Mason was quietly confrontational, Duvall's Facher never seems to be confrontational in the least.

Duvall is brilliant in his portrayal of Jerome Facher, because he is this man from his very first scene. Duvall effortlessly conveys the years of experience of this man. From just his first moment Duvall shows us an intelligent adversary who surely will be nothing but trouble for Travolta's character, simply through the ease in which Duvall portrays the part. He is this career lawyer from the start, he creates this man's long studied history in Duvall's simple manner in which he approaches the role. Even though he is high powered lawyer, and working for wealthy clients, Duvall shows Facher never phased for a moment by what he is doing, he simply has become that accustomed to it.

Duvall is excellent as an adversary against Travolta's Schlichtmann because of how nonchalant Duvall is in the role. Duvall shows that Facher methods are simple, very simple, but very effective. Facher never says very much, and never lets on much either. Duvall shows that really Facher's whole method as a lawyer is to seem like he never is doing much of anything, even though Duvall does always properly suggest that Facher does in fact know just about everything about the law, and really he is so well versed in it there is no effort from him than is even required. Facher in lesser hands could have been just a strange character, that made little sense, but Duvall succeeds by always conveying the intelligence behind Facher's method.

Duvall is great in all of his scenes particularly when Facher actually strikes, or threatens to do so. Duvall is completely matter of fact of how sure of himself Facher is. Duvall though is careful not to actually be at all pompous as Facher, he is completely sure of himself and he should be. His scene where he basically says simply, without any hesitation to Travolta's character that he is going to win because he simply says that he will never let him use his ace in the whole simple as that. Duvall brings to life Facher's careful threats completely, even in their great simplicity. Duvall makes it clear that it is easy to underestimate Facher, but than something in his manner shows that one should never do so.

Duvall creates an original and effective opponent here with his very unique style in which he gets what he wants, but his very best scene though is when he tries to just explain things, and the law itself to Travolta's character. Duvall is excellent in this scene as he shows Facher spell out exactly how things are in the law.  Facher is most certainly trying to teach Travolta's character a lesson, but it is not in a cruel fashion. He is merely trying to come to an understanding with his character. Duvall here shows that Facher does not necessarily believe what is right will happen, or that his client is correct in anyway, but rather that it does not matter. Duvall is not cold here, but really is understanding as Facher, but he portrays it is Facher merely attempting to convince this man of the truth of the situation. This is strong work from Duvall, I only wish actually that we got to see Facher maneuver in the courtroom, as these scenes are pretty much glazed over in montage. Nevertheless Duvall efficiently creates a powerful adversary that never makes you second guess the legal losses in the film facilitated by his character.


Oscargrouching said...

Louis , how do you make the half of faces out of your picture rating ?

Louis Morgan said...

I just remove half the picture in paint.

Anonymous said...

Really good performance, I especially liked him when Facher was interrupted during his lunch :) But I agree, too bad the movie doesn't give him any courtroom scene.

Oscargrouching said...

Thanks ! I know about the Jacks from Chinatown , But who is this actors face ?

Louis Morgan said...

Walter Brennan in The Westerner of course.