Friday, 4 January 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1988: Michael Palin in A Fish Called Wanda

Michael Palin did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning a BAFTA, for portraying Ken Pile in A Fish Called Wanda.

Michael Palin plays Ken one of the diamond thieves in the film who has a stutter that leaves him constantly harassed by his violent cohort Otto (Kevin Kline). Michael Palin here is one of the comedic gems of the film as Ken, who handles the stutter a big part of the character incredibly well. He makes it actually seem entirely natural, far more than Colin Firth realized a stammer in what was suppose to be a serious film, and although it is used for comedy the stutter never really seems to be that is ridiculed really. Palin instead of trying to make the stutter funny, because a stutter is not funny, Palin instead uses for expert comedic timing instead.

Due to using the stutter so firmly as part of the character Palin really relies quite a lot on his skills as a silent actor which are considerable. What is probably my favorite part of the film details Ken attempting to assassinate an old lady who is the sole witness against the leader of the group Tom. Ken proves not to be much of assassin though much more often killing the old lady's dogs one by one more than her. Again assassination is not something that screams comedy on its lonesome in any way, but Palin makes these scenes absolutely hilarious through his portrayal of Ken's incompetence, but even more amusingly showing the intense heartbreak Ken has after he keeps accidentally killing the dogs because he is an animal lover.

Although I do enjoy the entire film I must say my favorite parts always do entail Palin with his perfect comedic work as Ken. Palin works well in the middle of the film as the rather hapless individual who unlike everyone else in the film he is not trying to double cross anyone else. Palin makes Ken easily the most likable character in the film through the earnestness of his portrayal of Ken, whether it is his loyalty to Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis) or his quiet unrequited love for her or his similar love and devotion to his fish including one called Wanda, Palin is very enjoyable in portraying this very particular nature of Ken with an uncompromising honesty.

The film depicts many of the interactions between the thieves and a barrister (John Cleese). The best interactions in the film come between Otto and Ken. Palin and Kline are just brilliant together as Otto constantly harasses Ken for basically every reason he can come up with whether it is his stutter, or his love of animals. Their scenes together as Otto constantly barrages Ken with insults or even come on as Otto pretends he's gay, are made into comedic gold by both actors. These scenes are just great with Kline moves all over the place with Otto's deranged behavior, but Palin matching him every part of the way through his more reserved portrayal of Ken's reactions to Otto. Their comedic timing is flawless. 

Palin and Kline never wastes a single scene as they are together and the play of the comedy for all that its worth. Palin is terrific as Ken moves from his distaste toward Otto, with a hint of hatred, that moves to more of awkward uncomfortable feeling around Otto. Every reaction is extremely funny in every situation but the best comes near the end of the film in the fish and chips. In the scene as Otto tortures Ken by putting two chips up his nose and more egregiously by eating his fish. This is a laugh riot as Kline and Palin are so good together. Palin is perfect though because he does not even try to go for laughs directly here instead plays the part with a very serious conviction making it funny simply because of how much he suffers from seeing his fish eaten.

All I can really say is that I absolutely love this performance that never makes me smile as I watch. He also though is terrific in making a character we honestly can care about in his plight even if is about his very small fish. Palin in his last scene where Ken attempts to get revenge against Otto is extremely funny because of how intense and unwavering Palin makes Ken's want for revenge over his fish. His final moment where he finally wins over Otto is incredibly enjoyable both for its high comedic value as well as just the way Palin allows us to enjoy the success along with Ken due to his sympathetic portrayal through the film. This is a terrific comic performance from Micheal Palin. He has the biggest challenge out of the case considering that both the stutter and the assassin parts could have seemed in just bad taste, but Palin handles them perfectly by only ever deriving humor from the situations in the film.


koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Of all the former Pythons, Palin is my favorite. He easily has the most comedic range and timing of all of them. He might have even been the most influential of the Pythons, considering most of the "best" sketches involved him. I'm still convinced Travolta was imitating the Spanish Inquisition in Battlefield Earth. Diabolical Acting indeed.

RatedRStar said...

I agree he is great in the Python films, Battlefield Earth ahhh dont give me nightmares about that film.

Ive just seen Django Unchained, wow is it great lol =D, Christoph Waltz is really great and is Co Lead (Fuck you Golden Globes), Leonardo DiCaprio is much more brutal of a villain then the trailers suggest and he pulls it off nicely, Samuel L Jackson is just brilliant and hilarious, Jamie Foxx is just average

Lezlie said...

This was a very nice film, I enjoyed very much, though Kevin Kline will remain my favourite. In my country Django hasn't opened yet, I'll have to wait 12 more days :(

mrripley said...

I just saw Lincoln again Field was still amazing 2nd time round,still totally underwhemlmed by Jones,Day Lewis's 4th best performance imo after twbb,itnotf and mlf,Levitt seemed unperiod,Spader highly amusing,Palin is great ina fcw.

dinasztie said...

Ppppp...pppp....ppppp....eeeeee...pperfect. :)

Great review!