Friday, 5 April 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1991: Samuel L. Jackson in Jungle Fever

Samuel L. Jackson did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning Cannes, for portraying Gator Purify in Jungle Fever.

Jungle Fever is a mess of a film that tries to tell multiple stories that do not connect all that well to the main story about an interracial affair which is very undermined by a weak script and an ineffectual performance by Wesley Snipes in the lead. The film does have some merit though in there are good scenes in the mess although they never balance out so many of the over the top scenes or that ridiculous ending that made me laugh out loud where Wesley Snipes apparently wanted to show Darth Vadar how to say "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!".

Anyway Samuel L. Jackson is part of one of the side stories that really never is embedded well at all in the main plot especially due to the rather different style employed in his scenes. Jackson though actually does have the best side story though as Gator, the brother of Wesley Snipes character, who is a troubled crack addict constantly seeking money from his brother and mother for his habit. I must say that I had some fairly high expectations for this performance simply because the Cannes film festival actually made a special Best Supporting Actor category just to reward Samuel L. Jackson, although I don't know why as John Goodman's performance in Barton Fink still went unrewarded despite Fink winning Actor and the Palme d'Or, I guess everyone just took Goodman's work for granted.

Back to Jackson, Jackson has a only a few scenes randomly strewn about the film and I would say not really used the most sensible of manners. He just pops in and out and the film will forget him almost entirely when he is not on screen and perhaps have a scene where Spike Lee can show his ability to write as unnatural of dialogue as possible. Anyway Jackson's scenes are all very good though and the reason is Jackson is in them. Jackson obviously plays a role that many would overact, something that many of the actors in this film are not opposed to doing on a regular basis, but Jackson in a certain way downplays his role as Gator quite effectively. He makes the troubles of the addiction always as there, but very much in embedded into Gator's behavior.

Jackson is good in every moment he has and the way he goes about the manner of his character is handled very well. Whenever he asks for money from his family Jackson does well in suggesting that Gator tries his best to lie his way to the money while it is clear his intentions are otherwise. There are some great momentary reactions Jackson gives that suggests as sadness in Gator and an understanding of his own disappointment before he returns to his urges to get the money for his addiction. Jackson is terrific in portraying the random outburst of anger that comes from his pains as well even as he tries to act natural. Jackson quite effectively make Gator the ball of conflicting emotions that reflects the unstable nature of Gator.

He is outstanding in his final scene where he goes about harassing his mother one last time for money. Jackson is very good because physically in the scene he goes from a deranged thug randomly searching anywhere for money and acting violent when he does not find anything, but in the same scene almost becomes child like at times when he comes down for just a moment or when he goes about doing a mocking dance. Jackson is brilliant and it is very moving scene due to Jackson's portrayal of the shifting natures of Gator that comes from his demons. The only weakness in this performance is that the film itself doesn't use him as well as it could. I will not penalize Jackson for this as he rises well above the film in what honestly could have been a throwaway role, it is Jackson who makes his scenes important even when the film doesn't seem to think so. Now I don't think its a performance so great to warrant another category just to reward him, I mean really what was their problem in regard to Goodman, but this is some solid work from Jackson.


koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

That's basically what my friend told me. "Jackson's great, the film sucks".

dinasztie said...

Never seen this one, but I'm so looking forward to Laurence Fishburne's review. Boyz N' The Hood is one of my favorite films.

Paoloduncan said...

When he appears in the crack house's scene I thought: "He's fucking scary!"