Friday, 27 September 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1987: Dennis Hopper in River's Edge

Dennis Hopper did not receive Oscar nomination for portraying Feck in River's Edge.

River's Edge is a mostly effective film, the school teacher is a bit on the nose and I've never cared for Crispin Glover in anything other than Back to the Future, about a group of troubled teenagers who try to hide the fact that one of them murdered his girlfriend.

Dennis Hopper plays one of the few adults in the film and is just as disturbed as the kids. Hopper plays Feck a hermit who also acts as the local drug dealer for the local kids. Feck is a strange man who does not mind greeting someone at the door while brandishing a gun, telling them openly that he murdered a woman and referring to his sex doll as a person. Dennis Hopper is definitely not a stranger to playing unhinged characters but this performance has a very different feeling then his earlier work in Apocalypse Now and Blue Velvet. Hopper internalizes the derangement of this character and gives quite an intriguing portrayal.

Hopper is excellent in portraying the mess of the man that is Feck in his early scenes when one of the teenagers come by to buy drugs from him. Hopper mixes up the man flawlessly inter splices the different sides of his troubled psyche. Although everything is insane about him Hopper is very natural in his performance as the shut in. In his initial scene Hopper weaves a portrait of Feck's derangement as he seems slightly amiable as he welcomes one of the teenagers but at the same time still threatens with his gun. Hopper is perfectly disconcerting as he makes Feck with an oddly warm personality that all the while still always has the threat of being completely deranged at the same time.

Hopper plays each side brilliantly while keeping such possibilities in every scene. Hopper never outright explains what exactly is the deal with Feck yet he creates a very compelling portrait of the insane individual. There is nothing simple about him. It would be easy just to play him as just insane but Hopper gives him such a depth of character. Hopper has Feck an insane man but a very lonely insane man. Feck's best friend is a sex doll he acts is alive and Hopper even brings a complexity to this relationship showing his insanity in this regard as something he does for a need to try to cope with his horrible situation.

Although it is a given fact from his first scene that Feck is a murderer, Hopper strangely makes him the moral center of the film. Hopper importantly distances Feck from the kids as Feck does not have that emotional distance the teenagers have. The difference is especially notable and quite fascinating once the murderer John (Daniel Roebuck) hides out in Feck's home. They both have murdered women John treats it as nothing to him rather something he just did, Hopper though is incredible showing Feck's murder as something that truly haunts him all the time. Feck's a murderer and Hopper does not shy from that in his performance, but Hopper always emphasizes in a bizarre poignancy that Feck felt the murder unlike John.

The scenes shared by Roebuck and Hopper are easily the best as they interact with their conflicting personalities even though they share the same horrendous deed. Hopper is absolutely great in these scenes portraying Feck as having a most unusual reaction to John. On one hand there is a warmth he brings that is very strong portraying once again that Feck to try to deal with his loneliness will reach out to even to John's hollow soul. On the other hand though Hopper builds in Feck a slow building very quiet disbelief in Feck as John consistently shows no remorse. Hopper is amazing as he pour so much emotion into his portrayal of the way John's soulless outlook tears him apart as Feck's murder is something he could never forget.

Hopper's single best scene comes after Feck has murdered John and he explains why. Hopper is so beautifully somber in the scene as Feck mourns the death of John as well as he slowly explains that he had to kill him as John's behavior was impossible to understand even to a fellow murderer. Dennis Hopper completely realizes this character and there is not a moment to be disbelieved. Hopper somehow brings the whole mess that is Feck together in his performance. Not only does he realizes his character's conflicting behavior into a cohesive whole he also gives an honestly sympathetic performance as Feck that stands as a powerful contrast to the emotionally distant performances by much of the cast particularly Daniel Roebuck.

10 comments:

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Told ya. I actually love this movie to death, barring Crispin Glover's obnoxious performance. To me it spells out more poignantly issues with morality than any other teen 80's movie. I kid you not when I say this was my favorite movie for 1987.

Psifonian said...

I thought he was great, but he's been so much better elsewhere. Then again, I think Hopper could take down Pacino, De Niro, Nicholson and all the others when he wanted to. "Blue Velvet" and "Easy Rider" top anything those guys ever did.

Michael McCarthy said...

Hopper was definitely the best thing about this movie. Frankly I'm not sure I bought the whole concept these teenagers trying to cover up their own friend's death, but that might have been because of the performances given by the actors portraying the teenagers' reactions to the discovery. And I personally think Crispin Glover should've been ranked lower than Schwartzeneggar here.

Michael Patison said...

What's everybody's Best Picture for this year. I now know that Robert's is this. I know I'll probably be seen as crazy, but mine is Broadcast News. It's such a funny, emotionally earnest film, and is easily James L. Brooks' best. Albert Brooks has never given a better performance in my opinion, at least in this genre; William Hurt is terrific; and it's also Holly Hunter's best performance, well save for The Piano. The script is brilliant and it's loss to Moonstruck is beyond unfortunate.

Michael McCarthy said...

Completely understand your pick of Broadcast News. I think I've already stated that my pick is Wings of Desire, but the rest of my top 5 is The Last Emperor, Au revoir les Enfants, The Dead, and Broadcast News in that order.

Louis Morgan said...

Michael McCarthy: Well it was based on a true story, and I thought out of the teenagers Roebuck was great and Reeves was actually solid. Glover wasn't very good, but then again Schwarzenegger was far below par, when it comes to his own work, in Running Man.

Michael Patison: For me it comes down to The Princess Bride and The Last Emperor. I'd probably split the difference giving Princess Bride picture and Bertolucci director.

Psifonian said...

My Best Picture is "The Princess Bride," but often I think about giving it to "The Last Emperor." Both are 10/10s for me. As it stands now, I have a Picture/Director split, with "Bride" taking Picture and Bertolucci Director.

Michael McCarthy said...

Louis: If you say so. I agree with you about Roebuck and I didn't think Reeves was terrible, but I think I liked him slightly less than you did. And I didn't mean to say that I didn't believe the event, I just didn't think that as an ensemble those teenagers were very convincing in their reactions to the incident.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

River's Edge is both my winner for Picture and Director, though I'd be lying if I said The Princess Bride and Full Metal Jacket didn't cross my mind. 1987 was a good year for movies.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I actually think it's Reeves's second best performance. I'd rank him *slightly* higher than Louis, but the feeling is essentially the same. His best performance is A Scanner Darkly... in a landslide.