Saturday, 22 March 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1986: Jeff Goldblum in The Fly

Jeff Goldblum did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Sethaniel "Seth" Brundle in The Fly.

The Fly is a very effective horror film about a brilliant scientist who invents a way to transport matter, but some severe problems arise when he decides to transport himself.

Jeff Goldblum plays the scientist who we first meet at the beginning of the film as he meets a journalist Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) and quickly tries to impress her by claiming to have created something that will change the world. Jeff Goldblum has a very unique screen presence to be sure with his method that is certainly all his own. There isn't too much to Seth from the start other than he is a scientist the rest really is all up to Goldblum. Goldblum of course was the perfect choice than as he is character all his own and that is proven so from the scene he begins as he rather awkwardly attempts to flirt with Veronica while alluding to his scientific discovery at the same time. Goldblum possesses the exquisite skill of being slightly strange here well being quite charming and rather endearing at the same time.

Although Goldblum certainly fits the bill of the tightly wound nerd, and has certainly played them in his career, but Goldblum does not seek to make Seth an alienating man here. Instead Goldblum does something extremely important in these scenes which is to make Seth a particularly likable tightly wound scientist. He brings a lot of heart in his natural enthusiasm as he shows Seth trying to impress Veronica in some way even if it means showing of his experiment which is a matter transporter. Goldblum keeps Seth even as an inventor of such a machine someone who is very easy to empathize with as he tries in his very own slightly off fashion to woo this woman. Goldblum also nicely shows just a small but strong and very understandable pride that Seth has for his machine as he presents it to her.

Also very once again very importantly is the set up of the romance with Geena Davis's character. The two have great chemistry together in the film and although the progress of the relationship is rather swift they do make it a convincing and warm connection between the two characters. Both of them are always believable together and Goldblum makes it a particularly sweet performance by just how genuine he is in the awkwardness and shyness of sorts at the start that slowly diminishes, although never disappears, once he manages to impress her with his success with the machine, even making it so his machine can even transport living material. This succesess of Goldblum's performance early on in making the love story work as well as making Seth likable is essential to bringing we the audience into investing in the man as things take a turn for the strange.

Seth due to some foolish drinking as well as some of his well establishes insecurities decides to test the teleport using himself as the test subject. It seems to be a complete success although little does he know a fly came for the ride causing him to be fused with it. At first the transformation appears to be a good thing as Seth find his body is changing apparently for the better. Goldblum never leaves the transformation simply for the makeup to do the job and he stays with the transformation right until the end when he replaced. Goldblum is very effective though in the way he carries himself differently from this point on and at first with a far more confidant manner than he had before. Where before he was mostly fidgety in his physical manner after his change Goldblum presents Seth as a man who believes himself to be an absolutely prime specimen who should show off.

The confidence though soon changes its shape though as it morphs into something more unseemly. What it is in the transformation Goldblum shows that Seth basically is in a transformation period like a hormonal teenager. This could come off as a bit silly but Goldblum never makes it a humorous idea. Instead Goldblum is quite exceptional in showing it as a very instinctual act in his performance. Goldblum does not suddenly change either in his behavior rather he easing into from a strong confidence to an overwhelming arrogance very effective and surprisingly naturally considering that technically speaking it is unnatural. That's what is so great about his performance though is that Goldblum does not cheat, or use the concept to forget the character. It's far more disconcerting because Goldblum shows it to be the same likeable Seth from earlier who becomes this obnoxious jerk.

Of course his time as a prime specimen diminishes, and the fact that he is part fly starts to shine through in far more obvious fashion. Although what amounts to the change in Seth becomes far more than just some small marks on his face Goldblum still refuses to be overwhelmed by the makeup. Goldblum adds to it first through his mannerisms he changes to reflect that of as a fly, which again could have been played for just some easy laughs but that is not the case for Goldblum's portrayal. Goldblum makes these mannerisms completely seem genuine the process that he is creating and because of this the transformation is far more disturbing. What is also particularly interesting about his performance is that Goldblum does not drop his distinct presence really. Although Seth becomes a monster Goldblum never takes the easy approach by just making Seth act like a monster.

Throughout the later scenes right up until just before the very end Goldblum keeps a humanity in Seth by playing it as a the old slightly off scientist beneath it all. Goldblum makes it far more tragic by always reinforcing the idea that there still is that man within it all the time even as the man becomes harder and harder to see beneath his new skin. This works incredibly well one in that having Goldblum unique delivery style makes this one monster that stands out, but also he does make it far more poignant destruction of this man. Goldblum particularly makes the loss of the Fly man's especially disheartening because he portrays that certain desperation as he tries to keep his intelligence. The process continues with Goldblum slowly bringing  the madness in such a delicate and all too convincing of a fashion.

This is a marvelous performance by Jeff Goldblum because even though he plays a man who turns into a fly he never devolves into just a hammy creature performance, as he very easily could have. He calculates his performance perfectly by making Seth such a sympathetic figure early on to although for someone to be easily invested in as he goes down the path of turning into a manfly. Goldblum treats the whole idea of turning into a fly seriously with his performance making the transformation compelling and believable, well at least as believable as a man turning into a fly can be. This is not just a great performance in a technical sense though it goes much further than that. Goldblum gives a powerful portrayal of the results of too much tampering with the laws of nature. While Cronenberg's direction can make the story of Seth Brundle's transformation disgust and frighten, Goldblum is always there to make it a story which resonates emotionally.


koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

*fangirl squeal* I'm a HUGE fan of this performance. Even Siskel and Ebert thought he was robbed of a nomination.

luke higham said...

Louis: rating & thoughts on Davis

Anonymous said...

Have you seen the original? If so, any thoughts on the cast in that one?

Anonymous said...

Louis what do you rate and thoughts on Michael Biehn in the Terminator? Also which do you perfer part 1 or 2

Edward L. said...

Yes, he is brilliant in this, and would have been a worthy nominee.

RatedRStar said...

People cry at the Titanic, but for me The Fly is more sad and upsetting, particularly when he points the gun at himself.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke: Davis - 4(It is Goldblum's show, but she offers some fine support particularly because of the strong chemistry the two have together)


I have not watched the original.

Biehn - 3.5(A pretty decent action lead. He creates a fairly interesting dynamic in that he does exude a certain confidence when compared to Hamilton, yet still with a weakness when compared to Schwarznegger)

I'd say I prefer 2 because of Robert Patrick.

Anonymous said...

Hey Louis, what are your ratings and thoughts on Richard Gere in Primal Fear and Arbitrage?

Kevin said...

Louis, can I have your ratings and thoughts on the casts of 25th Hour, Gangs of New York and Infernal Affairs?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I hate to add to the barrage of questions, but what did you think of Getz in this movie? I personally thought he was awful, but I seem to be in the minority.

Michael McCarthy said...

I agree with Robert on Getz. I think he should've played the character a lot more endearing in the beginning but he was just a complete sleaze ball, which made him very hard to root for even when he was trying to save Veronica.

Louis Morgan said...


Primal Fear - 4(Gere is completely solid in a fairly standard and he just very properly reflects what he needs to with the character. Most importantly though he does stand his ground with Norton particularly in the final revelation scene)

Arbitrage - 4.5(Probably his finest work as he utilizes his usual style of going for all charisma then rather brilliantly subverts it with his effective portrayal of the cutthroat behind the business suit)


25th Hour:

Pepper - 4(Solid work from the underrated Pepper as he effortlessly combines the right over confidence of a hot shot stock broker, with a much more tender and wounded man who does care about the fate of his friend)

Cox - 4(Cox often plays evil and does it well, but here he plays it soft and gives a honestly affection portrayal of a loving father)

Hoffman - 4(A very delicately and well handled portrayal of the unease yet intrigue of his character's problematic dilemma)

Dawson - 2.5(Fine but really I forget what she really did)

Paquin - 2(Paquin is one actress I would say who has tried to hard to shed the child images by taking extremely sexually charged roles which she does not fit into well)

Siragusa - 1.5(Ruled by his accent and gives just a very over the top and uninteresting portrayal of a character who did have some potential)

Infernal Affairs:

Tsang - 4(Solid villainous turn by making the menace far more believable, by not trying to accentuating every movement. He plays it like a man who enjoys his power, but also a man who believably enjoys his power)

Wong - 3.5(Does the opposite of Tsang performance well by showing the passion the man has for good naturally, but most necessary having a genuine chemistry with Leung)

Lau - 4.5(Although Scorsese did bring a larger scope and more fluid direction in the re-make one thing I absolutely preferred was the depiction and performance behind the criminal/cop. Lau makes the cop a hot shot, but not one overpowered by arrogance rather bringing some likability to the role. Lau brings a true poignancy to the proceedings by showing the remorse and guilt that go along with a man betraying what he claims to uphold)

Gangs of New York:

DiCaprio - 2.5(He simply is out of his element never really finding his character, and being eaten alive by Day-Lewis in every scene they share)

Reilly - 4(His best that year. Has some fun with the Irish cop but does not over do it. He adds to the film's setting by feeling of the period as well adding the appropriate menace to the part)

Neeson - 3(Neeson only has one scene but he delivers as the passionate mentor like he should)

Broadbent - 3(Boss Tweed I feel is a character who is not really given his due in the film considering his importance to the period, and Broadbent is not exactly how I would picture him. Nevertheless he still does a fine job with the little he has)

Thomas - 2(I never bought his friendship with DiCaprio so the betrayal really means nothing)

Diaz - 2(Stands out like a sore thumb in the setting, and accomplish not much of anything in terms of creating a character or any interesting dynamic with either DiCarpio or Day-Lewis)


I agree with you and Michael. Someone with more natural charisma should have played the part so even with his sleazy lines he could have still stayed likable.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

That, and he was just sort of over-the-top.