Saturday, 14 February 2015

Alternate Best Actor 1982: Jeremy Irons in Moonlighting

Jeremy Irons did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Nowak in Moonlighting.

Moonlighting is an effective film about a group of Polish workers doing a job, for cheap labor, in England just before major unrest takes place in their home country.

This review was originally going to be for Mel Gibson in The Year of Living Dangerously, but after watching that film I change my mind. To be sure Gibson gives a solid performance in that film though I thought the most remarkable element of that film was Linda Hunt's Oscar winning performance. Gibson is properly charming, he's got interesting chemistry with Sigourney Weaver, and does certainly still bring the dramatic weight needed for the film particularly the film's final moments. I have no complaints, but Gallipoli was a more notable somewhat similar performance from him. So I decided to instead examine Jeremy Irons's performance here in Moonlighting. Irons has a rather interesting task to start in that he must play a Polish worker in England which seems like a miscasting as Irons must be a non-Englishman in England, and Jeremy Irons happens to be someone who one of those actors that happens to be a bit of a personification of the country comes from. Well surprisingly though Irons is able to overcome his innate Englishness.

Irons is particularly good in overcoming this first hurdle. He nicely uses a very understated accent that does not try to bring too much attention to itself while still muting his own accent enough to make Nowak's background believable. Irons interestingly kinda does a form of one man show that is a bit out of the ordinary. The reason it is out of the ordinary is there are plenty of other characters around the town house, at the store, and of course the other polish workers that he is the foreman to. These characters though are all unimportant really in that it is only Nowak that truly matters, and even the people that factor into his story don't exactly have a lot say. We first follow Nowak as he and his men go to England to try to complete the house in a few days with a very tight budget. Irons's performance is quite clever in the way he establishes Nowak as a person. He shows Nowak to be rather unassuming in terms of being in England as Irons is quite effective in portraying the unease and uncertainty of a foreigner who knows the language but not really the land.

What's so compelling about that though that Nowak is completely in command of the workers who do not speak English. Irons though does create the intriguing dynamic that Nowak has with his men. Irons does exude the needed sway in his performance as Nowak, although meek himself, somehow seems like a bastion of domination when around his men. Irons is brilliant in the subtle way that he just has the air of command in the scenes with the man. There is nothing obviously demanding about it, but the fact that he is in charge over them is oddly not in question despite Nowak's general nature. Irons is rather fascinating in the ease in which he establishes the odd way that Nowak controls the men. He is the one who sets up the time they work as well as makes sure they don't smoke and follow other rules, as well decides what food they should have, and even specifically gives out the coins for collection in church. Irons's great because he's not warm yet he's not cold either towards the men. It's a very unusual yet so remarkable as he establishes this very peculiar relationship he has with the men. 

Most of the film's lines come from Irons's narration which itself is somewhat atypical as Irons speaks the lines as though he is reading a journal of the events. Irons does well in this regard though as he reads it as though it's almost Nowak's personal report on his job, even though it extends into more personal matters as well. A sudden change in the job comes about though when comes turmoil in Poland. Nowak, to finish the job on time, takes some extreme measures such as not telling the men about it, even taking measures to hide it, as well as even going so far as to steal from the local market in order to keep the job in budget. Nowak ends up being a bit of a personification of the sort of government oversight in Poland at the time as he directs the men dispassionately though not in a purposefully antagonist or selfish fashion. Irons is terrific because he makes this whole idea seem natural to Nowak's personality as he portrays the perhaps somewhat absurd mindset of Nowak seem wholly logical to his manner. Irons does not play it as absurd but very natural creating the sort of man created through the system he has been living in.

Although Nowak is distant this is not a cold performance by Jeremy Irons. Irons is actually quite endearing and makes Nowak a likable lead, despite some of his actions, by bringing such genuine earnestness in what he does. There is not malice in his manner, even when stealing, Irons rather just shows Nowak as a man just doing his job the only way he sees fit. Irons also delivers some poignancy in his quiet portrayal of Nowak thinking about his troubled home as well as his love that is far out of reach in England. Irons is moving conveying that there is a honest concern in Nowak towards the problems in his country even though he does put the job as a priority over these problems. Irons manages to be completely convincing in portraying the weird state of Nowak. He is properly sympathetic as he never shows Nowak just to be some strange cog even though he is blunt in showing the problematic way Nowak views as how he must perform his duties. This memorable work by Jeremy Irons as he successfully carries the film and creates a rather clever depiction of the ways a man does not lose his country even when he leaves it.


luke higham said...

Louis: Your rating for Gibson and Your ratings & thoughts on Linda Hunt, Jackie Burroughs in The Grey Fox and The Cast of The Thing.

Anonymous said...

What are your ratings and thoughts on Gloria Grahame in Sudden Fear?

Maciej said...

I have to admit, this is the first (and so far only) performance where an English-speaking actor managed to get the Polish accent right (well, not pitch perfect, but close). When it comes to Polish, Meryl Streep can shine Iron's shoes.

Anonymous said...

What are your thoughts on the film itself? (The Year Of Living Dangerously)

RatedRStar said...

Ah its a shame about The Year Of Living Dangerously, I loved it lol =D.

On Moonlighting, do I get the feeling Louis that I know how you came into contact with this film =D, a certain top 10 list maybe lol =D.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I'd like to change one of my winning requests. I'm changing my request of Jon Polito in Miller's Crossing for 1990 Supporting to Jeff Bridges in The Fabulous Baker Boys for 1989 Lead.

RatedRStar said...

Louis heres an interesting question for you, out of all the murder mysteries films you have seen. How would you rank them easiest to hardest in how to figure out the killer?

John Smith said...

Your ratings & thoughts on:

Richard Gere/American Gigolo

Karen Black/Five Easy Pieces

Diane Keaton/Annie Hall

Hillary Swank/Boys Don't Cry

The cast of True Detective

Liv Ullman/ Persona and Scenes From A Marriage


Samuel.L.Jackson/Jackie Brown

Noah Emeric/Little Children

Hepburn/The Lion in Winter


Sacha Baron Cohen/Borat

luke higham said...

John Smith:
Black - 4.5(Plays off Nicholson particularly well. She is able to honestly portray her character's uncouthness and lack of intelligence without every turning her into simply a joke. She always shows that there is definitely a desperate person there)

Keaton - Annie Hall - 4.5(For me she is the best part of the film, which I don't love as a whole. I really do like her work a lot though as she makes Annie such a wonderful presence throughout the film, and acts as a great contrast to Allen's tightly wound performance)

Swank - 4.5(The only performance of her's that I really like and actually I'm not quite as enthralled as most. Still its a strong technical achievement of playing the act her character plays, and brings gives the emotional punch the part deserves)

Witherspoon - 4(Going on based on some old memory here as I have not watched Election in quite while. It's easily the best I've seen from her as she went all the way just with being the ultimate overachiever. She is completely believable as that sort of type, but also does well in the few scenes where we see the desperation in her character)

Jackson - 4(As I said before Jackson brings menace with such ease and again does that well here. This actually is a lot like his performance in Hard Eight but a little more intense but still in a certain casual way. It's far from my favourite performance of his but it's a solid villainous turn)

Emmerich - 3.5(Emmerich, in his most substantial role I've seen him in, gives some solid work. He does the angry guy who is prejudiced against one man (although technically with good reason) in genuine way. He never seems one note in this way and Emmerich always suggests what is compelling the guy. He also is rather moving in his confession scene where he reveals his own mistake in the past)

Theron - 5 (A very haunting work where she always simply is Wuornos, and realizes the truly damaged psyche of her so well)

He hasn't seen Gere, Ullmann in Scenes from A Marriage or Cohen in Borat. He doesn't rate TV work, but I imagine that McConaughey & Harrelson would be 5s regardless.

Both Harrelson and McConaughey give career best work(although I should note that I still haven't finished Rampart).

McConaughey is amazing in playing such introverted character and nails everyone of his long speeches. Harrelson though I think manages to almost match him with his more unassuming, but often just as outstanding work. For example although I thought McCounaghey was exceptional in his final speech of the show the most moving moment for me came just in Harrelson's reaction when Marty sees his family once again.

Hepburn and Ullmann are 5s for The Lion in Winter and Persona.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

@Luke: you must have the most brilliant memory of anyone I know!

luke higham said...

GDSAO: I used a Google search

John Smith said...

Thanks Luke for taking the time, it is very appreciated (:

Would you mind sharing your toughts onAllen in Annie Hall?

John Smith said...

Thank you!!! I should have tought of doing that.

luke higham said...

John Smith: I thought he was fine, but was overshadowed by Keaton.

Also, I took the time purely to get Louis's reply for the first comment alot quicker, as well as the review.

John Smith said...

Something that I wamt as well

Anonymous said...

@kook160: what do you think of Michelle Pfeiffer in The Fabulous Baker Boys?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

@Anonymous: Very good, but honestly overpraised. I'm actually a little baffled to how she got more praise than Bridges. In fact, I'm totally baffled to how little praise he got for that movie anyway. That's career best hands down.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Louis what are you thoughts and ratings on the cast of Saboteur and are you a fan of the film?

Louis Morgan said...


4 for Gibson.

Hunt - 5(Not sure if I'd put her lead or supporting, it really does not matter though because she'd win either way. Now in terms of the gender bending she's absolutely convincing but that's only the starting point for her performance. She makes Billy Kwan into just a great character on his own in portraying his earnestness to help Guy though while still conveying the mystery of the character's behavior that always seems to have a hidden intent. She never makes him simply the spunky sidekick showing the complexity of the relationship with Guy as she shows that she certainly wants to be friends with Guy, but does convey the idea that he can't help but be jealous over his relationship with Weaver's character)

Burroughs - 4(She plays the sort of character that can be off-putting, that being the spirited person who has to tell almost everyone their views. Burroughs though is never overbearing in her delivery of this and just makes her character a genuinely passion person. In addition though she has that great chemistry with Farnsworth that really makes the low key romance quite poignant)

The Thing:

I'll save Brimley for the moment.

Moffat - 3(I can't help but feel he could have done a little more in terms of showing the wannabe John Wayne who fails terribly when an actual strength would be needed. Nevertheless like everyone in the cast he is great in terms of portraying the reactions to the alien)

Masur - 3.5(He's a good red herring since he establishes Clark as a cold off putting personality that could be taken either way. I also liked how he conveyed just how deeply Clark cared about his Dogs)

David - 3.5(Effective as the other MacReady basically pretty much as the only person who really will attempt to stare him down. His final scene is pitch perfect)

Clennon - 3(Nicely does the slacker guy routine and his reaction to the walking head is great)

Hallahan - 3(He has a bit less to do but he's solid as well)

Dysart - 3(Similar to Hallahan)

Carter - 3.5(He technically does not have too much to do but I found his reactions to be especially good)

Polis - 3.5(He's actually really good in creating some of the dread as he portrays the way his character is in over his head, his performance is particularly short lived but he's quite good)

Waites - 3.5(He's good as kinda the slacker who starts to really lose his head when the alien does arrive)

Louis Morgan said...


I really liked the film actually as Peter Weir is great in creating a palatable atmosphere without ever making it seem heavy handed. The execution scenes are particularly effective here because Weir let's them play out naturally and kinda much more brutally because of that. At the same he never forgets about character and creates an interesting focus in on the westerns within the foreign land)


The Murderer Lives at Number 21 was a tricky one.

I'd say the easiest are any where there was a supporting actor nominated for an Oscar.

Agatha Christie films technically should be difficult but I know it's always whoever you technically would rule out first.


Saboteur - (It might be Hitchcock's hidden gem since it's really a great thriller. I'm always a fan of the wrongfully accused man on the run and it does that particularly well here. Add to that some memorable villains and a particularly rousing third act, you have a memorable thriller.)

Lane - 3.5(The best I've probably seen from her. She appropriately spunky and charming. Although there's better chases of it in Hitchcock's cannon she does a fine job of the whole being one over by the male lead as well)

Cummings - 4(A straight forward but good performance. He brings enough confusion and sadness in his early scenes as he finds himself in the wrong place, then later being the needed passion with a bit of humor as Barry finds that he must do more than simply clear his name)

Kruger - 4(Kruger only has a couple scenes but he's a delight of deviousness. He carries such a elegant menace that is something special. Kruger such a smug callousness that is particularly effective in the scene where he explains motivation. What is so remarkable is that Kruger does not play him as mad, but rather an excessively calculating man)

Lloyd - 3(He's a good silent villain having that needed devilish look, but what I liked most is at the end how he kinda shows that Fry says "screw it" and would just rather be saved by the end)