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