Monday, 6 February 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2016: Joel Edgerton in Loving

Joel Edgerton did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying Richard Loving in Loving.

Loving tells the true story of an interracial couple in the 60's whose marriage would eventually challenge the law against it in the supreme court. Interestingly enough the film is best just when it depicts the people living their life, although I will say this is in part due to whatever Nick Kroll is doing as the Loving's attorney, Bernie Cohen. If director Jeff Nichols needed a Jeff Goldblum surrogate again why not use Adam Driver as he did for Midnight Special, but I digress.

Joel Edgerton is an actor who has flown under the radar for awhile even though his profile has gradually risen with every year. This seems to have happened once again with this film, as he did receive just a few notices for his work though his co-star Ruth Negga, as Richard's wife Mildred, was Oscar nominated for her work. The funny thing about that is though out of all the actors who kind of where in the realm of being potentially nominated this year, Joel Edgerton's work is perhaps the most transformative out of all of them, the problem being it is the kind of transformative work that you need to be a little more known to begin with for most to notice. To explain, Edgerton's work here is a far cry from his performances as the sleazy FBI agent in Black Mass, or the creepy loner in his own directorial debut, The Gift. Richard is nothing like those men, and here Edgerton seeks to embody a different kind of man, far beyond merely his blond hair and crew cut.

Edgerton's work is technically speaking extremely mannered, in his attempt to fully embody this very particular sort of man. This of course relates to his consistent and authentic Virginia accent, but that's only part of it. Edgerton speaks with a low rumble, speaking as a man who only really wants those closest to him to hear him. Even the deliver itself reflects this certain idea in Edgerton's particular contortion of his mouth, fitting to a man who mostly doesn't speak. His physical approach conveys this natural reluctance towards the spotlight, a shyness to ever seek attention. What is most remarkable in all of this is how natural Edgerton makes it all feel. The way he portrays Richard is forgotten just a few minutes into the film as you quickly accept that you just merely are watching Richard. Again it is technically speaking extremely mannered turn yet Edgerton does not make seem fussy at all, strangely enough it seems decidedly non-fussy. Edgerton through his approach never seeks attention which in turn fits this man who never desires attention.

A remarkable aspect of the story is that the Lovings were not what would be considered radical at the time, and in fact didn't really seem to be all that politically minded. Their story is far simpler in nature as the two merely came from the same county of working class people who just didn't really distinguish by race. A central aspect of Edgerton's performance is this idea. He presents Richard's love for Mildred as about as pure as something can be. It is rather fascinating what Edgerton does here in that his depiction of this is so genuine in its simplicity that he even creates an understanding that the idea their marriage would get them in any real trouble never even crossed his mine. In one of Edgerton's earliest scenes we see this as Richard shows Mildred where he is going to build their future home, and where he pledges to marry her. There is something ethereal in the moment, yet it still feels entirely of this earth. Although Richard's words are minor, and Edgerton's delivery unassuming you'll find few declarations of affection that feel as honest as the one in this scene.

Looking at the film is fascinating in that the film itself seems a bit like the Lovings. In that the Lovings just wanted to just be left alone to live their life, happily married in Virginia, and the film seems like it wants most to stay just with these two people doing just that. What interferes with this though are the authorities of Virginia who repeatedly emerge in order to keep the two separated from each other. This is even handled in a fairly low key fashion, even having the racist Sheriff be relatively calm figure all things considered. Nevertheless the two still are arrested for their marriage and presented at trial. Even in the court the two basically let their lawyer do the talking but that is not to say they have nothing to say particularly Richard who only says a scant few words, and performance wise Edgerton quite frankly almost makes Chris Pine in Hell or High Water look like Denzel Washington in Fences times with just how understated he is.

Edgerton does not seem to need words because of how he embodies Richard's personality. In the first trial sequence, where Richard also is not allowed to personally bail his wife out of prison, we see Richard go from one authority to another in order to be reunited with his wife. Edgerton is outstanding in the way he creates the sense of the emotional intensity in Richard without raising his voice. In just the most slightly halted breath, a turn of his brown, and crook in his mouth you can sense the man holding back so much. There is incredible moment where Richard waits outside after a non-fortuitous trial. The distress in Edgerton is so powerful in the scene as he realizes it just in his eyes, and his bones as he is merely just smoking a cigarette. Richard stays together, but Edgerton wears the turmoil in his very being. Richard throughout his and his wife's troubles keeps the idea that above all he just wants to be left to live his life. One of my favorite moments in the film is when Richard explains this fact to Cohen, as he just asks if can just tell the judge that the "won't bother anyone". This could seem silly in its naivety but Edgerton makes it heartbreaking by making this simplicity of the demand so painfully honest.

Again though I think the film thrives most just letting us see the Lovings as they are, and Edgerton thrives within this as well. He's still quite tight lipped, but that is never to say he's not expressive. Something I love is his chemistry with Ruth Negga, which interestingly outside of their initial scene together we do not hear the two of them vocalize their love directly to one another all that often. Their love though is never in question, and not just because of those earlier scenes. I love the physical way in which Edgerton portrays his true devotion to his wife. There is such a comfort in the way they touch other, and interact. They just merely seem right in the others' embrace, they do not even need to say they love one another to each other because it is already evident without a word. Richard is a man who is more or less a constant in terms of personality. The major change in the man is just the frustrations in dealing with law against his marriage. There is something I love about Edgerton work that he realizes in this. In that throughout he does convey the underlying fear in Richard as he watches his family knowing there is a danger, but also the unease as the spotlight is shown on them. Edgerton brings the right difficulty in Richard just to withstand the press and even his own lawyers, reflective of a man who only ever just wanted to live out in the country with his family. When it is all over though, and he finally hears that a court has found in his favor, Edgerton reacts with just a simple smile. That's all he needs though, and it is such a beautiful moment since as the joy feels so genuine to this man Edgerton has shown us. This is a brilliant subtle performance by Joel Edgerton as he realizes this man and his struggle with such eloquence and a true poignancy.

41 comments:

Luke Higham said...

YESSSS!

I absolutely love this performance.

Louis: Is Negga still a 4.5.

Charles Heiston said...

FUCK YES! Brilliant work.

Anonymous said...

If he was nominated over Affleck i would not have minded.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Any other 2016 viewings.

Deiner said...

Damn. I expected you to like him less. Nevertheless, I agree with you, he was fantastic.

Anonymous said...

Great review, he was really great.

Psifonian said...

Phenomenal work. Honestly, I think if people liked what Ledger did in "Brokeback," they should like what he did here.

Robert MacFarlane said...

@Psifonian: Funny you mention that, since that performance sprang to mind when I saw it. Both have the same withdrawn, tight-jawed approach.

Anyway, Edgerton is my win for the year. So many tiny moments that added up to so much. A damn shame he wasn't nominated along side Negga.

Psifonian said...

Exactly, Robert. And as brilliant as Negga is, she wouldn't work nearly as well without Edgerton, and vice versa. "Loving" works as well as it does because they form a perfectly tandem masterclass.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I do prefer Edgerton to Negga, but she is undoubtedly great. Best Actress has been such an embarrassment of riches for me this year, she barely misses out of my top 5, and I feel so weird leaving one out and awarding the other.

Anonymous said...

Sorry if someone else has already answered these before, feel free not to answer any of them if you don't want, but...

1. Who's your favourite male actor of all time?

2. What's your favourite movie of all time?

3. Who's your favourite female actress of all time?

4. What's your favourite female performance of all time?

5. What's your favourite year in female acting?

Also, just pointing out, your rankings are a little inconsistent. For example, you put Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver at 80, and Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler at 89, but you gave De Niro 4.5 and Rourke 5.

Charles Heiston said...

Anonymous: I always noticed that on those lists. But for the most part this blog is accurate.

Calvin Law said...

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Calvin Law said...

Charles and Anontmous: Those lists are essentially inactive now, Louis has stopped them.

Also the more I think about this film the more I love it.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the repost, but I just noticed a typo.

Sorry if someone else has already asked these before, feel free not to answer any of them if you don't want, but...

1. Who's your favourite male actor of all time?

2. What's your favourite movie of all time?

3. Who's your favourite female actress of all time?

4. What's your favourite female performance of all time?

5. What's your favourite year in female acting?

Also, just pointing out, your rankings are a little inconsistent. For example, you put Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver at 80, and Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler at 89, but you gave De Niro 4.5 and Rourke 5.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: As Calvin said, those lists are inactive/defunct and have been so for the past year and a half. De Niro went down to a 4.5, around the time he reviewed Ray Liotta in Goodfellas.

Alex Marqués said...

I'm glad you gave him a 5, I just can't describe how tender and moving his work here is.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

I'd raise her up in regards to Negga.

All will be revealed soon.

Anonymous:

1. Who's your favorite male actor of all time?

Toshiro Mifune

2. What's your favorite movie of all time?

Amadeus

3. Who's your favorite female actress of all time?

Sissy Spacek

4. What's your favorite female performance of all time?

Vivien Leigh - Gone With The Wind

5. What's your favorite year in female acting?

1976 is pretty good.

Again those lists have been defunct for over two years.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: I'm pleased Negga's a five now. Where would you rank her.

Luke Higham said...

Still can't believe the academy chose Streep over Adams.

RatedRStar said...

Hong Kong Film awards have just been announced and there were some huge surprises =D

Best Actor (only 2 correct from predictions)
Tony Leung Ka-Fai - Cold War II
Gordon Lam - Trivisa (will win)
Richie Yen - Trivisa
Shawn Yue - Mad World
Francis Ng - Shed Skin Papa

Huge shock nomination for Francis Ng (his first since 2003), a great campaign by getting critics to see the film before the audience just like what Jacky Cheung did with Heaven In The Dark last year, while his Infernal Affairs II costar Shawn Yue managed to get his first nomination, Richie Yen becomes the first Taiwanese actor to get a leading actor nomination (sorry Chang Chen) looks like the Trivisa train pulled him in.

Best Supporting Actor (3 correct from predictions)
Eric Tsang - Mad World (will win)
Paul Chun - Book Of Love
Liu Kai Chi - Weeds On Fire
Philip Keung - Trivisa
Ng Man Tat - The Menu

Looks like I was partially right about it being a veteran year although it is Keungs first nomination, shock snub for Lam Suet despite getting noms for all the precursors although he is probably used to it by now only being nominated twice his whole career, Tsang and Kai Chi were definitely locks, Keung helped by the Trivisa train while Man Tat was likely fighting Suet for that last spot, makes sense since Man Tat was his films only nomination whereas Suet and his film were completely shutout.

Charles Heiston said...

Luke: There's always that one snub that annoys people.

Charles Heiston said...

RatedRStar: Pleasant surprises.

RatedRStar said...

I will probably Loving again at some point, in this great year I originally thought it was one of the weakest films of the Oscar season compared to the others but that may change possibly.

RatedRStar said...

Watch Loving I meant to say.

Calvin Law said...

Always thought Shawn Yue was fairly talented even in the bad roles he was given, definitely the far better of the two 'young' ones in IA2.

Toni Erdmann was just odd, in terms of how I feel about it...erm. I thought it wasn't very funny, but very interesting nevertheless.

Luke Higham said...

Charles: Whenever Streep is in a baity role from a fairly well received film, she's guaranteed a nomination, so there's no point in me hoping the academy will ignore her, because they won't.

RatedRStar said...

Charles:

Good surprises
- Francis Ng returning after a long time, his film looks very different for him playing an old man but he is such a talented actor it is great to see him again.

- Soul Mate and Mermaid recieving the first and third most nominations, two very good films.

- New talent being recognised like many of the directors with Weeds On Fire, Trivisa, Mad World all being directed by newcomers

- Trivisa train rolls on, 7 nominations and the buzz just keeps on going

- Fairly strong Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor lineups for the most part.

Bad surprises

- Cold War II getting 10 nominations and Tony Leung-Ka Fai getting in for Best Actor, ridiculous.

- Monkey King 2, Operation Mekong and Cold War II constantly appearing in technical categories

- Tang Wei nominated for Best Actress once again for a nothing role.

- Godspeed, Mr Six, I Am Not Madame Bovary and Robbery mostly snubbed.

RatedRStar said...

Calvin: I agree on Shawn Yue, I thought he was fine in IAII just I thought the rest of the cast was solid to great but Trivisa is definitely the best thing he has done.

To be fair 2016 was a better year for HK than 2015, Trivisa, Soul Mate and Mermaid were great, I have heard great things about Mad World

RatedRStar said...

Weeds On Fire looks quite good and inspirational and Liu Kai Chi is always a glorious ham of an actor =D.

Charles Heiston said...

RatedRStar: They really love Tang Wei don't they? Fifth consecutive nomination i think.

RatedRStar said...

Charles: At first I thought it was because of Tang Wei getting infamously snubbed for Lust,Caution but then she just kept getting nominated, I heard that she is being positioned to be the next Maggie Cheung or Carina Lau but it would start if she wasnt constantly nominated for below par films.

RatedRStar said...

Mad World I meant to say was the best thing Shawn Yue has done just from watching clips not Trivisa lol.

RatedRStar said...

Calvin Law: You interested in any of the HK films?

Calvin Law said...

RatedRStar: Definitely Trivisa. I might go onto that after I finish Elle.

Louis: you should add 'despite being nominated for a Golden Globe' for Edgerton.

Michael McCarthy said...

I know no one asked, but since there hasn't been a lot of people talking up The Founder on this blog I thought I'd give my thoughts on the film and Keaton before his review.

Keaton: 5 (This film has stayed with me fairly well over time, partly by highlighting a lot of the problems with 2015's Similarly themed Steve Jobs. Keaton is crucial to this because while Fassbender played Jobs fairly consistently as a Lex Luthor-like megalomaniac even when his character was down, Keaton plays Ray Kroc as a fairly down to earth figure for the majority of the film. In the early scenes when Kroc is just barely making it as a salesman Keaton does well to show Kroc as a practiced salesman for sure, but one without too much ambition beyond trying to make a living. Then after he meets the McDonald brothers and realizes how much he can profit from them, Keaton is absolutely fascinating in conveying a very relatable greed. What's so unique about it is that for the majority of the film he doesn't play Kroc as a villain or a sociopath, just as a perfectly normal guy who gives into temptation to do dishonorable deeds when faced with the possibility of immense wealth. He even has a terrific moment where he first realizes that he has to screw the brothers over to profit from McDonald's as best he can, and he appropriately shows just the slightest hint of genuine regret before he makes the decision. Then for the last act of the film he very properly adjusts his performance to a broader, sleazier approach fitting to a man who believes he has earned his status as a big shot through incredible persistence. It's an exceptionally well-earned transition, but Keaton never lets it be so simple, as he punctuates even these last few scenes with decidedly shallow attempts to do right by those he betrayed. It's excellent work from Keaton that reveals truly human motivations behind acts of horrible greed.)

I should also add that unlike Steve Jobs, The Founder does a great job of humanizing the individuals that its central figure stepped on to achieve success, and Lynch and Offerman both give very strong performances.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Do you prefer Strong or Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy?

Calvin Law said...

Michael: Your thoughts, among many others', make me wonder how on earth they did not campaign Keaton. I mean, if it was a critical flop I'd understand but I've read very few downright negative reviews of it.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Again, need to re-watch a few first.

Anonymous:

Strong by the thinnest of hairs.

Luke Higham said...

The Weinstein Company placed all of their eggs in one basket (Lion).

RatedRStar said...

I think Luke is right, Lion was campaigned so heavily, it doesnt help that The Founder was going to come out in August then got pushed back, still I think they could have done a campaign called "The Wolf Of McDonalds"