Friday, 23 June 2017

Alternate Best Actor 2003: Daniel Brühl in Good Bye, Lenin!

Daniel Brühl did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Alexander Kerner in Good Bye, Lenin!.

Good Bye, Lenin! is a terrific film about a young man in East Germany taking most unorthodox measurse to protect his mother from experiencing a fatal shock after a coma caused her to be unconscious through the entire German unification.  

Daniel Brühl being a German actor obviously has played his share of Nazis as well as villains in his English language work, and even in his technically sympathetic roles he usually plays rather prickly sorts. It is quite a treat though to see him here in this role where he's not playing a Nazi, certainly not a villain, just a normal guy. Brühl's Alex in the opening scenes of the film is particularly normal young man living in East Germany though he does engage in just a bit of rebellion, the little that there can be against the totalitarian government. Really though Brühl's performance even suggests this is not as a major as it might seem portraying a far greater interest in running into a young woman also at the protest than in the protest itself. There is nothing questionable even in this though as Brühl brings a genuine unassuming charm to Alex, and in this early moment importantly shows his convictions in the moment where he is arrested and simultaneously his mother has her near fatal heart attack from the shock. Brühl is quite affecting in this moment in capturing the son's intense concern for his mother which is pivotal for the rest of the film.

Well that heart attack puts Alex's mother into a coma, which leaves her unaware of the German reunification which Alex and his sister Ariane fully embrace, though Alex continually visits his mother where he also finds that the young woman, Lara, he formerly met at the rally is one of her nurses. Brühl again is incredibly charming by offering such earnestness in both Alex's enthusiasm towards his new discoveries in Germany, but also in his constant concern for his mother. Eventually his mother does awaken but with Alex being given the warning that her next heart attack will probably be fatal. In order to avoid the great shock of the collapse of their old way of life Alex takes it upon himself to hide the German reunification from his mother. Now this is the central conceit to the film and Brühl's performance is essential to not making it feel ridiculous. Brühl makes it work by portraying Alex's devotion to his mother's health so honestly. Although he is lying to her Brühl's delivers these initial lies with only the utmost warmth, and gentle regard always emphasizing that Alex believes this is the only way to save his mother. 

The film then proceeds to reveal Alex's strange game where he takes many unorthodox methods to present everything that his mother sees as still being part of the old Germany. Brühl brings the right energy to the performance as he pulls you right into Alex's mission by making it such a sympathetic prospect. Brühl makes these such engaging scenes though because he reveals everything that comes with them. He has those moments where he is so endearing and encouraging in portraying this ingenuity in Alex as he tirelessly finds ways to create and refine the illusion. Brühl is never one note though in that even when he's in the process itself he does reflect the sort physical effort needed, as with each successive scene Brühl conveys Alex just wearing himself out a bit from it all. Furthermore though he also brings the real frustrations in his arguments with his sister over the illusion as he delivers his counters with that conviction that alludes to his motivation, even while it becomes harder and harder to keep it up his illusion. Meanwhile though I love those moments he has where Alex sees his mother happy, and Brühl so powerfully reaffirms that underlying motivation every time by presenting just the most genuine love towards his mother and happiness at seeing that she is still with him. 

Although his mother's world is crafted by Alex, Alex's own existence is not a constant outside of it. Now one positive aspect of this is in his relationship with Lara to where Brühl makes for a great low key romantic lead. These scenes are pretty modest yet offers the right sweetness to them, though with just the right reservations at times in the persistent argument over Alex's treatment for his mother. Another problem though appears in the form of Alex and Ariane's father who they can now technically reconnect with, as he disappeared to the west when they were children. Brühl has a great scene where he goes to see his father, who has started a new family. In the scene Alex's dialogue is fairly sparse but Brühl's eyes though say it all as they reflect the years of feeling abandoned. He presents this as a sorrow but not anger though suggesting Alex's willingness to potentially forgive the past particularly so that he can bring his father back to see his mother one last time. That moment though is simply the natural state of this wonderful performance by Daniel Brühl as he makes Alex such a likable but also believable lead. He's charming yes but he also offers the right convictions to allow the central conceit to work. He makes you empathize with the young man's plight throughout the film. It's terrific performance and I have to say I hope we'll be able to see this side of Brühl again sometime in the future.

35 comments:

Calvin Law said...

What I love about this performance and film is that I don't know, it feels so...natural. All the character quirks and humour feels so organic. Glad you loved it as well as Bruhl.

Louis: thought and ratings on the rest of the cast, and does it annoy you as much as me that when Toni Erdmann came out, critics acted as if German tragicomedy was some revelation.

94dfk1 said...

Really like this movie. Might watch it again soon.

Calvin Law said...

Also, Louis: your thoughts on Russell Harvard and Adam Goldberg, Key and Peele, and Glenn Howerton in Fargo.

Charles Heiston said...

Love him so much. His best work.

Anonymous said...

So, Baby Driver has a 8,5 on IMDB and a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

This sounds like more of a 5 than a 4.5 to be honest.
Louis: How close was Bruhl to a 5.

Anonymous said...

Apparently there's going to be another Shocker in Spider-Man: Homecoming, the Montana one. Someone's been watching the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the courtroom scene in To Kill A Mockingbird.

Deiner said...

Great review Louis. I also loved his performance and that film as a whole. I know you're busy right now and you've probably been asked some of these already but can you (re-)post the ratings of these performances?
-Amanda Plummer in "Pulp Fiction"
-Anjelica Huston in "Addams Family’s Values"
-Fay Bainter and Miriam Hopkins in "The Children’s Hour"
-Glenn Close in "Hamlet"
-Herbert Marshall in "The Letter"
-Jack Carson and Madeleine Sherwood in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"
-Jodie Foster in "Maverick"
-Judith O’Dea in "Night of the Living Dead"
-Paul Henreid in "Now, Voyager"
-Robin Wright and Sally Field in "Forrest Gump"
-Ruby Dee in "Do the Right Thing"
-Sarah Jessica Parker in "Ed Wod"
-Shirley MacLaine in "Being There"
Thanks in advance.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your thoughts on R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" from Space Jam.

omar said...

Louis: what are your ratings and thoughts on Lola Dueñas, Belen Rueda and Mabel Rivera in The Sea Inside?

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Also, to any and all anime fans here, I wholeheartedly recommend "My Hero Academia".I feel it's going to be the next "big" anime, and it'd entirely deserve it.

Matt Mustin said...

Louis: What are your thoughts on "The Frogger" episode of Seinfeld.

Anonymous said...

Tahmeed: All right, thanks for the recommendation. I'll probably watch it in Japanese. I find the Funimation voice actors (the responsible for the dub) to be overrated. I miss the days when anime was dubbed by Canadians from Vancouver.

Anonymous said...

Still, the Vancouver talent pool has been doing some recent dubs, but that's not enough.
Louis: How would you improve the new Simpsons episodes?

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: We've gone way beyond the point now where it's time for Fox to call it a day.

Calvin Law said...

Louis: do you reckon Kong: Skull Island would have been a better film if they'd just simply chosen to follow Hank/Gunpei's story after a time leap, with maybe Tadanobu Asano playing off Reilly, and having the film be kind of like Hell in the Pacific but with a giant ape thrown into the mix?

Anonymous said...

Luke: So you want Fox to end The Simpsons once and for all? I can't see them doing that this year.

Anonymous said...

Luke:

Anonymous: Yes I do, they have another two seasons left but it's painful seeing it go downhill these past 15 years.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Anonymous 1: Do tell me your thoughts on MHA once you watch a few episodes :)
I'm also a sub-purist, and that's the version I prefer, but then again, it also has a pretty great dub done by Funimation which suits the characters just as well.

Anonymous said...

Tahmeed: You don't need to call me Anonymous 1. I was also the Anonymous who said that the work the Ocean Group was getting was not enough.
I will give you my thoughts on the episodes after watching them.
I thought you were more of a dub fan, since you're not a fan of Goku's voice in Japanese. Personally, I don't mind Goku's voice because since anime is unrealistic, a character doesn't necessarily need a realistic voice.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Anonymous: Well, there are indeed some good dubs out there, but I almost always prefer the Japanese due to the incomparable feeling of authenticity. DBZ is simply an exception, but that's partially because I grew up with the dub, so any other voice just sounds wrong on a fundamental level.
Also, I hope you enjoy it :)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous & Tahmeed: I'm Luke guys. I'm using a smartphone instead of my laptop at the moment.

Anonymous said...

Tahmeed: I'm kind of sympathetic to the voice actors who do dubs, because the results of a bad dub are not their fault, but the voice director and the script writer.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your top ten voices in Futurama.

Luke Higham said...

Anonymous: I don't think Louis' seen much of Futurama.

Charles Heiston said...

Louis: Your top 10 Jeffrey Wright acting moments.

Charles Heiston said...

Louis: Could Brando or Hopper go up for Apocalypse Now.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

Sass - 4.5(She gives a terrific performance as she offers the presence that makes someone well worth the extensive illusion. I love the understated yet palatable warmth she brings in her scenes with Bruhl and Simon. In addition though she finds just the right comical side to things in portraying her sometimes befuddled reactions to things going on around her particularly the more outlandish elements of Alex's plot. She also though delivers the needed weight in the mind of the mother as she alludes to the secrets she holds before they are revealed. It's a very quiet and moving work as she finds the simplicity of the mother's relationship with her kids, but also finds the complications basically from having lived in the communist state.)

Simon - 3.5(She's good in portraying just basically the more cynical audience reaction quite honestly by showing her frustrations as being quite honest and earned even though we are set to sympathize with Alex's plight a bit more.)

Khamatova - 3(Somewhat limited but I really liked the chemistry she shared with Bruhl.)

Klauner - 3.5(Thought he was pretty great in his brief screentime as he matched Bruhl performance in reflecting the strong history between a father and his family just in his careful reaction. The moment where he realizes he's seeing his grown up son is particularly effective due to Klauner.)

Well that is one of many reason to be annoyed by Toni Erdmann for me.

Harvard & Goldberg - (Despite the secondary most capable hitmen they manage to make a rather strong impact. Their chemistry is particularly strong as the two are surprisingly menacing together, while also being quite funny in portraying their actually rather heartfelt yet still sometimes argumentative relationship. Goldberg I find manages to be particularly good as he does the slick hitman without ever seeming like he's being repetitive of Thornton in any way, though it is together that makes them stand out so well. I especially love the moment in which the two show up to the Lester's cell, as they manage to show how they are endearing yet still menacing villains.)

Key & Peele - (Well the two's sketches have actually always depended on their acting rather heavily so it is no surprise that they fit right into such a series. The two are quite funny in their comic relief yet never become distracting as such either, and you could almost see a spinoff about the two bickering FBI agents.)

Howerton - (Though I do have to ponder where Charlie Day, Danny DeVito or Kaitlin Olson where last season, well I suppose there was probably a bird somewhere but I digress. Any way as fitting to It's Always Sunny Dennis out acts Mac, though both are technically within their types. Howerton though does not just copy Dennis, creating a different doofus built around a rather halfhearted ego. He's an entertaining diversion for awhile before his unfortunate exit, and I'd really love to see Howerton do more work in general.)

Yes yes yes in regards to Kong: Skull Island, especially since as the film stands what was even the point of Gunpei beyond giving Hank a sword?

Tahmeed:

4.5 felt right.

I Believe I Can Fly - (Well let me tell you a tale of a time where there was a song that suffered from an intense over saturation to the point that I could not find myself stomaching. Though listening to it now it is in no way a terrible soulful ballad)

Anonymous:

A highlight of a great film to be sure. Everything about the scene is incredible and so powerful whether it is Robinson's testimony or Atticus's incredible summation. The scene though goes further though in the creation of the atmosphere of the moment with the two sets of seats, and the so powerful finale of the rising for Atticus at the end.

Louis Morgan said...

Deiner:

Plummer - 4
Huston - 3.5
Bainter - 3.5
Hopkins - 3.5
Close - 3.5
Marshall - 3
Carson - 3
Sherwood - 3.5
Foster - 4
O'Dea - 3.5
Henreid - 3
Field - 4
Wright - 3.5
Dee - 4
Parker - 2
MacLaine - 3.5

Omar:

Reuda - 3.5(The plot element of her own medical problem, not sure if it is accurate not, unfortunately as written seems underdeveloped. Her performance though before that moment though is quite effective though as he brings a direct conviction against Bardem often sardonic delivery. She offers the right support in this along though with a more striking refusal to take some of his behavior.)

Rivera - 3.5(Similar to Reuda's earlier scenes and she is effective though I do believe all the side characters are limited a bit by the writing. She however still brings the right depth even within her character basically used as another foil to Ramon.)

Duenas - 3(I thought she was fine for the most part but in terms of becoming the one performing the euthanasia from becoming staunchly against it there is something a little missing.)

Matt:

A hilarious episode even outside of the Frogger reproduction. Everything around that plot is pure gold particularly Peter Stormare's caustic guest appearance. I find Elaine's cake problems almost as good actually particularly the use of Entenmann's and the awful get well ballad of "get well soon". Jerry's plot is perhaps the weakest but helped by the moment where he thinks he's being stalked by a killer.

Anonymous:

So many ways. Get the voice actors back on form, only Harry Shearer really delivers all the way and oddly enough he's the only one who criticizes the show. Bring the heart back to the writing. Remove the horrible flanderizations such as villain Flanders, suicidal Moe, jerk Homer, Lisa without a hint of being a child. Also bring back hand drawn animation, digital is too stiff for the series. I could go on.

Anonymous:

Watched up until its initial cancellation.

1. Billy West
2. John Dimaggio
3. Katey Sagal
4. Phil Lamarr
5. Tress MacNeille
6. Maurice LaMarche
7. Lauren Tom
8. David Herman
9. Dan Castellaneta
10. Leonard Nimoy

Charles:

Wright:

1. A final song - Westworld
2. Bernard confronts Ford - Westworld
3. Doesn't look like anything to me - Westworld
4. A Memory Wipe - Westworld
5. Preparing Dolores - Westworld
6. Death of his son - Westworld
7. Bernard with Theresa - Westworld
8. Alice in Wonderland - Westworld
9. Winston lays out the case - Broken Flowers
10. Black explains the key - Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Hopper's rather likely.

Matt Mustin said...

Louis: You should see Angels in America. Wright is amazing there.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I was hoping at least one scene from Shaft would make it on that list. Love him as Peoples.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your cast and director for an 80s and 90s Kingdom Of Heaven.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Kingdom of Heaven 1980's directed by John Boorman:

Balian: Daniel Day-Lewis
Sibylla: Emma Thompson
Tiberius: Max von Sydow
The Hospitaller: Terence Stamp
Raynald: Tom Baker
Guy De Lusignan: Charles Dance
Priest: Jim Broadbent
Godfrey: Peter O'Toole
Saladin: Roshan Seth
Nasir: Derrick Branche
Patriarch: Christopher Lee
Baldwin: Sam Neill

90's directed by Mel Gibson:

Balian: Guy Pearce
Sibylla: Gabrielle Anwar
Tiberius: Nicol Williamson
The Hospitaller: Ciaran Hinds
Raynald: Clive Russell
Guy De Lusignan: Stephen Dillane
Priest: Sean Bean
Godfrey: David Warner
Saladin: Ben Kingsley
Nasir: Art Malik
Patriarch: Ian Holm
Baldwin: Robert Downey Jr.

Anonymous said...

Louis what would be your TV top fives for 2017 so far?