Friday, 3 December 2010

Best Actor 1981: Burt Lancaster in Atlantic City

Burt Lancaster received his fourth and final Oscar nomination for portraying small time crook Lou Pascal in Atlantic City.

Atlantic City is not much of a film in my view, it is poorly written poorly directed, and even poorly acted by some of the actors, although not all.

Burt Lancaster as Lou is in the more manic pool of Lancaster performances. I find he generally has too very distinct styles to roles, either the at least slightly wacky crazy man like in this film, and Elmer Gantry, or his more  stiff spined style as in Birdman of Alcatraz and From Here Eternity. The wacky characterization is perhaps the trickier of the the two, because it can perhaps be gold, or absolute obnoxiousness as he is in some of his performances. Here I feel it turns out to be neither of these two extremes, but rather in the middle although leaning pretty far away from obnoxiousness.

Lancaster does have the right about of energy in his performance, and lightens up the movie a little bit when he can, but he simply can not get past the script. The script leaves Lou, fairly simplistic in nature. A old always small time criminal, who would like to be remembered as a big timer. I felt there was very little to him more than that. Lancaster gives the part a nice dignity to it, but he does not make more out of the character because I do not really think he could due to the script itself. He works well enough with Susan Sarandon, and their affair is not unbelievable because Lancaster certainly is charming in the role, but unfortunately there is nothing special about the relationship besides the age difference once again due to the script.

Lancaster never becomes completely boring in this movie that to me was rather boring. I found he could still be followed through the pointless plot of the drug story, and like a true star does remain watchable. I think his highlight too is his joyful reaction to sort of making it in the big time. After killing the two thugs which is widely reported his constant bragging is made interesting and entertaining as Lou finally has his dream sort of come true. Still though the character arc basically only consists of making it big so to speak, and nothing much else. The character is simply too underdeveloped for Lancaster to really excel in the role. I will say he is good though, the second best thing in the film behind Sarandon's performance, and if the film itself had been better Lancaster could very well could have given a great performance rather just a good one.


dinasztie said...

Wow, I liked that he was subtle in this movie and did not give his usual annoying self. Sometimes he was able to ruin whole movies (The Rose Tatoo), sometimes he was able to give a brilliant performance (The Leopard). I felt that there was some force inside this character, which grabbed my attention.

Anonymous said...

I thought he was good - but overshadowed for me, by Susan Sarandon, who had a more interesting character IMO.

Louis Morgan said...

I would agree he was overshadowed by Sarandon.