Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Best Actor 1981: Paul Newman in Abscene of Malice

Paul Newman received his fifth acting Oscar nomination for portraying Michael Colin Gallagher in Absence of Malice. 

Absence of Malice is annoying movie for me because it covers some interesting subject matter, and it has a few good scenes, but most of the time it is rather boring. It does have one especially good scene at the end but I would say that is mostly because of Wilford Brimley who is terrific in a single scene performance.

When I originally did this year I was very much looking forward to watching Newman's performance. I thought I almost always like a Newman performance, unfortunately this is not one of Newman's best performances. I was very surprised by how much Newman seems to be just going through the motions throughout his performance. For most of the film he keeps a pretty dreary eyed expression and dull delivery for almost every scene. Newman who usually can do wonders with his character does almost nothing with Gallagher. I understand his character, very quickly, of a man bothered by new reports about him because his father was a criminal. Newman is only that sort of though, it is surprising how dull Newman is in this performance. Newman is usually a lively presence but here he is just boring most of the time.

There is nothing special about his many scenes with Sally Field's reporter, romantic or otherwise. I will say though that this is Newman's fault because he is so painfully dull, that nothing can come from his scenes. I will say that Newman has one good, very good scene actually, but it is odd because it is the only scene like it in the movie. You know a scene where he is not dull. His one scene involves him being very upset over the death of his friend inadvertently caused by Field's character. Newman is very good in this one scene he shows the right anger and sadness incredibly well in this scene. He has incredibly intensity, and really is interesting in this scene. Unfortunately as I said it is the only good scene before and after it is the same dullness. Save that one scene this is the by the books definition of a phoned in performance. I would give him just a 2 but I thought he deserved a .5 just for the one scene.


Anonymous said...

I agree here, unbelievably - Sally Field overshadowed him for me.

dinasztie said...

I haven't seen this. I have so much to see.