Sunday, 6 March 2011

Best Actor 1994: John Travolta in Pulp Fiction

John Travolta received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction.

Pulp Fiction interweaves several stories, with several character relating to crimes in Los Angeles.

John Travolta is a rather interesting actor, because personally he is not one of my favorites at all, and he can easily be an actor who overacts quite terribly. The interesting thing about Travolta as an actor is that he is one of the most perfectly Oscar nominated actors ever. For one he was nominated for his two most memorable and iconic roles of this and Saturday Night Fever, and he was also nominated for his two best performances. Some actors can be described as properly nominated but for the wrong role or roles, not Travolta both times Oscar got him completely right.

Travolta portrays Vincent Vega a hit man who since he is in a Quentin Tarantino film enjoys his share of long stylized dialogue (not realistic as critics of the time for some reason thought it was). The long stylized dialogue can work at times, but it can also fall flat at times. I think two aspects of the dialogue is yes how well written a particular portion of the dialogue is, but also how well the actors deliver it. Travolta is actually particularly good at this in the film, and knows how to make it sound natural and quite smoothly. Even in some of the most forced sounding dialogue Travolta handles carefully, and keeps it all pretty natural.

It is interesting to note that Travolta was very cast a bit against type. He certainly was not known as an actor who ever portrayed a tough character like Vincent Vega. Yet Travolta completely fulfills the role, and in fact it is hard to see anyone else in the role. He has the perfect smoothness and charisma in the role, of this rather smooth criminal. I never at all questioned Travolta in the role as Vega, he was just right in the role, and utterly natural. He made Vega a likable hit man well enough, and I did actually find I cared about what he was going through particularly the wrenching last moments of his performance.

Something particularly effective about Travolta's performance is his terrific chemistry with Uma Thurman as Mia the wife of his boss (Ving Rhames) and Samuel L. Jackson as his fellow hit man Jules. His scenes with Thurman are well handled because the two start at a distance with Travolta being properly avoiding, and awkward trying not to be too close to his bosses wife. Their relationship quickly grows and they both make this convincing because how nicely and naturally they talk and react with one another. I think they very effectively grow their relationship, but Travolta very carefully handles this because he shows Travolta grow a connection with Mia, but also always carefully showing his resistance to show anything more than just liking her as a friend.

I think his chemistry is just a strong with Samuel L. Jackson. They are excellent together as the two philosophizing hit man. Their conversations together are generally regarded as the best or at least the most memorable of the film and there is reason these two have a certain casual chemistry that just works wonders really. I find their interactions are made interesting and especially effective by these two actors with their pitch perfect tone with one another. I also found these two were able to be also properly humorous and worked well in that regard as well. Overall Travolta performance is a strong natural and effective performance, which is well helped by his ability to connect with his main co-stars.


dshultz said...

Hey, I thought you'd give him 5 jacks. Oh well, you seemed to like him well enough.

dinasztie said...

This might be enough for him to win.

joe burns said...

I haven't seen this in two years, but I felt he was good, but his character isn't too interesting, there wasn't a "wow" factor. But a rewatch (as I often say on this blog!) is needed. Did you like Uma?

Louis Morgan said...

I thought she was actually pretty good this time I watched it.

Unknown said...

Which directors wud u say r tarantinos contemporaries