Sunday, 7 August 2011

Best Actor 1986: Paul Newman in The Color of Money

Paul Newman won his Oscar from his seventh acting nomination for once again portraying Fast Eddie Felson this time in The Color of Money.

The Color of Money is the terrible sequel to the excellent film The Hustler. It once again depicts Fast Eddie Felson, now as a older man, now trying to use others to perform hustles rather than himself. The film is oddly enough very poorly directed by Martin Scorsese, with its overly dated eighties feel, and a needlessly obnoxious performance by Tom Cruise, as Fast Eddie's possible protege Vincent. 

This is the type of win that is quite obnoxious because Newman would have been deserving winner for any of his acting previous acting nominations besides Absence of Malice. Newman instead won for this film which is unfortunate, since so many of his other nominations were superior to this one. Does this make this a bad performance though, well not entirely I would say.

I would say I feel sorry though for Paul Newman and Fast Eddie throughout this whole film. The first being for Fast Eddie for having to deal with Tom Cruise's character. I frankly wanted Fast Eddie to sock Vincent in the nose almost every time he opened his mouth, Cruise is simply that grating in his performance. Also really this is missed opportunity since Newman could possibly have had an interesting dynamic with Cruise, but anything they could have had is ruined by Cruise, and the character of Vincent.

I felt sorry some more for Newman becuase of this reason as well, as he is saddled with inferior performances from Cruise, and from Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Both these performances are uninteresting, with moments of both dullness, as well as overacting. Newman has the unfortunate predicament that he has to act with both of them most of the film, making for lacking scenes, since even if Newman is being fairly natural, the scene still falls flat due to his two supporting actors.

Finally the biggest grievous makes me feel sorry for both Newman and Fast Eddie together. Fast Eddie is simply mistreated as a character. He was an amazing character as played and as written in the Hustler, but this time the writing falls very short of the writing of the Hustler. The script never really is find out all to well who Felson really is now. There are many indications that he is now like Burt Gordon who was played by George C. Scott in the first film.

Burt Gordon was a player, who manipulated Eddie through Hustles, as well as attempted to manipulate Eddie through life as well. Fast Eddie attempts this a little in the film against Cruise's character, but than he basically stops doing it rather randomly stops, without it only being briefly mentioned later in a non negative fashion.

It would have been fascinating to see maybe Eddie see himself as Gordon, and fight against that, or something like that but it does not even recognize it which is a real problem. There also is no explanation or struggle involving this at all, which is a real problem, since I find it very hard to believe that Fast Eddie would be so casual when replicating Burt Gordon, in fact I highly doubt after the events of the first film he would ever, and I mean ever quote him.

This is just a completely missed opportunity to further explore the great character of Fast Eddie. The amazing character of Fast Eddie is basically wasted in this trivial mess of a film. Barring all that I still don't think Newman is bad as Fast Eddie this time. He still has some charisma most certainly much less than in Hustler, but that does make sense since Eddie has been out of the game for some time. Also Newman does his best to make Eddie suave, and clearly commanding in the right way over manners of the Hustle.

Eddie is inconsistent as a character in this film, but that is not Newman's fault it is the script's fault. Newman at first is effective enough as the extremely manipulative Eddie at the beginning of the film, there is no transition to him stopping his heavy manipulations in Newman's performance but there is not one in the script of the film either, he just basically stops doing it so severely.

After the instant transition Newman's performance is better when Fast Eddie's story suddenly becomes about him trying to get back into being the number one hustler, and pool player again. Newman is effective enough in showing the restrained desire behind Fast Eddie's attempts. Newman also has one single very good scene where he lets himself be hustled. It is a strong scene for Newman, and actually the only one in the film really since Cruise, and Mastrantonio are basically silent. Newman in this one history really suggests the history of loss in Felson, and a little bit of that old Felson despair that was so well portrayed in the original film.

That single scene though is the only great scene for Newman. The rest of the film Newman though is always natural enough, even when his co-stars are not. He has an ease in the role, and he certainly knows how to play the various aspects of Felson, even though the writer has no idea how to properly combine them. This is not a bad performance, it does its best with what it has, its just a shame because I think from that single scene of Newman's after Felson is hustled suggest that with a script with at least half of the brilliance of the Hustler, Newman could have given a truly great reprise as Fast Eddie.


RatedRStar said...

We agree here =D I thought he was fine 2 and this film is BBBUULLLLLLLLSSSHIITTT, why couldnt sum1 else win this haha

Anonymous said...

I agree - bad makeup win.

dinasztie said...

Haven't seen him. He should have won for The Hustler, period.

mrripley said...

he is newman so he can't possibly be bad but he shoulda won 4 years earlier for the verdict and i rather enjoyed his abscence of malice performance,what the hell was mary elizabeth nommed for.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it wasn't brilliant but I agree that he was able to do a good performance in spite of the other two performances.

dshultz said...

Newman deserved the Oscar simply for putting up with Tom Cruise and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Jesus they were annoying!

Brennan said...

Man, I can't disagree more with your review of this performance and film. Newman was the ONLY choice for a winner. Gordon was not an actor and it showed. He wasn't that great. Hoskins was terrific for a very bad film and couldn't elevate the material. He just doesn't stand up to Newman this year, though. Woods is meh. He's the frenetic protagonist in Stone's unpolished first feature and it shows. Not a worthy winner. Hurt wasn't going to win an Oscar two years in a row no matter how great he was. That leaves Newman who was actually pretty wonderful. It's really Hurt and Newman and the choice is easy.

Also, I think Mastroantonio is fantastic in her role. She should have won the Oscar that year over a very weak field. She's such a strong female character in her limited role. She is more than just a love interest and makes a better winner than Dianne Wiest. I actually think Cruise is pretty good because Scorsese reigns in his slick shit. He gets called out for being his typical Cruise behavior and Mastroantonio keeps him in check. It's a subdued Cruise performance that works. Would be interested to see if your opinion has changed in all these years.