Sunday, 12 April 2020

Alternate Best Actor 1978: Elliott Gould in The Silent Partner

Elliott Gould did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Miles Cullen in The Silent Partner.

The Silent Partner is a very underrated rather good thriller about a bank teller secretly stealing money from the bank/a bank robber Harry Reikle (Christopher Plummer looking his most Michael Fassbenderesque) during a heist.

One of the features that makes this film standout within its genre is one Elliott Gould in the central role. Gould being one of the atypical leading men that helped define the seventies. Here in the role the "wrong man" more traditionally although the twist here, provided well by screenwriter Curtis Hanson, is here he is the right man in a way. We open though in the film with the more expected point of our Hitchcockian style hero, seemingly just minding his business as usual. Although this unusual hero, is indeed that, as we have Gould providing a bit of an off-beat presence, not quite as off-beat as his brilliant Philip Marlowe from The Long Goodbye, however similar in terms of the way Gould takes an atypical approach. This time again an effective approach in this sense, as he doesn't overdo the idiosyncrasy, however creates a proper sense of Miles as this bookworm type, most interested in a new fish than anything else. Gould is fantastic early on though is as much as he is effective as seeming a man of no importance on the cursory surface, we are immediately granted his greater intelligence and ability early on. This is almost entirely played in his eyes, and brilliantly so. Whether this be his quick calculating glance at an unused robbery note to the bank, or his examination of his attractive co-worker Julie (Susannah York) who he is acting as a false date for so his boss can attempt an affair with her, Gould grants a greater sense into the mind of Miles, even as he stays the slightly affable dullard for most.

The film doesn't stop to take a moment where Miles goes, okay I'm going to steal the bank money by tricking a robber, but we wholly granted a sense of why through Gould's nuanced performance. This in just fantastic moments of examining the man he knows is the robber as he shows the man breaking the idea down, and then conducting this certainty in his manner of a man who is deciding to take something for himself for once. This is where we get some really terrific work from Gould as he provides a different type of hero for a Hitchcockian style thriller, in that Miles isn't the tricked every-man, but rather the manipulative genius usually left to the villain. Gould though manages to create something notable in crafting the calculating method of Miles, largely through a lot internalized moments in his performance. This in he presents a man who rarely shuts off, with this careful examination of things, and does so much in his work in just reactionary moments that gives a different flavor to this thriller. This as even when we see him interact with the bank robber Reikel, and attempt to draw him away from his trail, there is this wonderful lively sense in Gould's work. This in showing a guy very much working on sort of outside his typical bounds with a bit of energy within that idea, but also very much the sense of assurance in the man in trying to make things go according to plan for himself. I love the way that Miles in a way would basically always have the upper hand if it weren't for the fact that Reikel, unlike Miles, is more than willing to use violence to get what he wants.

Now within this idea Gould also finds well the way Miles grows from the experience, as his success with the plot seems to grow this even greater confidence with a bit more willingness to step forward. Gould doesn't show a completely changed man, but rather a man who is more willing to put forth the qualities he already had properly. This is perhaps best shown in what was for me the true hidden gem within the film, that of the character of Elaine played by Celine Lomez. A woman who initially lies about being a worker at the rest home for Miles's ailing father, but Miles soon deciphers is working for Reikel. Miles though romances her anyways while revealing his cards to her and they genuinely fall in love. Gould has great chemistry with Lomez, and most importantly shows so well the sort of ability of Miles to be both charming while conducting himself with this specific calculation. Their chemistry goes beyond their romance though as the two end up scheming to help secure the money Miles stole again, in a scene that is a highlight of the film. This in the playful chemistry they have that is so terrific, with Gould playing back but also being careful, while Lomez puts on the part of a harmless bank costumer while trying to hide her greed. It's a marvelous scene that honestly makes their relationship work so well, that I do wish things had gone differently for the rest of the film. Not in a way that hurts the film, rather the two really strike up an essential endearing connection that wished the two could've ridden off into the sunset together. This is, that while he did find good chemistry with York, which is more compromised naturally as Gould shows Miles to be always a bit compromised in their scenes together, it just doesn't have that spark he has with Lomez. Not a criticism of the film, or Gould's performance however. Now as terrific as Gould is finding this sort of new approach for the thriller hero, he is also great in the more expected material. This in just pulling us into Miles, as the great "heroic" performances should, and most importantly developing each stage of the plot. This in creating the real human connection in reflecting the fear and tension of dealing with Reikel at times, as well as the heartbreak and anger in reaction towards the man's more heinous actions. Gould draws us into Miles's experience like the best Hitchcockian style heroes, and pulls us right into this plot in the best of ways. This is a very strong performance from Elliott Gould as he does offer a bit of a nice variation on this type of character, while also fulfilling the needed expectations of such a role.


Matt Mustin said...

Ahh, Canadian films. We got some gems here and there.

Bryan L. said...

Louis: Ratings and thoughts for the cast?

And thoughts on Elliott Gould as an actor?


My final bets:
5º McQueen
4º Gould
3º Keitel
2º Pryor
1º Bates

Calvin Law said...

I’ll agree with you Louis, THAT scene went a bit too far off the dark end for me and completely agree that he had better chemistry with Lomez than York. I think that was entirely deliberate though (which based on your review I think you agree with).

What would be your cast for a modern day version?

Calvin Law said...

And your thoughts on the editing.

Mitchell Murray said...

Matt: As a fellow Canadian, I concur. When I was in a film class about Canadian cinema, we got to watch "Mon Oncle Antoine", "C.R.A.Z.Y", "Leolo" and "Exotica" - all of those I would reccomend.

A word of warning, though: "Leolo" is pretty wierd.

Tim said...

is there a Chance that you could reavaluate Paul Newman for Road to Perdition?
I think he should be a 5

Calvin Law said...

As someone who really doesn't care for Road to Perdition, I actually concur with Tim.

Luke Higham said...

I fully agree with Tim as well. His Piano scene, beating his son and his last scene with Hanks are some of the finest moments of his career.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on this new Denis Villeneuve shot from his new film releasing this year, "Dune"? FWIW, it stars Chalamet.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Thoughts on these screen tests for Batman Begins?

Tim said...

Anonymous well based on that one Little line i actually would like to see what a Cillian Murphy Batman would look like, his Bruce Wayne bit not so much

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your top 15 Adam Driver acting moments?

Louis Morgan said...


York - 3.5(Her performance is secondary of the two love interests, despite in some way being the primary. I do like the certain compromised charm nonetheless she brings, and is particularly effective portraying the reactions towards Gould's behavior throughout the film.)

Lomez - 4.5(I have to say it is unfortunate that this film didn't do better, as I feel she probably would've had a least a minor international breakout if that had been the case. This as she is wonderful here in honestly I think providing even more to the role than may have been intended. This as she certainly delivers on the allure of the character, but eventually turns that into genuine charm as well. Again her chemistry with Gould is fantastic, and in the shift she finds a real nuance in her interactions. This in showing the changing view. Then again in her highlight scene she is great in bringing a quietly comic quality in portraying the character's sort of playful, some more amoral qualities, along with sort of the fun, but also concern in the scheming. She's just splendid every moment she is on screen and is the true hidden gem of the film, as typically this role would usually be far more of a throwaway I feel.)

Nice to see John Candy.

Gould as an actor, honestly fits into a bit more I think in the Harvey Keitel, though he might've been bigger in his time in itself, however in that he didn't sort of maintain the sort of cinematic stature after a certain point. Gould though at his best, shows really the value of the late 60's/70's leading man that so differs from the more expected presence. This in Gould whose performances typically offered something unexpected, a little too unexpected in the instance of The Touch, but then again The Long Goodbye, was equally unexpected, and brilliant there. His later work, as minor as it is, actually usually is typically pretty consistent as a character actor, even if in perhaps too minor roles. This as Gould's presence is something notable in itself, and when offered a more interesting role he's sure to offer something unique within it.


Agreed indeed.

Miles: Adam Driver
Reikle: Michael Fassbender (too easy, I know)
Elaine: Ana De Armas
Julie: Claire Foy

Very well edited sort of "thriller" editing so to speak, just in it maintains a proper pace for the editing, particularly important in creating the sort of "reprieve" section which avoided feeling languid. Also just fantastic tension built in the cutting particularly the final confrontation and Miles/Elaine's visit to the safe deposit boxes. Also additional mention for the editing helping to additionally convey Miles's train of thought which is well used.


Well wouldn't really be a "revaluation" as I had no reservations towards Newman's work to begin with.


Love the vibe of the shot, love the costume, and it's only one shot but Chalamet does look a little bit more intimidating than he did as "The King".


Yes Bale was the best choice. Murphy as Batman, maybe, as Bruce Wayne NO, as he has too obvious of a tortured look (just in terms of presence not performance), and Bailey = George Lazenby.

Lucas Saavedra said...

Louis: Your top 16-20 Adam Driver acting moments?


My final lineup bet:
10º Elliott Gould in The Silent Partner
9º Anthony Hopkins in Magic
8º Gary Busey in The Buddy Holly Story
7º Donald Pleasence in Halloween
6º Harvey Keitel in Fingers
5º Peter Ustinov in Death on the Nile
4º Jon Voight in Coming Home
3º Richard Pryor in Blue Collar
2º Alan Bates in The Shout
1º Robert De Niro in The Deer Hunter

And what is your final bet? Comment!

Louis Morgan said...


1. Fight - Marriage Story
2. Reading the list - Marriage Story
3. The Japanese man - Paterson
4. Garupe's test - Silence
5. Phone Argument - Marriage Story
6. Sharing a love of poetry - Paterson
7. Being served - Marriage Story
8. Talking to the lawyers first time - Marriage Story
9. In court - Marriage Story
10. I hate you to a dog - Paterson
11. The bridge - The Force Awakens
12. Trying to find a lawyer - Marriage Story
13. Going to the movies - Paterson
14. One more note - Marriage Story
15. Thinking about his heritage - Blackkklansman
16. Throne Room - Last Jedi
17. Watch out Nashville - Paterson
18. The two Rons interact - Blackkklansman
19. Blowing up a car - Logan Lucky
20. Helping - Midnight Special

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

My guesses:

1. De Niro
2. Pryor
3. Voight
4. Bates
5. Ustinov
6. Pleasence
7. Gould
8. Busey
9. Keitel

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed: I'm pretty sure Bates will be 3rd.

Bryan L. said...

No honorable mention to “UH OH!” from ILD, Louis?