Sometimes it is just the man.
It is not a new thing that movies promote personality and that certain personalities find their time.
One type is the everyman. James Stewart was of this variety. Not a great man or suave. Not a lover or hero.
Bruce Willis mines this type. I have no idea what he is like in person; it hardly matters. Exploiting a personality type in your acting is pretty orthogonal to skill in acting and in most cases fights it. How can you find a character when you bring your own template? But when the template has general utility, and when you have enough power to have roles bent to your strengths, who then it can work. And the vehicle doesn’t quite matter unless it is so bad it detracts.
This is. It detracts.
Yet the character is true, more true than it has been in many projects. A noir character; a hapless everyman caught up in events that could only be caused by an audience turning life into a movie. An everyman, who (until the noble end), merely hangs onto the next second, and then the next.
What makes this character work is our recognition of the man and our acknowledgment of him. When we recognise him, we anchor a personality type. So when we see him in a role, it is always in reference to that type.
So we notice whether he stands a little in front of or behind that incubated type. The type is based on a puckish familiarity with the audience. This type looks at the camera and silently conveys “you know I’m just acting here and isn’t it a joke.” The type comes from comedians who shift back and forth between being in a group and then quickly shifting outside the group to observe it and make (funny) comments. I think the tradition is Jewish but the best comedian in this tradition today is Chris Rock.
So when we see Willis in a role, he is either in front, as here, or behind as in “Sixth Sense” where he makes fun of his making fun. “Last Man Standing” is another example.
It is odd, huh, how some of the best acting has nothing at all to do with the traditional dramatic values of character, story, motivation and instead has to do with metaissues of how we sit in the world and what we allow ourselves to say about it.
Posted in 2006
Ted’s Evaluation — 2 of 3: Has some interesting elements.