Tuesday, November 06, 2018

TV: Julia downsizes

The two biggest film stars of the 90s were Julia Roberts and Tom Cruise.  Tom’s managed to hang on somehow.  He was box office in the 80s, the 90s, the 00s and remains it in the 10s.  This is not a normal run.  He’s outpaced Jimmy Stewart, Rock Hudson and every other big box office name.  Don’t throw out a Robert Redford.  He went long periods without making a film or without hits.  

Tom’s made films every year, over and over.  He frequently threatens to topple over but somehow manages to remain box office.  


Julia’s the closest female approximation.  1989 finds her hitting big with STEEL MAGNOLIAS.   What follows are hits and misses.  She also wins an Academy Award which puts her one ahead of Tom.  Following her Oscar win, she hits with AMERICA’S SWEETHEARTS, OCEAN’S ELEVEN,  OCEAN’S TWELVE, CHARLOTTE’S WEB, VALENTINE’S DAY, EAT PRAY LOVE, MIRROR MIRROR, SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE and WONDER.  That’s nine big box office hits over the last 17 years.   (There have also been smaller hits such as CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR, MONEY MONSTER, etc.)  That’s a star, a box office star, as well.  But it’s not Tom Cruise.

No one has ever pulled off what he has. 

But Julia’s come closest among actresses.

And, let’s stress this, last year’s WONDER was a huge hit (over $300 million in tickets sold).

So she comes to AMAZON not in some desperate bid (the way Meryl Streep did, in fairness, Meryl’s made a career of not being box office) but in an attempt to further her challenges and opportunities.
Cruise can’t lose.  That’s what people were noting of the two stars in 1993.  Julia had taken time off for exhaustion and other things (HOOK had resulted in a lot of bad publicity for her).  Tom was going after this, that and everything.  His characters were about mega success.  Julia?  1993 was when she scaled back expectations.  She better fit the country’s mood while Tom remained tied to the go-go, Reagan eighties (a place he’s more or less remained).  For example, they both did John Grisham films.  In THE FIRM, Tom took on the mob, the government, everyone and won.  As he always does.  Julia did THE PELICAN BRIEF, lost her lover, had to go on the run and managed – with the help of Denzel Washington – to expose a conspiracy. 

THE PELICAN BRIEF is actually a good reference point for her AMAZON series HOMECOMING.  It’s part of her scaling back, playing human characters, not cartoons.  And she’s very effective.  In fact, her performance is quite touching.

She’s playing Heidi Bergman, a woman who stumbled around in life, then got her masters in social work and did the job rounds only to end up at Homecoming Transitional Support.  She’s not just at the place, she’s running it.  She reports to Bobby Cannavale’s Colin.  What does she do?  She counsels veterans.  Veterans with Post-Traumatic Syndrome.  And she tries to help them readjust to civilian life. 

Or she thinks that’s what she’s doing.  It’s not what she’s doing.  When she finds out what’s really taking place she can no longer work there and she’s not going to let them do anything to her patient Watler Cruz (Stephan James).

HOMECOMING has twists and turns and they pay off.  There’s strong acting all around – including Sissy Spacek as Heidi’s mother.  But Julia is the anchor and she’s flawless in the role. 

Will there be a season two?  Who knows but if there is one, let’s hope they have something to say.
NETFLIX has provided the final season of HOUSE OF CARDS and what a disappointment.  The whole season is haunted by Kevin Spacey.  Hopes that Robin Wright would really assert herself were pointless.  That’s not an attack on her (her acting is strong) but, yes, it is an attack on the writing which coasts and ultimately provides very little.

It was a mistake to do a final season.  It was a mistake, let’s be honest, there’s no show without Spacey.

Did Kevin do anything criminal?  Seems like more than enough time has passed to convict him if he did.  Yet he is still not charged with anything. 

What do we actually know?  That Kevin Spacey is a great actor.  If he’s done something illegal, by all means, prosecute him.  But we’ve waited and waited to see that take place and it hasn’t.  So what we’re left with is Kevin Spacey is a great actor.

He’s one who has made passes according to at least 2 people who’ve gone on the record.  He did not attempt to rape them.  His behavior, if it takes place on a set, would need to be addressed due to the need for a safe work environment.  Otherwise, why is he not working?

Rape is a crime.  Assault is a crime.  If that’s taken place, put him on trial.  If there’s nothing to warrant a trial, there’s certainly no reason to shun him. 

You can argue that Spacey set himself up for a backlash of some form.  When he was playing or ‘playing’ with NSYNC back in the day, everyone had already figured out he was gay.  He refused to step out of the closet even though it wouldn’t have harmed his career.  His career was built on strong acting, not fantasies.  So when he came out – finally – after allegations were made against him, you were dealing with (a) the fact that people were ticked off he was in the closet and (b) ticked off that when he was accused of kissing a boy (not an adult) all the sudden he wants to announce he’s not straight. 

Spacey generated a lot of anger on by hiding in the closet.  

That said, there are still no legal charges against him and no one’s brought him into a court of law.  He remains a great actor.  If there’s a reason for him to be on trial, we’ll gladly join the chorus calling for him to be put on trial.  But it’s been a long, long time now and he’s still not been arrested or charged with anything – let alone been found guilty in any court of law.

HOUSE OF CARDS really needed him for the last season.  They really needed him.  And without him, there really wasn't a point to doing another season.

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