Sunday, July 07, 2013

Robert Redford's new role

Robert Redford was never really an actor and as a movie star he was so minor.  To say he's probably the best known underachiever is to put it mildly.

His finest film role was in 1967, opposite Jane Fonda, in Barefoot in the Park.  He'd played the stuffed shirt Paul on Broadway and that preparation probably helped.  It was also a character he was proud to play.  He wasn't, for example, proud to play Natalie Wood's gay husband in Inside Daisy Clover.

He wasn't happy to play Hubbell as written in The Way We Were.  With his sixties films, he pretty much had to play what was on the page.  But his homoerotic pairings with Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting) allowed him some clout which he used to destroy any chance at becoming an actor.  In The Way We Were, Katie is a committed political activist who falls for a gorgeous nothing who ends up naming names to McCarthy in order to save his own ass.

These scenes fell away from the movie and you're largely left to wonder what political thing broke them up -- in fact, you make think Katie's leaving over some affair Hubbell had.

Hubbell was a nothing.  Redford refused to portray that and insisted upon the character being given 'complexity' and 'characterization.'  The film was a huge hit, the biggest he's ever had.  But the one who got the Academy Award nomination was Barbra Streisand and she delivers an amazing performance.  For all the additional scenes, Redford's unable to 'open up' the character of Hubbell.

But the character was never going to 'open up.'  Redford's vanity destroyed his chances at playing the character.  The same vanity would ruin Brubaker repeatedly (starting with the nonsense of slipping money to the prison barber to avoid getting a generic prison haircut).  The vanity marred so much that followed.  Not that there weren't still hits -- with Faye Dunaway, he was box office in Three Days of the Condor; with Dustin Hoffman, he was box office in All The President's Men; and with Jane Fonda, he was box office in The Electric Horseman.

That was really it for Redford.  His box office in the 70s (with hits) more or less stayed the same cash amount in his 80s films but, take 1984's The Natural, with a box office gross that would have been a hit in the 70s.  But the 80s meant the $100 million mark.  His frequent co-star Jane Fonda would notch up two films that crossed that mark (On Golden Pond and 9 to 5).  Redford couldn't cross the $100 million mark in the 80s and, in fact, only managed to do it once in the 90s with the trash film Indecent Proposal which found a very aged looking Redford wanting to sleep with Demi Moore and, apparently due to age, having to pay her $1 million dollars to sleep with him.

And after that 1993 film, he never crossed the $100 million mark again.

A so-so actor whose movie star status stopped in the seventies, Redford's lucky to have found a new role to play: Village Idiot.


The tip off there may have been the ridiculous blond wig the 76-year-old man can't stop wearing.

Village Idiot means not only does he wear that wig but he also took to repeatedly praising Barack Obama last week.

Village Idiot can't support NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden but he can offer praise to Barack who's violating the Constitution with the secret spying on the American people?

Robert Redford clearly doesn't have the guts to call out Barack for Nixonian activities.  Fine, he's a coward.  But that means shut your mouth, not layer on praise.

While Village Idiot was putting out for Barack, Jill Stein was explaining how awful Barack's position on the environment actually was, "You can't give your child an 'all of the above diet' with toxic lead and arsenic, and think that adding some spinach and blueberries is going to make it OK. Likewise, reducing carbon pollution from coal does not make fracking, tar sands oil, deep water and Arctic drilling OK. The climate is spiraling into runaway warming. Obama's promotion of cheap dirty fossil fuels makes coal regulations just window dressing on a disastrous policy."  Peter Hart (FAIR) was explaining:

Now, the assumption here is there is a serious Obama "crackdown on coal." To many environmentalists, his policies have been  anything but war-like when it comes to the coal industry.  And after the speech, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz sent the message very clearly that the administration "expects fossil fuels, and coal specifically, to remain a significant contributor for some time" (Reuters, 6/30/13).

Redford seems determined to prove the adage "There's no fool like an old fool."  And in Village Idiot, he may have finally found the role he was always destined to portray.

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