Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The dramatic, the demented, The Departed

I can’t quite decide whether I liked The Departed, Martin Scorsese’s latest contribution to that great cinematic sub-genre, mobster movies. But I can safely say that the best part about it, obviously, was the stellar cast who delivered gritty, manly-without-being-too-macho performances. Foremost among them, naturally, was my darling Matt Damon, whom Jo accurately dubbed “the thinking woman’s man”. Matt (who could stand to teach bosom buddy Ben the art of not overacting) was a steady, strong presence onscreen as devious double-agent Colin Sullivan, showing encouraging signs of maturing gracefully as a thespian (I see a future DeNiro here). Along with Mark Wahlberg (hafta hand it to the guy, he still managed to look hunky despite a very bad hairpiece), the 2 native Bostonians took perceptible pleasure in emphasizing their “ahs” throughout the movie, lending The Depahted some authentic local flavor. I thought Wahlberg had some of the best lines in the sharp, almost-staccato-paced script— unabashedly crass, in-your-face cop talk. You gotta love a guy with a filthy mouth who makes cussing sound cool.

Meanwhile, Leo DiCaprio, of whom I have never been a big fan, seems to have shed his teenybopper Titanic image for good, and as beleaguered, struggling-to-keep-sane undercover cop Billy Costigan, he convinced me that there’s hope for pretty pin-up boys after all (but he still sucks with accents— aside from his lapsing Bostonian drawl, there was a preview of his movie with Jennifer Connelly, The Blood Diamond, and he was speaking in a ghastly brogue that seemed to be a muddled mix of Australian, British and South African). As expected, veterans Alec Baldwin and Martin Sheen were both ideal supporting players, subtle yet commanding— not overshadowing the leading men, but not blending unnoticed into the background either.

At this point, you might be going, “Hey, what about Jack Nicholson?” Well, dear reader, I deliberately left him for last, because he is actually the main reason for my ambivalence about this movie. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have as much respect and fondness for the many-time-nominated and multiple-awarded legend as any voter in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, but in The Departed, Jack was just way too… Jack. If the film had been a Lakers game (appropriate metaphor, given that it’s Laker loyalist Jack we’re talking about), he would have been a grandstanding, ball-hogging Kobe Bryant. This was a perfect case of the actor being bigger than the film. The New York Times’ review of The Departed put it well: “This Janus-like actor has long presented two faces for the camera, the jester called Jack and the actor named Nicholson. He has worn both faces for some of his famous roles, but over time he has grown fond of the outsize persona called Jack, with his shades and master-of-ceremonies sneer, and it’s hard not to think that the man has become his mask.” To his credit, Jack kept his larger-than-life persona under control during the early parts of the movie. But after letting it seethe and percolate at the start, toward the middle of the movie, he threw the lid off and it just boiled over. His mob boss Frank Costello was slick, slimy, sinister... and a wee bit mentally deranged (in one scene he squishes a fly and licks it from his fingers, eww). This wild performance was disturbingly similar to two other Nicholson roles memorable for their madness: the Joker from Batman, and Jack Torrance from The Shining.

Jack’s over-the-top antics were so distracting that I almost didn’t mind the convoluted plot of the film. I think it might actually have been more entertaining had Scorsese not attempted to make it so… deep. I have a suspicion the Hong Kong action thriller Infernal Affairs, on which The Departed was based, might be more entertaining, if only because it might be more coherent in its simplicity: that is, no attempts to present the characters’ duplicity in an intellectual, if not philosophical, light. It just struck me as pretentious at some point, possibly during one of the consultation sessions between Billy and the police psychiatrist, where Leo gets to flex some acting muscles by acting all tortured and tragic. Maybe it’s just me, but being scared shitless doesn’t make one a Shakespearean hero in my book. It didn’t help that the shrink happened to be Colin’s girl, and Billy eventually boinks her as well— apparently that’s supposed to show the connection between the sides of good and evil. If you ask me, it was simply a far-fetched plot twist.

The Departed is no Donnie Brasco (1997 Pacino and Depp starrer), which was a mafia movie that succeeded in depicting a more difficult and plausible ethical dilemma an undercover agent faces. I was looking for the same emotional depth in The Departed, but all I got was a mostly well-acted but hollow imitation of a Hong Kong action flick. I was hoping for more, and got less— or was it too much? blast you, Jack— than what I was expecting.


At Thursday, October 12, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ling... Just want to say that Leonardo Dicaprio is hooooooooooot... I love the guy... Titanic pa lang, I loved him na... It's true love for us... ;-)

At Thursday, October 12, 2006, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

Is that you, Yang? Or Maff? :) Well whoever it is, you can have Leo. I prefer Matt... even though he's already a married man. I figure, as long as I'm fantasizing, no harm in lusting after someone even more unavailable. Haha.

At Sunday, October 15, 2006, Blogger Dr. Emer said...

In the end, all the rats died. I think Scorsese could have driven the point in 90 mins, but no, it had to drag on. It was too long.

At Sunday, October 15, 2006, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

If Scorsese had reduced Jack's screen time, it might have improved the movie significantly, in terms of both length and quality. Not to mention he would have been able to trim the movie's production costs by a few million. :p

At Wednesday, October 18, 2006, Anonymous MoJo said...

he should have given martin sheen as much screentime as jack to really emphasize the parallels between the mentor figures of the boys :)

there's actually oscar buzz surrounding jack now, though i do think he played it too over-the-top. he actually insisted on filming a threesome that scorcese was smart enough to cut from the movie. walberg stole every single scene, imo.

baby-faced leo is not really a character actor (really more a movie star than anything else), but u gotta give the boy credit for trying :) i saw the trailer for his new movie, too, and i think he got the south african accent down. he sounds EXACTLY like my white friend from south africa. (i thought he was british the first time i met him, so i think the hybrid accent IS the south african accent.)

in other news, borgy manotoc is running for mayor. WHAT.

At Thursday, October 19, 2006, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

I guess it might be hasty to judge the accent based on a choppy, 5-minute trailer. But it sounded garbled to me... or maybe that's just the anti-Leo bias talking. ;p Was his Bostonian adequate for you? Your ear would defintitely pick it up better than mine. :)

At Thursday, October 19, 2006, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

P.S. I actually think we could do worse than Mayor Borgy. Like Mayor Kris Aquino. Or Mayor Melanie Marquez (I think that's one of the signs of the apocalypse, isn't it?).

At Thursday, October 19, 2006, Anonymous Mojo said...

Mayor Borgy would be an Imeldific puppet. I can just imagine his Bench ads plastered all over the city as campaign posters. A PR article I read said he's a "simple" guy because he shops in Divisoria. Waaaw. Yeah, Kris said the next step for her would be politics. Gah. Maybe it'll be an opp next time we're mistaken for her, huh?

Haha Leo's accent was OK, just like those of Sean Penn and the rest in Mystic River. No one can beat the natives Walberg and Damon ;) The one with the worst accent was the girl.

At Saturday, October 21, 2006, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

"Maybe it'll be an opp next time we're mistaken for her, huh?" -Yeah, maybe the implied insult won't sting as much. Haha.


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