…and the quest to see everything

90’s Showdown: Tom Cruise.

Today in Andrew’s 90’s showdown Tom Cruise goes up against one of the performances I vetted for originally but I still have words for his showiest yetmost unconventional work. He has his share of haters or doubters, one of is a passively indifferent co-worker who says that he was lucky enough to land his character in Magnolia, Frank T.J. Mackey, and that the character’s success has more to do with Paul Thomas Anderson’s writing more than it does with him.

But every other money-making star for the late 90’s is too old, Middle American or blatant with their comedy. He hits the right spots, actually reminding me of the way cartoon characters like the ones in Home Movies or, to a lesser extent, Bob’s Burgers do. He bends and extends and moves and bounces elastically for his masculine audience until they disappear and he gets winded out.

Cruise makes Frank look a bit physically ridiculous under the spotlight he makes for himself, accepting the comedy that comes with a modern-day preacher of sex. He pulls off what he claims he is – a charming womanizer. No one can ever say the word ‘cock’ the same way he does, ensuring that those aggressive consonants stand out. His physical acting makes every word he says quotable. His face is still as intense but he gets to cut his regular histrionic tics. There’s also a bareness or coldness to his words – he doesn’t want Frank to seem too cocky. Besides, this appearance of candour won’t let us question that his affable nature, with or without his audience, is a mask itself.

But of course there’s a sad back story to Frank’s life and early years, leading to two confrontations. He tries to charm his way out of the first one, deflecting with some fake wisdom, but the story makes Frank fail eventually. The last seconds of his interview, taking place in the movie’s climax, is him being afraid of how violent he is when being ‘accused.’ He confronts the latter like an adult, which is hard when characters meet their estranged fathers. It eventually making him succumb, with tears that make us cry with him as well. In a movie about a city full of sad, unloved people, Cruise makes Frank’s plight stand out. And if you agree with me, vote for him here on Andrew’s 90s Showdown.

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One response

  1. Rewatched the crying scene and I’m damned if I didn’t tear up a little. I’m still behind Sarandon, but this is a great performance. And, I’m not even certain he’d make my top 5 that year. 1999 was a good year.

    August 27, 2012 at 9:38 pm

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