Friday, May 06, 2005

Speaking of New Jersey

If you ever want to see an unrelenting barrage of stomach-churningly bad acting, here is what you must do: you must obtain (preferably from the library, so that none of your money finds its way into the wrong hands) the DVD of Star Wars: Episode 2 – Attack of the Clones; then sit down, load the disc, go to "Deleted Scenes," take a deep breath, exhale slowly, hit "Play All," and prepare for the ride of your life. Some of these scenes feature the young lovers, Anakin and Amidala (curse my neurons, that they retain this information!), so perhaps you are thinking "Ah yes, that Hayden Christensen, what a yo-yo, where did they get that guy?" -- but no! No, it is not he, but (shudder) Natalie Portman who will put the hurt on you big time. As I recall (the scenes have run together in my mind, into a single nexus of pain), they soften you up with a few cutesy-awkward flirtation scenes with the two of them, but then, when you're whimpering for mercy, they hit you with the killer: Amidala's speech to the Senate, which ... no, I cannot go on.

I'm not sure why they put those scenes on the disc, except perhaps to show that the movie, which was stunningly bad to begin with, was at one time worse still. It's the cumulative effect which is so powerful – I swear, I think she's in all of them. Anyway, that's not the point. You have to watch the deleted scenes because you don't notice it during the movie (even though they couldn't remove all of her scenes), but bad "professional" acting is actually more painful than bad non-professional acting. We've all seen movies with non-professional actors, and some of them, even the acting, is pretty good. When it works the effect is one you can't get with professional actors – it's like mistreating a musical instrument to get a unique sound. (Of course, bad non-professional acting is pretty hellacious too – there's a scene in George Washington, which is generally fine, with acting so bad I just cannot believe that was the best take they got.)

So I was leery of Garden State. There she is, right on the cover. Co-billing and everything. A reviewer says "Natalie Portman has never been better!", which did not exactly encourage me. But mirabile dictu, she's adorable here. The lead guy, one Zach Braff, is very likable (think Jewish Ray Romano), the support is good (Peter Sarsgaard, Ian Holm), and the soundtrack is very nice (second straight movie I've seen with Nick Drake in it). They go for a bit too much profundity and romance at the end, but it's too little too late for it to hurt much. A hesitant thumbs up -- uh, better make that "recommendation," lest we receive a cease-and-desist from you-know-who. Dear God, it says on the back that "this quirky coming-of-age comedy [...] has been hailed as 'the seminal film for today's generation' (USA Today)". Yikes. I take it back. Forget I said anything.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've not seen Natalie Portman in any movies other than the Star Wars prequels. Judging her acting skills just on the basis of those movies, she totally sucks. It has always amazed me that anyone praises her.

So now I know there are these movies I haven't seen. I've not been fully informed.

But I can't help but be skeptical. I mean, in the Star Wars prequels, she's really bad. She can't be that bad and yet still be good.

It is just not possible. It cannot be.

Like Galileo's persecutors who refused to even look in Galileo's telescopes, I must make a point of not seeing these other Natalie Portman movies.