Saturday, October 15, 2005

Johnny Depp -- the reply

Sometimes, Cat, I am reminded that we go to different movies, sometimes even when we go to the same movie!

What strikes me about your list are the performances that aren't on it. Some Depp performances I'd put on such a list:

-- Benny & Joon. Depp's Sam was a wonderful, mysterious character who had immersed himself in Buster Keaton. The main plot toddled along on very thin ice, but Sam was fascinating to watch, and the performance between Depp and Mary Stuart Masterson was amazing, so the movie wound up being watchable. Jonny Depp seems to be one of those actors with whom other actors sometimes really catch fire. That's part of what I liked about What's Eating Gilbert Grape -- the chemistry between him and the other actors with whom he worked on the film.

-- Blow. George Jung is about as unsympathetic a character as I can imagine, a big cocaine dealer back in the 1970's. Depp didn't make me like him -- both the screenplay and the performance have no excuses to make -- but he did make me care about him, and I really didn't want to care. And, again, there's that interesting synergy between actors: the interplay between Depp and Ray Liotta was moving.

-- Finding Neverland. Johnny Depp's range is remarkable: how could the same actor be utterly convincing as George Jung and as the demented agent in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, and also as the naive genius, J.M. Barrie?

-- Donnie Brasco. This is my favorite Depp performance. He and Al Pacino do a slow tango through a tragedy: the movie is about friendship and betrayal. Depp plays "Donnie Brasco," a very complicated character, an FBI man who is working undercover to infiltrate the mob. Pacino is Lefty, a graying mobster who takes the young man under his mentorship. We watch Donny's struggle with his identity (both the fake one and his true identity as Joe, a guy with a wife and kids at home), as his friendship with Lefty deepens. It is a complex role, and Johnny Depp fills it with delicacy and grace.


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