The Truman Show 1998 Inspired by a 1989 episode of The Twilight Zone called “Special Service.” Directed by Peter Weir. Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) lives what he thinks is an ordinary life on Seahaven Island. He’s unaware that everything around him is a set and everyone an actor. In fact, he’s the star of his internationally broadcast life, every living minute. When he unwittingly veers off plan, the story is quickly rewritten i.e. manipulated by the show’s Creator/Director/Executive Producer Christof (Ed Harris).
Truman falls in love with the wrong girl, Sylvia (Natascha McElhone), who’s then taken off the show. The hero never forgets her. A production light falls from the sky, characters reappear who aren’t on the schedule, Truman tries to get out of town, but is blocked at every turn…he gets suspicious. Then Sylvia comes back. How the truth comes out is captivating storytelling. With Laura Linney, Noah Emmerich, Holland Taylor. This is not one of Carrey’s exaggerated roles. He plays it straight and well. The story and film were prescient. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Pollock 2000 Adapted from Jackson Pollock: An American Saga by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith. Directed by Ed Harris. Biographical later life of painter Jackson Pollock. From Pollock’s 1950 exhibit, the film takes us back nine years to the artist’s struggles and discovery. Pollock meets artist Lee Krasner (Marcia Gay Harden, Best Supporting Actress Academy Award), who takes him home after a knock-down, drag-out drunk. She becomes his lover and manager. When Peggy Guggenheim (Amy Madigan – Harris’ wife) visits, Pollock is given a show and a mural commission in her apartment. There’s acknowledgment, but few sales.
Krasner and Pollock marry and move to a part of Long Island that will develop into an artist’s colony. They fight constantly, but love one another. He continues to drink excessively and publicly flirt with other women. Critic Clement Greenberg (Jeffrey Tambor) assures him the work will take off upon publication of a Life Magazine spread. It does. The artist’s circle is depicted including: Ruth Kligman (Jennifer Connelly), Tony Smith (John Heard), Willem De Kooning (Val Kilmer), Helen Frankenthaler (Stephanie Seymour), Hans Namuth (Norbert Weisser).
Filming took a mere 50 days with a six-week layoff after 40 days so Harris could take time to gain thirty pounds and grow a beard. Harris himself did all the painting seen in the film An accurate portrayal. Sharp acting and direction. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Radio 2003 Inspired by the 1996 Sports Illustrated article “Someone to Lean On” by Gary Smith. Directed by Mike Tollin. 1970s. James Robert “Radio” Kennedy, a 23 year old mentally-disabled Black man (Cuba Gooding Jr.), lives with his mother Maggie (S. Epatha Merkerson) in small South Carolina town. Sweet and harmless, nicknamed for his interest in music and collection of discarded radios, he wanders the community with a shopping cart. Radio becomes captivated with the local high school’s football practice, walks by daily, and is noticed by Coach Harold Jones (Ed Harris).
When a football sails over the fence, Coach lets Radio keep it and invites him onto the field to perhaps help the team. The next day, he arrives at practice to find the team has bound Radio and locked the terrified boy in an equipment shed. Perpetrators are run ragged in punishment. Radio is “adopted” by Coach. He handles equipment, cleans up, and is allowed on the field, gradually becoming a mascot. At the end of the season, Coach arranges for Radio to work for the basketball team.
There are incidents provoked by the boys, one bigoted father, a rookie cop the school board, and the death of Radio’s mother. These are realistically handled. The boy’s world enlarges. The film is heartwarming and well played, not soppy. Harris is totally credible. At the very end, we see what became of the real Radio. Featuring Debra Winger and Alfre Woodard, Brent Sexton. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Copying Beethoven 2006 Directed by Agnieszka Holland. The composer’s last years. Diane Kruger plays young, music school copyist, Anna Holtz, who has great insight into her employer’s music and patience with his loneliness, depression, volatility, and deafness. Because she’s a woman, visitors think of her as a maid or prostitute, while Beethoven grows not only to rely on Anna, but to respect her own talent.
Thoughtlessly disparaged, Anna leaves. The composer pleads with her to come back. We see the girl conducting from within the orchestra of his last concert with Beethoven copying her gestures. “The character of Anna is likely based at least partially on Karl Holtz, a young violinist and copyist who befriended Beethoven.” Ah, Hollywood. A good story, though farfetched. Free on Amazon Prime.
Appaloosa 2008 Based on the novel by Robert B. Parker. Produced, directed, co-written and featuring Ed Harris. A good looking, classic western with a brain. 1882. The town of Appaloosa is being terrorized by rancher Randall Bragg (Jeremy Irons) and his gang. Bragg is cultured, educated and out of place. When he kills a marshal and deputies who’ve come to arrest two of his men, the town council hires itinerant lawman/ peacekeeper Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and his deputy Everett Hitch (Vigo Mortensen), who travel from place to place getting rid of oppressors. The men’s relationship is deep. Both are calm, quick, respectful, and inured to death.
Into this God forsaken hole in the wall comes poor, Eastern widow Allison (Allie) French (Renee Zellweger), every inch a lady. She encounters the partners and within five minutes of arrival is promised a hotel room with extended largess and a job playing piano (her only skill). Seemingly the next day, she seduces Cole, they plan marriage, and purchase a house at the edge of town.
Though we “get” that as a woman alone in hostile territory she’s looking for security, his instant commitment is completely out of character. When Allie comes on to Everett, we know there’s going to be trouble. The rest of the story depicts trying to get Bragg to court with as little bloodshed as possible. Allie finds herself in the middle. Indians make an appearance. The resolution is unexpected. Despite holes in the plot, particularly interesting. relationships hold attention. Good acting. Rent on Amazon Prime.
The Face of Love 2013 Directed by Arie Posin. Nikki, (Annette Bening), a recent widow mourning over the love of her life, sees her dead husband’s doppelganger Tom (Ed Harris) in a gallery one day. She returns again and again hoping to meet him. Discovering he’s a painter and professor, Nikki hires him for at-home art tutoring. They begin a relationship. Aware that friends and family will remark upon the resemblance she keeps him to herself. Then her daughter comes home unexpectedly and Tom learns the truth. Compelling. Two fine performances. With Robin Williams and Amy Brenneman. Rent on Amazon Prime.
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