Saturday, September 27, 2008

Newman's own, indeed

Does the passing of Paul Newman make me sad? There's a twinge, sure. But I have to give him posthumous congratulations as well. No matter how much success he had, he never stopped trying.

Does that make sense? What I mean is that he could have phone it in, and much of the public would have accepted it. But he approached his roles all the way through as challenges. Fun challenges, and he most often conquered them. Being a Hitchcock hero didn't really pan out, but Hitch must take a portion of the blame there. And even if he finally won an Oscar for what is basically a microwave pizza (really, Marty, you don't need the Rocky training montage, you're better than that) his own performance as a man who has gained security and lost his soul is hard to fault.

His first outing as Fast Eddie in The Hustler was an absolute wonder. Pool was his religion, and he was as charismatic as any preacher could be. Cool Hand Luke speaks for itself. And I found him to be a beautiful cartoon villain in The Hudsucker Proxy.

His most lasting work, though, may be Sidney Lumet's The Verdict. As Frank Galvin, his feet have more than the RDA of clay. He's an alcoholic lawyer with bouts of depression and self-pity that almost sink his clients. He also punches out his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend in a bar, played by Charlotte Rampling as a schemer, but not a completely unsympathetic one. Galvin is a man needing redemption. When it comes, it feels right. Not permanent, but earned.


Matthew Frederick said...

The Verdict is truly a great movie.

And "microwave pizza" is spot-on.

Ben said...

Thank you, yeah. To be fair, Scorsese probably had to play it kind of safe since his last few movies had been good, but not hits.