Thursday, April 29, 2010

Why Jason Patric Should Be in Every Movie

By now Jason Patric has become just about one of my favourite actors. He started out in the 80s as a heartthrob of sorts and made his name in stuff like The Lost Boys. But in 1990 he proved just what an excellent actor he is in a film that got little recognition at the time called After Dark, My Sweet. In it he starred beside Bruce Dern (another inductee in this list) as a worn out drifter who gave up a career in boxing and looked like it was maybe a good idea as he always seemed to have taken maybe just one too many shots to the head.

Here Patric creates a perfect film noir hero: a guy who we don't quite know what to make of or to what extent we can trust. Is he good, is he bad, does he have ulterior motives or is he really just a burned out bum? Here, as with every subsequent great performance, Patric creates characters out of his presence, not his ability as an actor. He plays things internally, letting notes stew just below the surface. He's the kind of cool, collected man who could burst out at any moment as if he seems to be folding in on himself in order to contain his hidden rage.

It's no surprise then that Patric would go on to star in one of the coldest, most uncomfortable scenes in all of American film in Neil Labute's Your Friends and Neighbours. Watch as Patric looks on, telling his story, completely oblivious to the fact that what is conveying is truly horrifying. This is a man without a pulse and Patric creates him, once again, through presence and not showmanship. He's just there, cold, heartless, empty (note- this scene is at the heart of the film so if you don't want to spoil it, and you shouldn't since it's a masterpiece, don't watch this)

Patric played it tough and gritty and the police drama Narc but it was in another underrated gem, My Sister's Keeper that he changed his tune. Once again, he relied on his presence, but this time he was the emotional heart of a film and every scene he was in was a keeper. Rarely have American films presented dads as so honestly what they are: caring, understanding, rationale and supporting if even only from the background. Watch what Patric's presence does to the trailer alone:

Patric belongs to the film's best scene (which appears at the 1:53 mark). Look at how he takes the scene, not by making himself the center of it, but by reacting to it; knowing what it needs and giving it nothing more than that though the look of the eyes, the slant of the mouth, etc. These are roles that many actors would take and go over-the-top with, but not Patric who is an actor who understands the concept of restraint. He finds the truth in a scene and leaves it at that.


  1. he the guy from The Losers? Cause, I gotta say, I can't get behind that.

  2. He is the guy from The Losers indeed.

  3. Nice write-up here Mike, I heartily endorse this! I'm a big fan of Patric, and have always felt like he's got the range of an Ed Norton or Gary Oldman, but rarely if ever gets credit for it.

    You've highlighted two of my favorite performances here: After Dark, My Sweet (which I reviewed last year) and Your Friends and Neighbors. You did a great job articulating why he's so perfect for noir, and the latter of course is just the epitome of creepiness. Definitely a guy whom I always look forward to his performances.

  4. OK, completely off-topic, but bear with me...

    Tuesday night while surrounded by a dozen or two other T.O. movie bloggers, I mentioned the fact that I read a few others Toronto movie blogs who weren't present.

    Shannon The Movie Moxie, the glue that holds our little sewing circle together, suggested I offer an invitation to the next one.

    So whaddaya think - feel like you might wanna come raise a glass with a bunch of fellow movie geeks you've never met before?

    Our next meet-up would be around late May. Drop me an email - madhatter(dot)21(at)hotmail(dot)com - and I'll get Moxie to send ya the details.

  5. I'm not a fan of Your Friends and Neighbors, but I was glad to be reintroduced to that clip -- it's a chilling performance by Patric.

    Patric hasn't been one of my favorites, either, but you've convinced that he has more talent than I'd given him credit for. I will officially no longer lump him in the same category as Thomas Jane.

  6. Hatter- sounds promising, I'll send you an e mail sooner than later.

    Vance- Let's also not forget Patric's other big scene in Your Friends in the bookstore between him and Catherine Keener which is all one shot and ends with him deeming her something that made me both want to cringe and cheer. I guess that's the brillance of the film for me.

  7. I'm now following Your blog on the merit of this post alone. J.P. has been a huge influence on me and I'm glad to see others take notice even-though I'm not sure that he wants to be all that "noticed". Nice post.
    2-life-changing Films for me 1: Denial (J.P. and Robin Wright. Some of the best Acting that I've ever seen.) 2: RUSH. Also, check out "Downloading Nancy" if You get the chance. Sorry about the long comment. Have a Great Day.

  8. Simon can't be trusted. Patric was one of the best parts about The Losers, a movie that's actually far better than it has any right to be. Scenery chewing at its finest.

  9. Robert- Thanks for the titles, I will check them out.

    Andy- You're right about The Losers, which explains my four star review and Patric does get the films biggest laugh at the end, not to give anything away. It's a role that should be limp and stupid but Patric brings something special to it, as he always seems to do.

  10. A long overdue post because Patric is Americas underrated gem. a unique performer and true throwback, Ill put his best six against anyones. Crowe, Day Lewis, Washington, PHIL Hoffman. He makes Clooney, Pitt, Damon, Bale, and DiCaprio seem like little posing children. No one has stayed as true to a pure work ethic for over 20 years than this guy. He should have been nominated at least four times and won for any of them. If he played the game, he would have been, and also been bigger than anyone, I always love to see what he comes up with. I am English, and I can say over here we respect him even more than you Yanks. Check out EXPIRED, it ranks with his best work.

  11. David- I don't know what them Yanks think, but I'm a Canadian ha!.

    I heard somewhere, maybe I dreamed it, that he was hard to work with and maybe that's why he's not more famous than he should be. Can anyone confirm this or know if there is any truth to it?

  12. Sorry Mike. Forgot to add the trailer link. "Denial" might be hard to find and I'm not posting the trailer because the trailer sucks.:)
    Here's "Rush"...probably my favorite undercover drug cop film. (pre-Narc.)

  13. I have a friend that is an assistant director who worked with him on NARC here in Toronto and said he was an absolute professional. He didnt suffer fools, but he was always the first there and the last to leave and was all about the work. He seems uncompromising.
    You couldnt have a worse reputation than Russell Crowe or Mickey Rourke and look how big they were/are.
    It baffles me as to why a guy who can battle Brad Pitt in the looks dept., and at the same time battle Sean Penn in the talent dept., isn't just HUGE. Maybe he'll pull it out od his sleeve and surprise us all yet.

  14. its nice to see a gorgeous guy like that be funny too! Its about time we see the real jason patric

  15. Astrid- I think the reason he isn't huge like the names you mention is because he isn't an "actor's actor." Like I wrote he doesn't steal scenes and place himself at the heart of every frame he appears in, but rather decides what a performance needs and gives it just that. In that sense, he kind of blends in to the overall effect of the film and thus, by not drawing attention to his "acting" people fail to realize how talented he is.

  16. "...he kind of blends in to the overall effect of the film and thus, by not drawing attention to his "acting" people fail to realize how talented he is."

    Well said, Mike.

    I feel the same way about Mark Ruffalo whenever I see him in a film. Understated.

  17. Ruffalo is an excellent pick as well.

  18. I gotta say, reading this post makes me reconsider my stance on Patric, which is that he's a dour narcissist who always seems resentful that everyone's not in awe of his genius. I remember seeing his condescending treatment towards Sandra Bullock in behind the scenes bit for Speed 2, and his glum self-righteousness in the "other" narc movie with J.J. Leigh...

    But I got to say, I see where you're coming from with the look in his puffy face at the 1:52 mark, he's definitely appearing to have aged into a much more "open" actor, or maybe I'm less judgmental and more mature myself.... anyway, thanks for writing this!