Friday, July 29, 2011

I love you Peter Sarsgaard

I’ve been in love with Peter Sarsgaard for years.  I think the man is a genius.  I know that a lot of my fellow cinephiles feel he’s been pigeonholed into one particular ‘character’ thanks to his knack for lathering on a sort of sleazy charm (but good god, who wouldn’t fall for it), but I find Sarsgaard to be an incredibly layered actor; one who possesses undeniable range.  When watching Almodovar’s ‘Tie Me Up!  Tie Me Down!’ yesterday (not starring Sarsgaard) I was reminded of this picture I have of Sarsgaard on my computer (don’t judge me) and so I just wanted an excuse to post it and talk about him, so, well…here I am.

I remember when I first saw Sarsgaard.  It was in 1999’s masterpiece, ‘Boys Don’t Cry’.  I was completely consumed by his character John and the control he had over everyone else in the film.  You could feel the evil racing through his veins and yet you couldn’t help but feel drawn to him.  Sarsgaard was savage and never once dropped character.  He looked at me and my skin began to crawl; he was that effective.

Where is his Oscar nomination?

His star continued to shine brightly, but it was really in the early to mid aughts where he became somewhat of an obsession for me.  Starting in 2003 with his electric performance in ‘Shattered Glass’ and continuing through 2004 (with both ‘Kinsey’ and ‘Garden State’) and finally culminating into one of my favorite supporting performances of the aughts, his brilliant performance in 2005’s ‘Jarhead’.  For three years I could think of nothing but Peter Sarsgaard.  For anyone who says he lacks range, I challenge you to watch these four films (or five if you include ‘Boys Don’t Cry’) and tell me again that he lacks range.  He delivers such complexities in each performance, and not one is like the other.  In ‘Shattered Glass’ he just simmers on ever frame with this ever-building understanding of his circumstances.  Sarsgaard’s transformation, that gradual grasp of the situation, creates such bottled tension that the climax bubbles over with such dynamic power.  He nails it.    His portrayal of Kinsey's lapdog Clyde is phenomenal as well.  His lusting for Kinsey is desirable and believable; his tenderness as a friend and lover is endearing and his frustrated feeling of betrayal is heartbreaking.  And then there is his "would you like to?" line to Kinsey in the hotel room; the single greatest line reading of the entire year.  That scene took my breath away, and that is not too easy to do.

Yes, I want to.

And then we have ‘Jarhead’.

This is my favorite performance by Peter and truthfully one of the best supporting performances of this past decade.  He has such power and control and dynamic character development.  What is so wonderful about this performance is that he truly plays ‘supporting’ very well.  Throughout the first two thirds of the film he almost disappears behind the man that is Gyllenhaal, allowing the film to really root in Swofford’s character.  He makes a statement, sure, and he becomes that secondary character you want to learn more about, but he never crosses that line with showy actorly acrobatics.  And then the sniper scene comes and this man crumbles and I was literally BLOWN away (seriously, best single sequence of acting in the year that was 2005).  Everything that he has been gradually building up to just unloads in a single breathtaking scene.  This mans entire existence shatters and leaves us with a devastating climax.

UGH, so much ‘awesome’ from one actor, and he just continues to give us the goods.  Even his recent fare (‘An Education’, ‘Year of the Dog’, ‘Rendition’) has been bolstered by his presence.  Sure, he plays creepy well, but that is not all he does and that’s far from all he’s good at.

And just look at him.

I mean…

Double gulp.

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