I really love when actors get a chance to do what they don't usually do. Particularly if they use what we are used to seeing in one context in a completely different way in another context. I still marvel at Lisa Kudrow's work in The Opposite of Sex because the comic timing is still very Phoebe Buffay, but as Lucia, it's Phoebe if she took more seriously how crappy her life truly was.
So you can imagine how intrigued I am that Mekhi Phifer and Bill Pullman are going to be in the next season of Torchwood playing very much against type. Mekhi is playing a CIA agent with a "lethal sense of humor" and Bill is playing a "dangerously clever convicted murderer."
Bill managed to that turn that bland stillness that makes him the quintessential milquetoast nice guy on its head as the schizophrenic father in Igby Goes Down (a film full of amazing performances*), so I can actually see him playing this role quite well.
But though Mekhi has had a more varied career than one might think at first**, he's never really done humor, even dark humor. And he's never really done a genre show or movie, so it'll be nice to see how he approaches the work.
I was already excited for the new series of Torchwood. Now I can barely sit still.
*Seriously, career-best work from Ryan Phillippe, Claire Danes, and Amanda Peet. Peet has this scene where she is looking at herself in the mirror, trying to pull it together. Just…breathtaking. Rent the movie. Run, don't walk.
**His work in O, the film that sets Shakespeare's Othello in an upscale private school, is disgustingly underrated work, for instance, and he was downright charming in This Christmas, a film that is best watched on cable on Saturday when there is nothing else on.
It seems that Natalie Portman is perfectly cast here. That steely, somewhat remote and cold demeanor that made her work in Closer some of the best film acting I've seen in ages* seems exactly right for this role.
But let's be honest, Mila Kunis completely upstages her. At least, she does as portrayed in this clip.
If you had asked me who on That 70s Show I thought would have a vibrant, interesting, varied career after that show went off the air about 3 years too late**, it wouldn't have been Kunis. Her Jackie was irritating, one-note, and her comic timing always felt a bit rushed (as if the beats came a split second sooner to her than they do for every other person on the planet).
But then she gave that beautifully warm and open performance in Forgetting Sarah Marshall (which really is the only Apatow movie worth a damn***) that completely reinvented how I saw her. I frankly thought she was miscast when I heard that she would be in the film. But watching her in it made me see just how complete her work as Jackie Burkhart really was, because there was not a single trace of it in Rachel. She was utterly charming, and managed to make me forget for a minute how much I adore Kristen Bell (only a minute tho…I mean…it's Kristen Bell).
Watching her stretch and grow from Forgetting Sarah Marshall through Max Payne, Extract and The Book of Eli has been to watch an actress perfecting her craft in the subtlest and deepest of ways. The films may not work, but her work in them does. One could even go back and watch the awful awful American Psycho 2 and see a nascent talent taking tentative baby steps (and falling quite a bit, truthfully).
But in this trailer, Kunis is just magnetic. Even though we see so few extended shots of her, she feels like a whole real person.
She's the reason to see the movie, far as I'm concerned.
*I don't put much stock in Oscars and awards. It started, naturally, with Denzel's loss for Malcolm X, was intensified in the late 90s when Lisa Kudrow and Matt Damon failed to even be nominated for The Opposite of Sex and The Talented Mr. Ripley (respectively), and was solidified when Portman lost to Cate Blanchett in the one role where she was not very good at all.
**Yea, Topher Grace. Man – I would have put money on that one. Who knew?
***Sorry. He's the most overrated director to emerge since Quentin Tarantino.