Sunday, March 22, 2009

Of Kneejerks and Ryan Phillippe

The latest installment of the A.V. Club's consistently excellent New Cult Cannon series focuses on the underrated Christopher McQuarrie film The Way of the Gun. I thought the movie was unfairly maligned/dismissed back in 2000 due to the easy Tarantino-ripoff meme that was circulating among critics at the time. (The same thing happened to the even more superior Go, in fact, though that movie has managed to salvage its rep through sheer force of awesomeness.)

It's a fine article, but the real value comes in the comment section, which I normally decline to read (the A.V. Club boasts probably the most disproportionate ratio of site quality to comment quality on the entire internet). But I'm glad I did this time, else I'd have missed the discussion which started out as your standard kneejerk Ryan Phillippe bashing that you'd expect from comment threads and message boards and other places where pretty people are loathed. But as the thread progressed, there were grudging admissions that Phillippe was pretty good in Gosford Park. Not that anyone likes the guy, but he held his own in Breach too. And Crash, even though he usually sucks. And Igby Goes Down, but only because it played into the douchebagginess of his personality. Cruel Intentions, too, if we're going down that road. I clicked out of the thread before people started questioning their sudden desire to kiss him on the mouth. That was bound to get ugly.

It did my heart good, though. I've been of the mind for a while now that Phillippe, while not Olivier, is very effective more often than not. He knows how to perform in an ensemble (Gosford Park), he's able to shine with bad material (Crash), and most importantly, he knows exactly what his charisma is and how to control it (everything, but most obviously in Cruel Intentions). Which is such an undervalued trait in an actor and why I continue to respect Angelina Jolie's work, among others.

Am I alone on this? Or has the world not caught up to my pro-Phillippe worldview yet? In case you're on the fence...

7 comments:

Diablevert said...

The thing he projects best is "Rich, pretty, douchebag." Sometimes he's a smart rich douchebag, sometimes he's just a pretty douchebag, but that's his core. Or to put it more politely, "petulant arrogance." He's got a perma-pout in a cherubic face, combined with icy eyes and a resentful swagger. I'll grant you he's really really good at what he does, but the thing he is good at is being beautiful and yet all the more loathsome. He will never be liked or given credit, except by people for whom his clear hotness outweighs his douchbaggy aura.

Anonymous said...

I like Ryan Phillippe in most things I see him in. He's very underrated. He was sympathetic in Stop Loss and really was able to get to the every man (albeit a beautiful petulant every man) character.

Rinaldo said...

One of the coolest things about his Gosford Park performance is that what initially seems to be inadequacy... is in fact just right. (Kept vague in case anyone hasn't seen this lovely movie.)

Anonymous said...

You know you're dealing with kneejerks when people start to snark at RP's accent in Gosford Park when it was clearly meant to be a plot point. I also don't understand criticism about RP's lack of range when his demonstrated his ability to go from teenage smart ass, desperate criminal, cold yuppy, devious FBI trainee, and everyman soldier, to name my favorites. I think it's revealing that he has been criticized for being beautiful. That is as much to the point as an actor being accused of being ugly. It says nothing about the actor, only about the critic.

Megan said...

@Diablevert: For whom does his hotness not outweigh his douchbaggy aura?

I've been a pretty stalwart Phillippe fan for about as long as I've known he existed. I could probably watch Igby every week (though not every day). And you know what the very first thing I saw him in was (because I have still never seen Cruel Intentions for some reason)? The movie that started my obsession? Antitrust.

I'm not ashamed.

Anonymous said...

Aww, but he was so sweet when he guested on Due South! I'll always think well of him for that.

"Lady" Bea said...

I like Ryan Phillipe quite a bit. I'm always surprised by how effective I find him in most of his performances. And it's not about his looks because while he is aesthetically pleasing, he's not my type. At all.

I love anyone who was involved with "Playing By Heart." Except for you, Jay Mohr. Ugh.