Posted by: markfender | November 2, 2011

Overcharacterization

There’s a concept in movies that needs to stop.

I call it overcharacterization, even if that’s not a thing. This is the movie in which the entire cast is made up of weird and wacky characters.

I blame Quentin Tarantino. Pulp Fiction is a phenomenal movie, but it had a whole bunch of weird characters. From Eric Stoltz to Villa-Lobos to even Quentin himself, the movie had a whole lot of characters who weren’t necessarily cookie cutter templates of their respective archetypes. They were all given lines that humanized them beyond their stated roles in the film. This is an example of being done well. But since then, the Hollywood machine has looked at the success of that movie and aped the format – poorly.

Now, we get things like The Salton Sea with Vincent D’onfrio’s character missing a nose. Or Hanna, in which even the relatively normal family on a holiday is weird (not to mention the gay German gangster or the crazed teeth-hygiene lady). Now, one weird character is okay – every movie needs its eccentricities. But then you get things like Smokin’ Aces, which is nothing but a cavalcade of eccentric characters. Or, Give ‘Em Hell Malone, which was a movie that I thought was going to be a noir film but turned out to be a whole bunch of people who thought they were in various other movies, with the main character being in a noir film. Or Antonio Bandera’s recent Big Bang – seriously, even the waitress floozy gets turned on by particle physics?

Stop it. I realize actors (like D’Onofrio) get jobs because they’re character actors – weird character actors. And, he’s generally pretty fun to watch. I’m not suggesting he not continue to play weird people. But, he’s the limit. D’Onofrio gets in your movie and you’ve hit the quota. Everyone else needs to stick to the archetype they’re playing. Or, hell, maybe get a decent script writer who can make them into people and not ridiculous clowns. I realize that’s probably asking too much from Hollywood.

Listen, I get that these are crazy thrillers where crazy shit happens. But, for once, could we have the crazy shit revolve around relatively normal people who can then show normal human reactions to the crazy shit? Why do we need Willem Dafoe in a woman’s dress? Or Japanese schoolgirl assassins in our otherwise pretty bog-standard crime capers? I’d like to be able to relate to some of the events happening in your film. You cast a bunch of humans…why can’t they just act human?

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Responses

  1. What? Something worked really well in a movie once, and Hollywood has endlessly tried to repeat that success with poor imitations?

    The hell you say!


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