Pollock (2000)

POLLOCK is an okay, tortured-artist bio pic about the mid-life and 
times of Jackson Pollock (Ed Harris), a struggling, socially diffi-
cult, and oft-soused abstract painter discovered by Peggy Guggenheim 
in the mid-Forties.  (Discovered, but not made immediately rich or 
famous by his benefactor and, as the film tells it, incidental lover.  
That came later...)  Harris, whose also directed, was nominated for 
his difficult, half-drunk, half-distant performance.  His Pollock is  
introduced as a tortured soul, eyes hollow and demeanor detached.  He 
finishes as a raging drunk, cursing like a seasoned sailor and, with 
his bushy beard and a bit o' paunch, rather resembling Ernest Heming-
way.  In-between, Harris' character is all over the map, at one time 
seeming like a marionette on strings, as he's led around by live-in 
girlfriend and fellow painter Lee Krasner.  (The latter played by a 
svelte, serious, Bronx-sounding Marcia Gay Harden.  And that's Harris 
real-life wife Amy Madigan in a fright wig as the Guggen-ster.)  

The gist of the thing goes something like this:  brooding + art + ac-
claim.  Rinse and repeat, with random mood swings by the title char-
acter as Harden's Krasner drones on and on about the inspiration, in-
fluence, or important of her lover's latest work.  (Though the two 
make a cute, contrasting screen couple, Harden is a largely banal 
presence.  Best Supporting Actress win or otherwise.)  Art scholars 
are probably the best audience for this one, as neither P. nor his 
story are easy to get a fix on.  (Bam!, he wants a baby.  Bam!, he's 
stopped drinking.  Bam!, he's taken a mistress, played by va-va-va-
voom Jennifer Connelly.)  Harris *does* give a gonzo, gets-right-in-
there-and-rolls-up-his-sleeves performance that's certainly compel-
ling.  There's even genuine excitement, such as inspiration erupting 
after days (weeks?) of staring at a wall-sized white canvas.  Making 
messes should bring such acclaim...  Screenplay by Barbara Turner and 
Susan Emshwiller, based on the book "Jackson Pollock: An American Sa-
ga" by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith.  With unexpected ap-
pearances by John Heard, Jeffrey Tambor, and... Val Kilmer.  Where 
the Hell has *he* been hiding?  Oh, and remember to wear your seat 
belt...  (Rated "R"/122 min.)

Grade: B-

Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

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