Frank started developing this new theory of threes when it comes to certain actors.
It goes something like this. . .
Actor McActorson is only good when he/she: A, B, or C.
Examples he has provided to this end (so far):
1. Kevin Costner is only good in a movie when he has a beer, a golf club, or a baseball in his hand.
2. Mark Wahlberg is only good in a movie when he plays a Bostonian, a cop, or a druggie.
Eleventy billion conversations with Frank about film lead me to believe that he doesn’t really believe this to be true. I know for a fact that he enjoyed The Untouchables. And Mark Wahlberg is awfully darn likeable in movies like Date Night.
But since Frank posed this theory to me a few months ago in a moment of levity, it’s had me thinking about Kevin Costner and a handful of similar actors: enjoyed by (most) audiences, but often granted a tepid response by critics.
Personally, I love the guy. I would pay good money to watch him read a phone book. I think he has “the thing” that a lot of actors with career longevity have = I want to watch him on screen. And it’s not (just) because he’s a terribly handsome man, which he is. It’s because he has a god damned presence. I remember his movies. I enjoy his performances. I find him anything but wooden, as I seem to recall him being described once upon a time in a review far, far away. I was reminded again of how much I appreciate his ability to make movie magic when Frank and I caught a screening of Molly’s Game late last year. As Molly’s father, his character is protective, distant, and walled off. Totally Costner. As an actor, he does his job, and he does it toe-to-toe with the likes of Jessica Chastain. What is it about this guy that makes critics want to write lukewarm things about him when he isn’t. . . lukewarm?
An argument can probably be made that my enjoyment of Costner’s performances is tied directly to moments of nostalgia, as movies so often are for me.
>>> Seeing Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves at the drive-in one lovely, adolescent summer.
>>> Following Billy Chapman’s no-hitter in For Love of the Game and thinking fondly of my friend Beth Keller (who, along with being a beautiful human being, was also a kick-ass softball player at IWU and loves this movie).
>>> Watching one of his best performances in The Upside of Anger one afternoon in my awesome little apartment in Chicago and just loving the hell out of that moment of independence in my personal history.
Nostalgia, yes. Absolutely. But something else. . . Talent. Ability. “The Thing.” The power to bring me back to moments that I’ve loved.
Isn’t something like that special in and of itself? That ability to make an audience connect, and sometime down the road, look back at that very performance with heart-mushing nostalgia?
Rob Lowe also comes to mind when I think about these kinds of actors. Under-appreciated, with the ability to make fun of himself (And I don’t know if you know this, but he is Rob Lowe. The man never ages or loses that adorable twinkle in his eye. He doesn’t need to make fun of himself). Take About Last Night, one of my all-time 80s nostalgia favorites. To be fair, it’s a favorite partly because my sister introduced me to it at a tender and impressionable age while babysitting and making her delicious grilled ham and cheese sandwiches for me. But it’s also something else. Rob Lowe has great chemistry with Jim Belushi. He has great chemistry with Demi Moore. He embodies the youth of the 80s in a single character – the hair, the attitude, the angst. The fun. Maybe evoking nostalgia is an acting gift that can only be appreciated many years later, when the nostalgia is possible. To the Kevin Costners and the Rob Lowes of the film industry, I’m grateful to you for allowing me to visit those moments in my life.
What say you, Friends? Are the RLs and KCs of film under-appreciated or appropriately-lauded? What are your “he/she is only good when 1, 2, and 3” lists?