Actors out of Their Elements

You know what I’m talking about right? The funny guy getting all dramatic, or the action dude trying to be funny. I remember watching an interview with Jason Segel where he recalled how difficult it was for comedians to get gigs that weren’t comedy. The crossover from one acting genre to another can sometimes be far apart, but that doesn’t mean that all actors are limited to one type of genre. Here are just a few examples of actors who have stepped out of their usual acting habitat and ventured into some ground considered new for their talents.

  • Ryan Reynolds in Buried

Reynolds has been primarily known for most of his career as a B-movie funny guy in young adult movies. And although he’s had a few gigs here and there that have only slightly pushed his envelope, I believe it was his performance in Buried that let the world know that he is far more capable actor than he previously led us all to believe. In the making of Buried, the movie took 17 days to shoot and during the filming, Reynolds developed a bald spot as well as dislocated his shoulder from having to lie in a coffin for over 2 weeks straight. In addition to his minor injuries, he was able to hold the screen on his own with only the support of voice actors talking to him through a cell phone. After this movie, he proved that he really does have dramatic chops beneath the 6-pack and dirty jokes and sarcastic humor.

  • Mark Wahlberg in The Other Guys and Date Night

Wahlberg has been the tough guy, eye candy, manly man for the majority of his career. It wasn’t until The Happening happened that he got slammed for playing a “wimp.” Then, he turns things around and plays a supporting and utterly hilarious role in Date Night alongside Steve Carell and Tina Fey, who very “graciously” played off his humor. And although The Other Guys could have been shortened by about 45 minutes, Wahlberg again was able to play straight (and occasionally funny) off one of the biggest comedians of our time, Will Ferrell.

  • Emma Stone in The Help

Although Stone is only 23 years old, the majority of her roles have been only supporting until Easy A. And even in that film, with a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress under her belt, she really didn’t hit drama land until she nabbed the lead role in The Help. Stone’s already had another big year with The Help as well as Crazy, Stupid, Love and a cameo in Friends with Benefits. But the 1960s drama based off the best-selling novel film adaptation showed that Stone has a lot more to give to cinema than just some silly laughs or minor roles in rom coms. She’s clearly capable of being a leading lady in more than just another teen movie.

  • Adam Sandler in Reign Over Me

Perhaps I can’t use this example since I haven’t actually seen Reign Over Me. But from what I’ve read, Sandler is able to portray a heart-broken man dealing with the loss of his family from the 9/11 attacks. This movie is on my Need-To-See list. I’ve always enjoyed a little Adam Sandler humor (mainly his older movies–his newer ones have been crap!), but I’d love to see him entirely out of his element playing a dramatic role.

  • Jim Carrey in The Majestic and The Number 23

Jim Carrey is easily one of the funniest actors today. Between Dumb and Dumber and Liar Liar and Yes Man to name only a few, he has marked his place in funnymanland. But he also has several movies that show he is multi-talented. In The Number 23, Carrey plays a man who finds a book, reads it, and slowly realizes that he was the author. It’s a mind-numbing thriller that forces Carrey to be vulnerable, yet still on a mission. The Majestic holds the place for my favorite Jim Carrey performance yet. Set back in a time when the movies were an event to attend, war was raging on, and Carrey’s character hit his head and landed in a whole new place that took him in as a war hero they thought had died, Carrey brought in what I believe to be one of his best performances ever.

Do you like seeing actors in diverse roles? Who do you enjoy watching switch things up a bit?

Friends With Benefits: Art of Self-Deprecation at Its Best

This weekend, I finally decided it was OK to see Friends With Benefits. I was very against seeing this movie, as much as I was against seeing (and still am against seeing) No Strings Attached, because it looks like it just took the other main actress from Black Swan, Natalie Portman, and put her in the same title role: a female character stupidly thinking that sharing only a sexual relationship with a partner can still let you function devoid of emotional attachment to that partner.

Here’s the deal with Friends With Benefits: it joyfully and wittingly makes fun of itself. The biggest enjoyment I received from watching the movie was when Jamie (Mila Kunis) and Dylan (Justin Timberlake) were watching a romantic comedy starring Jason Segel and Rashida Jones. The overdramatic dialogue, the huge gestures, the cliche storyline, the chase scene, the upbeat credits song (by none other than Train)–all are elements that make up the majority of rom coms today. And Dylan pointedly mentions this while he annoyingly sits through the cheesiness as Jamie sheds a few tears and declares that she wishes her life (particularly the love part of it) to be like a movie.

When a movie sees itself for what it is–in this case, a romantic comedy–and doesn’t try to pretend to be something else, but assuredly and confidently works itself out, you find yourself less annoyed at the cliche elements that make up the genre and more accepting of the particular movie’s efforts. Friends With Benefits gladly takes it place and doesn’t apologize for being what it is. That’s what more romantic comedies need to do.

Although I will probably not make time for a second viewing (primarily due to objectionable elements), I did find the movie to be cute and fun, and I mostly appreciated the different approach that Will Gluck took in making this movie not your typical rom com. There’s some interesting and fun supporting characters played by Woody Harrelson and Patricia Clarkson, and two hilarious cameos by Shaun White, that add humor, while a performance by Richard Jenkins, who plays Dylan’s dad, gave a nice dramatic element to the film.

Both Dylan and Jamie get wrapped up in their own personal confusion of the relationship and take longer than usual to resolve those feelings and come to the conclusion that they are a perfect fit. It’s nice to see some new faces star in a more original rom com, and kudos to Gluck for making it interesting. If I ever see No Strings Attached (fat chance, though), I might make a comparison. But until I find my life boring enough to make time for a viewing of that, I’m sticking with Friends With Benefits.