In a review of Sony Home Video’s “The Jack Lemmon Collection,” a DVD package of five Columbia-produced films, N.Y. Times columnist Dave Kehr summarizes the “recurring predicament” of Lemmon’s screen characters as “that of the desperate conformist who ultimately discovers that conformity comes at too high a price.”
Very nice. Exactly. Kehr’s description is so clean that I’m envious. I’ve also begun to wonder how many other name-brand actors have experienced the same recurring predicament time and again? Actors and actresses who are so well known for a particular personality and character-type that screenwriters have adapted and wound up writing the same kind of story for this actor/actress, over and over?
How, for example, would one describe the recurring predicament of the classic Clint Eastwood character? “That of a low-key, steely-mannered nonconformist who tries to just get along, is challenged by ne’er do wells, and is always pushed into settling his scores by violent means.”
Jim Carrey? “That of an anxious but free-spirited eccentric who finds that expressing a heretofore suppressed side to his personality or experimenting with alternate values is fun for a while but ultimately makes things worse.”
Julia Roberts in the ’90s? “That of a spirited, independent-minded single gal who initially tries to breeze or arm’s-length her way through a relationship (or an adventure of some kind involving an attractive guy), only to eventually fall in love and put her serious emotional cards on the table.”
Seth Rogen? “That of an extremely bright but immature slacker-stoner who’s constantly being challenged by life’s complications to crawl out of his pot-smoking, lay-around conch shell and become an active, reality-facing, decision-making adult.”
Jeffrey Wells? “That of an enterprising and impassioned movie columnist whose daily opinions and musings are constantly challenged and sometimes belittled by internet trolls, this forcing a daily metaphorical shoot-out on Main Street with one or more of these hecklers.”
Shia LeBouf? “That of a plucky and somewhat irresponsible young guy trying to have fun and chase girls, only to be thrust into super-threatening situations involving supernatural life forms that force him to put away young-guy things and stand up and be a man.”
All interesting characters are defined by the three Ds — desire, deception and discovery.