I have my Lesley Manville obsession, and TheWrap’s Steve Pond has a thing about Javier Bardem‘s performance in Biutiful. I feel the same way, actually, as does Ben Affleck and Entertainment Weekly‘s Dave Karger and Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Guillermo del Toro, et.al. Here’s how Pond puts it:
“Every awards season is rife with injustices, but one in particular stands out so far this year. Javier Bardem’s performance in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s haunted, crushing tone poem Biutiful is a towering achievement, a magnificent performance that should comfortably sit on every list of the great acting accomplishments of the year.
“Without saying much – Jesse Eisenberg likely spouts more words in the opening three minutes of The Social Network than Bardem does in the whole of Biutiful — Bardem subtly evokes and embodies a world-weary Everyman living with a ticking clock and the weight of the world on his shoulders.
“Guillermo del Toro has called Bardem’s performance ‘monumental’; Sean Penn said it’s the best thing he’s seen since Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris.
“When I saw King’s Speech, I thought Colin Firth gave the best performance I’d seen in a couple of years,” Ben Affleck told me at a party for The Town a couple of weeks ago. “Then I saw Biutiful.” He shook his head. “Javier is on another level from the rest of us.”
“Memo to Academy members: SAG and Globe voters blew it, badly. Don’t you do the same.”
All these admirers plus the jury at last May’s Cannes Film Festival had no problem seeing Biutiful and recognizing what they’d seen in Bardem’s performance. But this kind of thing, let’s face it, doesn’t play as well with Average Joes. Many if not most American moviegoers (including film industry types) are simply too grief-averse — too married to the idea of a movie lifting your spirits or acting like some kind of friendly quaalude — to summon the character to see Biutiful. Can we be honest? Can we call a spade a spade? “Grief averse” is a polite way of saying “too shallow.”