Christopher Plummer‘s beguiling performance in Mike Mills‘ Beginners (i.e., a 70ish dad who decides to come out and live his waning years as a gay man) has looked like a strong contender for Best Supporting Actor Oscar all along. But after seeing Plummer charm and electrify and ham it up and speechify in gloriously boozy Shakespearean fashion in Barrymore, which I saw a couple of hours ago at the Bell Lightbox, I’m all but convinced he has the Oscar in the bag.
Christopher Plummer during a post-screening interview with director Atom Egoyan following this afternoon’s screening of Barrymore.
As long as the Academy sees this low-budgeted Canadian film, that is. Once they all see it, the game will be pretty much over. Because Plummer isn’t just portraying the late John Barrymore, and is so doing reanimating all the flamboyance and lamentations and exaltations of a once-great actor’s career in his last year of life, he’s also playing, in a sense, himself. There are, after all, certain parallels.
Add this performance to Beginners plus Plummer’s turn in David Fincher‘s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and he’s going to be awfully heard to beat.
Barrymore basically captures (and visually enhances to some extent) the stage show that Plummer performed in New York and Stratford in the mid ’90s, and lately performed again in Toronto earlier this year.
Consider this excerpt from Ben Brantley‘s N.Y. Times review of the stage show, called “A Dazzler of a Drink, Full of Gab and Grief“:
“The standup breakdown has become a reigning form in the theater of dead celebrities in recent years. Whether the focus is Truman Capote or Maria Callas, it allows its subjects to spin off witty anecdotes about glamorous lives while occasionally erupting into tormented cries showing the crippled soul beneath the tinsel. It’s like being seated next to a chatty trophy star at a dinner party with conveniently reduced potential for embarrassment.
”Barrymore is definitely part of this somewhat shameless tradition. And the actor in his waning years, a pathological specimen of self-parody, would seem to be an especially shameless subject. But under the assured, appropriately theatrical direction of Gene Saks, Mr. Plummer emerges as far more than the ”clown prince,” as Barrymore here describes himself with sour disgust, of America’s royal family of actors.
“What he achieves instead is the sense of a man whose vertiginous highs and lows were born of the same knot of impulses: a toxic mix of arrogance, insecurity, raw terror, the attention span of a 2-year-old and an insatiable appetite for the pleasures of the flesh. Mr. Luce, to his credit, has not given Barrymore a moment of revelation in which he untangles these elements. And Mr. Plummer seems to live intimately with all of them at once.”