Despite all the “Eddie Redmayne‘s Norbit” articles that have popped today in synch with the debut of Jupiter’s Ascending, I suspect that Redmayne’s puppy-dog appeal will nonetheless prevail among Academy members. It doesn’t seem to matter to the rank-and-file, apparently, that Michael Keaton‘s Birdman performance is loopier, more primally anguished, more exposed…some kind of direct reflection of Keaton’s life and career, or the life and career of any 50-plus looking to get rolling again. People simply seem to like Redmayne more because they do. Because they want to muss his hair or something. Because his Theory of Everything performance as the wheelchair-bound Stephen Hawking…well, that’s almost the whole deal, isn’t it? The chair, I mean.
Emil Lendof’s art stolen from Kevin Fallon’s 2.6 Daily Beast piece, “The Oscar Curse of the ‘Norbit’ Effect: Are Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne at Risk?”
More often that not, it seems, chops and conviction are respected but not enough to win an acting Oscar. You need them, of course, but you also need a gimmick (weight gain, prosthetic nose, wheelchair) plus some kind of compelling backstage narrative.
Except Redmayne, whose Theory performance is undeniably skillful and affecting, has no narrative to speak of. He’s suffered no setbacks, no twists or turns…he’s more or less just beginning. What Redmayne has, clearly, is personal charm, and he’s proven himself a master at turning it on. No Oscar nominee has worked the Academy/guild party circuit harder over the last three or four months.
On top of which, as I wrote three weeks ago, Redmayne and Mila Kunis or Channing Tatum are “just cogs in the Wachowski wheel.” Besides which the Norbit factor “only kicks in when an Oscar nominee is (a) the star of a late January or February release but more precisely when (b) the film reminds Oscar voters of the nominee’s true nature and inclinations. Redmayne is almost certainly fine. Not to worry.”
On the other hand if Keaton takes the Best Actor Oscar, Redmayne will have the Wachowskis and more precisely Warner Bros. distribution to thank. But I think he’ll make it through. The “Redmayne’s Norbit” thing has been tremendous fun. Even those who’ve dismissed its legitimacy have to admit the idea has caught on. But when Academy members decide they like someone, that’s pretty much it.