If Joel Edgerton has a significant role in an unseen film, I know I’m going to have at least a moderately difficult time with it. I’m sorry but he rubs me the wrong way. His vibe, those little pig eyes, his actorishness. Edgerton was cool in Animal Kingdom (’10), Warrior (11) and Zero Dark Thirty (’12), and I admired his on-stage performance as Stanley Kowalski in a 2009 BAM production of A Streetcar Named Desire, in which he costarred with Cate Blanchett. But I started to develop prickly feelings after seeing him portray a lying, squirrelish husband in 2013’s Wish You Were Here. And then three recent performances turned me flat-out against him — his eye-linered Ramses in Exodus: Gods and Kings, Gordo the weirdo in The Gift and especially his dirty FBI agent John Connolly in Black Mass. Edgerton’s Bahstun accent, his ’70s hair, those light blue three-piece suits…torture.
Ruth Negga, Joel Edgerton in Jeff Nichols’ Loving.
My spirit sank yesterday when I noticed Edgerton is costarring with Ruth Negga in Jeff Nichols‘ Loving, a fact-based period drama about a once-controversial interracial marriage between Mildred and Richard Loving, which resulted in the couple being sentenced to prison in Virginia in early 1959. The conviction was argued through the courts in the mid ’60s, and was finally overturned by the Supreme Court in June 1967. I’m thinking this over and I know that Edgerton (who’s wearing a ’50s flattop and has dyed his hair blonde for the film) is going to make me sigh and grumble and shift in my seat. I dread grappling with his Southern accent. If only Nichols had cast Joaquin Phoenix or James Marsden or even Casey Affleck instead.
Loving sounds like a bit of a groaner to start with. Yes, we get it — the Lovings bravely stood up against a cruel system and thank God for people with the necessary backbone, but did it occur to the Lovings to simply move to a more tolerant region of the country? Racial attitudes were horrific in the South 55 years ago. Why didn’t they settle in Key West? The alcoholic hipsters down there wouldn’t have blinked an eye.