During a recent discussion of Stanley Kubrick‘s Full Metal Jacket “Reverent and free” wrote the following: “To this day Vincent D’Onofrio‘s performance as Pvt. Pyle is oddly unsung. Which is really weird. No one can ignore the character [as] Pyle is the heart of the boot camp section, and it’s one of the most nuanced performances in Kubrick’s filmography, and yet it’s rarely talked about.”
HE response: “D’Onofrio’s Leonard ‘Private Pyle’ Lawrence always struck me as contradictory in a sense. In the very first scene he’s amused by Sergeant Hartmann‘s brutal harassing, which suggests an ironic sense of humor. Obviously a fellow with a thought or two in his head. Everyone else (Joker excluded) is too scared to do anything but obey. But Pyle can’t help himself. After being threatened by Hartmann he tries to repress the smirk, but fails. Obviously bright and perhaps even sophisticated to some extent.
“Unfortunately that character disappears after that first scene. For most of the remainder of the Parris Island section Pyle drops the irreverence and turns into a slow-witted simpleton. He stares. He self-pities (‘Everyone hates me now’). He weeps. He struggles. He repeats himself.
“Then a third Pyle emerges after the middle-of-the-night beating by his fellow trainees. He goes into full-dark zombie mode. In the climactic latrine sequence he speaks in a ridiculously theatrical slowed-down manner, and makes demon faces. And then shoots himself.
“All to say it’s not ‘one of the most nuanced performances in Kubrick’s filmography’ as much as inconsistent and lacking in subtlety. And at war with itself. Pyle being one guy in the opening scene and some kind of intellectually devolved goober for the rest of the film, and then a goober possessed by Satan. I never bought it.”