As most everyone knows, Jackie Earl Haley — a balding, pale-skinned, rodent-like actor of some 45 years — has suddenly popped through in supporting roles in a pair of high-profile films — as Sean Penn‘s all-but-silent driver in All the King’s Men, and as Ronnie, a prison parolee who’s been in jail for exposing himself to minors, in Todd Field‘s very well-crafted Little Children, which opens limited today.
And USA Today‘s “Suzie Woz” (a.k.a., Susan Wloszczyna), in a profile of Haley, says that “Oscar handicappers” — a reference to pally David Poland, for the most part, and perhaps also herself — “suggest a supporting nomination is not out of the question for Haley’s hauntingly understated performance” in Little Children.
“This is the great comeback story of the year because it is so unexpected,” says Poland. “[Haley] is not movie-star pretty. And he was all but forgotten. But here he is, in two big films.” Two attention-getting films within the critic-journo community, he means. “Big” tends to mean important and popular among the hoi polloi. Men is dead, and Children has yet to register.
Haley invests genuine feeling in his Children role . He’s playing a sexual cockroach and a bit of a retard who loves his mom (and therefore has decency in him) but is unable to control himself. Ronnie tries to make things right at the end of the film (in a gross and pathetic way), but he’s an odious character throughout. He’s got one scene that makes you scrunch your face and turn away. Trust me — nobody outside the Poland realm is going to push Haley as Best Supporting Actor.