Richard Jenkins

Thinking about the Performing Arts

GREAT ACTING MOMENTS

It’s about an hour and 22 minutes in. I know because, while I love the scene, I’m not that crazy about the movie so I’ve figured out how to time my tune-in. We’re talking Eat Pray Love. Up on the ashram roof. Richard Jenkins and Julia Roberts. Their work makes me wish there were Oscars for individual scenes. It’s the one where Richard (the character) tells Groceries (that’s what he calls her) how he lost everything and had to start over. It’s shot with such grace. We get Mr. Jenkins in profile. Ms. Roberts too. So that we’re not in their faces. So that they can shed any subtle awareness of camera and just play the scene for themselves, for each other, into the dirt, out to the sky. Oh my goodness, watch Richard Jenkins try with every fiber of his being NOT to cry. Watch him twist through agonizing silences, stop and start his words, bite on a fingernail, his face flushing as he does everything he can not to break down. To get technical for a second, it’s a textbook example of the relationship we directors/teachers are always looking for between the emotional life of the scene and the objectives/obstacles driving each character. It’s what makes US cry. And Julia Roberts is just as riveting, even though we see only the edge of her cheek, a single eyelash. She too goes red as she listens. She hardly moves and yet we’re aware she’s doing all she can to stay calm. Giving him lots of space. Trying to stifle, first her horror, then her pity. Her objective: be there for him; her obstacle: being there brings feelings that may shut him down. Watch her hand reflexively fly up to cover her mouth, then ease back to her lap. Therein lies the power of the scene. They are wonderful together, these two actors. Wonderfully present for each other. Because Richard Jenkins is able to go real and deep, Julia Roberts can too. He’s the scene partner any actor dreams about. Yet another example of an artist whose renown falls far behind his due.

© i.e. ideas expressed 2011

About Amanda McTigue

Author. Director. Teacher. My debut novel, GOING TO SOLACE was named one of four "Best Reads of 2012" by public radio's KRCB "Word by Word." A collection of short stories, "Convergence," is due out in 2015. A second novel, "Monkey Bottom," will follow.
This entry was posted in Acting and Actors, Artistry, Expression, STAGE (and Screen) and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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