Films like "Pollock" always leave me at a loss when I have todescribe them to others. For one thing, it's long been a labor oflove for director / star Ed Harris, which maybe causes me to havemore sympathy for the picture than I should -- after all, I'd hate toream a project that he's spent so much time and energydeveloping. For another thing, I usually find biopics a bit crippledbecause, in most cases ("Pollock" included), I already know theplot, and without the plot to get lost in, I'm left to look at littlethingslike, you know, the acting, writing and directing. Lucky for Harris(and my conscience), then, that the acting is uniformly great, thedirection is mostly seamless (and downright kinetic at times), andthe writing, while not being great in the "Casablanca" sense of theword, serves the story well. "Pollock" dodges all the pitfalls thatoften turn biopics into boring history lessons.<br><br>The film picks up with Jackson Pollock the Unsuccessful Drunk(Harris), dabbling in surrealist painting and proclaiming Picassoto be a fraud. There's enough promise in his work, though, for himto gain a girlfriend, Lee Krasner (Marcia Gay Harden); abenefactor, Peggy Guggenheim (Amy Madigan); and aprofessional critic, Clement Greenberg (Jeffrey Tambor), whochampions his work in print. From there we watch Pollock take theexpress train to art world superstardom, becoming one of theworld's foremost abstract painters.<br><br>The fly in the ointment, though, is Pollock's notorious temper,aided and abetted by his equally notorious alcoholism. Life inNew York City is doing his personal life no favors, so he andKrasner move to the countryside, and it's here that he stumblesupon his "drip method" of painting, granting him another wave offame and recognition. It is this sequence, in which Pollock makeshis pivotal discovery, where Harris's talent as a director comes tothe fore. Although we're aware that we're watching an actorperform a discovery that was made by someone else more thanfifty years ago, it's an exciting, dynamic moment as Harris dancesaround his canvas, flicking paint from his brush in a blur of motion.It doesn't come off as staged or phony, but as a moment ofgenuine discovery, and for those moments we might as wellactually be watching Jackson Pollock revolutionize the artworld.<br><br>From there, though, ego, alcohol, and the mechanics of change allprove to be Pollock's undoing, leading, of course, to his untimelydemise. Through it all, Harris seethes with a feral intensity, givinga performance that should rightfully win him an Oscar (and checkout the dramatic weight gain at the end. Tom who?). Harden, hisco-nominee, is also excellent (although she's stuck uttering lineslike, "You've done it, Pollock. You've cracked it wide open."). Inlesser hands, Krasner could be just another version of thescreeching, wailing, put-upon wife, but Harden bolsters theanguish with a fine layer of anger; the torment of a woman wholoves the person causing her misery, but who is unwilling to let goof the principles which led her to enter and maintain therelationship on her own terms.<br><br>"Pollock" ultimately succeeds because we know how it will end,we clearly see how unpleasant and deluded the artist hadbecome, and still we can't look away. Harris's labor of love servesas an auspicious debut for someone who, at this stage, seemsjust as skilled behind the camera as he is in front ofit.
Biography / Drama
Biography / Drama
At the end of the 1940's, abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) is featured in Life magazine. Flashback to 1941, he's living with his brother in a tiny apartment in New York City, drinking too much, and exhibiting an occasional painting in group shows. That's when he meets artist Lee Krasner, who puts her career on hold to be his companion, lover, champion, wife, and, in essence, caretaker. To get him away from booze, insecurity, and the stress of city life, they move to the Hamptons where nature and sobriety help Pollock achieve a breakthrough in style: a critic praises, then Life magazine calls. But so do old demons: the end is nasty, brutish, and short.
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