Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Why I love James McAvoy

There are many reasons James McAvoy is a terrific actor and will someday win his Oscar nomination (and eventually the award). I thought I'd been seeing him for ages, but it turns out not to be as long as I thought. The first movie he's really memorable for a US audience was Wimbledon, as Paul Bettany's bumbling, gambling brother who wears a cycling cap the whole time, and inexplicably wears cycling clothes the whole time. He's not all that memorable, but neither is the movie, so that's hardly his fault.

However, he's incredibly memorable in Rory O'Shea Was Here, a film about two physically disabled young men who want to get the most out of life. McAvoy plays Rory O'Shea, a bad-ass Irish guy who can move his head, face, and hands, and is completely confined to a wheelchair. He'd love to live a real life in his own apartment taking care of himself, which is nearly impossible. He befriends another man, Michael, in the home for the disabled who can barely speak due to cerebral palsy, but thanks to a lifetime of living with other disabled people, Rory can understand him just fine. The two of them manage to get an apartment and an aid to help get them into and out of bed. Rory introduces Michael to all that life has to offer, but still can't protect him from the jeers and stares nor the inaccessibility of so much of Dublin for the disabled. They get stuck in various places and find it harder than expected to care for themselves. McAvoy plays the fast-talking, womanizing, quadripelgic with so much spunk and spirit that you're sure everything will work out great, which is rarely the case. It's a really terrific movie, 4.5 of 5 stars.

I didn't even realize that McAvoy was in Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe until I started looking at his resume. Then I remembered Mr. Tumnus, the faun and it totally clicked. He's perfect, bringing the literary character to life so well. He's physically retiring, but wants to fight the witch and is nice enough to Lucy to spark the entire adventure as she seeks to rescue the nice Mr. Tumnus. He creates a character so vividly that I totally forgot it was McAvoy, and just remember the faun. The movie isn't wonderful, but I thought his performance was. There are elements that work throughout the movie, but overall, it wasn't my favorite. I'm sure it'll end up on TV often in the not too distant future and you can check out just McAvoy's performance.

The Last King of Scotland is worth skipping, if only because it gives a dead dictator the chance to poison more peoples' souls. Forest Whitaker is brilliant, transforming his unassuming teddy bear demeanor into a sociopath with moments of clarity and humor. James McAvoy plays a doctor who supposedly falls under Amin's spell, but it doesn't play that well - McAvoy comes across as a weaselly guy trying to get ahead by getting cozy with the President. He follows Amin through the insanity and spends a lot of time trying to balance the dual goals of having a positive impact on the world by advising the leader, and saving his own butt from being killed too. There are movies that portray horrific events with compassion and sensitivity, but this is not one of them. The violence become gratuitous and more than a little scary. Forest totally deserved his Oscar, but McAvoy deserved more recognition for his role too.

Becoming Jane stars Anne Hathaway doing a credible job playing Jane as a witty woman who knew she wasn't going to live a wealthy life, but thought she could buck convention and marry the man she loved. James McAvoy plays a lawyer sent to live in the country to end his frivolous lifestyle and meets Jane. He teases her about her writing and of course she gets her hackles up and she whacks him back. Their banter is really good, and McAvoy has succeeded where Jude Law never made it - as a love interest that isn't smarmy but cunning and deserving of adoration. The costumes and settings are perfect. Oh, oh, oh, and Dame Maggie Smith plays a rich neighbor who gets angry when Jane spurns her nephew's proposal. It's clearly the inspiration for P&P's Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Overall, it's a terrific historical romantic comedy. It's not overly complicated, but if you're an Austen fan, you'll see all the elements of her books represented, and you'll know that Jane's love of McAvoy's character drove most of her future writings.
And finally, Atonement was really an amazing performance by McAvoy. He's slowly moving up the scale of the love interest possiblities. He played the young man who was able to cross class lines because he was smart and know how to play by the rules. He deserved his Golden Globe nomination, and really should have made it to the Oscar pool - I'm guessing he was 6th or 7th on the list of nominees, so didn't make the show. He'll get called up eventually and it'll be terrific. His next movie with Angelina Jolie (Wanted) shows he'll be able to be the leading man/action star too. Such a great actor and finally getting the roles and attention he deserves.


Nayana Anthony said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nayana Anthony said...

I was stunned by McAvoy's performance in Last King, mainly because I had only seen him as Tumnus the Faun. The range between these two roles alone should be enough to get him recognized as a serious actor.

Jed said...

I'm writing James' profile at tMF when I chanced upon this awesome article of yours. Frankly, you had me stunned and surprised...I thought I'm the only one in the US of A to think of James as a maginificent actor. He has been ignored by the Academy twice in a row. He was incredible in Last King, and in Atonement, he is simply awesome. I can't think of any other adjective to describe how much I enjoyed his performance.

I'll be quoting you in my article man!

Jed said...

While I'm at it, you need to see Starter for Ten. I think this is his best film to date.

Mrs. Thuro said...

I fell in love with James in Atonement. I had seen Chronicles of Narnia, but fauns really don't do it for me. But that sex scene in the library in Atonement is one of the hottest things I've watched on film...short of porn.

Seriously, I can't wait till he gains more recognition for his amazing talent.