Monday, September 29, 2008

Bells On Recommends: The Verdict

I was never very impressed by Paul Newman when I was growing up. I thought he was a pretty boy actor with insufficient chops. That all changed in 1982, when I saw The Verdict, moodily directed by Sidney Lumet and with a great screenplay by David Mamet. The movie takes place in Boston, and settings range from the sleek offices of wealth and power to the crummiest blue-collar bars & crackerboxes. Newman’s character’s run-down office is so perfect that it almost makes you cry. And Mamet absolutely nails everyone’s speech patterns and language. You can listen to the movie with your eyes closed and know exactly how much money every character makes just by listening to the way they talk. It’s fucking brilliant.

And Newman is nothing less than heartbreaking in it. Somehow, in the decade since he’d done Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid and The Sting, he had acquired some lines on his face and a profound weariness. It’s like he didn’t care what the world thought of him anymore. He had done a pretty good job in the previous year’s Absence of Malice, but his co-star in that movie, Sally Field, was just out of her depth and I found that very distracting. But in The Verdict, Newman as alcoholic, down-on-his-luck ambulance chaser attorney Frank Galvan, owns the whole movie, and when you’re up against Jack Warden, James Mason, and Charlotte Rampling, that’s no mean feat.

So what better way to honor the passing of one of this country’s greatest actors than by watching him at the top of his game? This is a movie that will slowly warm you from the inside out, like a tumbler full of whiskey.

(Please to ignore foreign subtitles. This is the only vid of this scene I could find.)


mrgumby2u said...

Excellent performances all around in that movie, but mostly by Newman. Growing up in the seventies, I was pretty much immune to Newman's charm, but man oh man, looking back, what I wouldn't have given to be just like him. Hombre, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy. Nobody, not even Steve McQueen, did cool like Paul, and nobody could lend gravity and world weariness to a role as he could either.

Dr Zibbs said...

I've never seen this movie. Will have to put it on the list.

GETkristiLOVE said...

I think we saw Absence of Malice together with dad. You and dad liked it and I, being bored to tears, fell asleep. I should go rent both of these movies.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Mr.G2U: From Butch Cassidy to this is an incredible leap. Don't get me wrong, I thought he was charming and funny and yes, cool. But when I see this, I think he's different man.

Dr.Z: If you watch the clip, it's not only acted well, but it's directed SO WELL. Notice how the physical distance between them is huge, and they are incapable of closing it, reinforcing the emotional movement of the scene. They don't really start to communicate until he goes into the bathroom and then, there is a door between them. You just know from this scene that there is something unknown about her, and you very much doubt his ability to draw it out.

GKL: Although this movie was released in '82, it's such a product of the '70s. And look at what Sidney Lumet had done proceeding this: Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon. Man, those were some great days for the movies.

Dad E said...

You so nailed the beauty of this film. It left quite an impression on me and marked a turning point on how I viewed Paul.

I loved "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" not so much because of Elizabeth Taylor and Newman (the essence of sardonic) performances, but the ensamble included Burl Ives, Jack Carson and Judith Anderson. Menacity has been in my vocabulary ever since.

Grant Miller said...

I was raised on Paul Newman movies for some odd reason. MY mom - or maybe her husband - had a crush on him or something. The guy was the shit, no doubt about it.

He made a movie just a few years ago - "Where the Money Is" - that got very little play, but was one of those great overlooked movies.

I loved "The Verdict" and did all I could to emulate "Cool Hand Luke" for most of my adolesence.

dguzman said...

I've loved Newman forever. I once dated a girl because she had Newman-blue eyes, only to discover later that hers were contacts. What a bummer.

I loved that he aged so well, and was such a good guy. And he stayed married to Woodward for fifty freakin' years. He was a true hunk.

bondo said...

Yeah this is "tell it like it is" shit isn't it? Square off and just freakin' say it. And then the hardest thing is to cut the distance and across the room to get to the bathroom. How do you pull that off? Well, you're in a movie that's all, but he really does it. Just like that. I'm so happy that you picked this one and said it right Vik.