Chris Rock’s comment at the 2005 Oscars about the omnipresence of Jude Law was apt (despite Sean Penn’s protests), seeing as Law appeared in six different films in 2004 alone. Maybe it’s because of his inescapability in 2004, or the infidelity in his personal life which marred his career, but I’ve never given Law a fair shake as an actor. To add insult to injury, I recently realised that I haven’t even seen many of his films, yet decided that I just didn’t like him. And somehow, I don’t think that The Holiday, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events would be the three films in his filmography that Jude Law would choose to convert fans.
But over the past couple of weeks, I’ve caught three very fun supporting performances from Law. I didn’t consciously choose to watch these three films because he was in them, but I started to feel more excited about the idea of watching Law with each film. In last year’s Sherlock Holmes reboot, Law plays the persnickety Dr. Watson to Robert Downey Jr.’s sly Sherlock. Before watching it, I was uninterested in Law’s performance, but as I watched his chemistry with Downey and his on-screen charisma, the performance became one of the highlights of the film for me.
Next, I watched 1997’s dystopian Gattaca. I watched it mainly because of Ethan Hawke, yet Law was the one who ended up serving as a kinetic beacon in an otherwise solid but dreary film. As a genetically perfect man now confined to a wheelchair, Law evokes the frustration and disconnect that we would expect from such a character. But beyond that, his biting sense of humour prevents the character from merely blending into the bleak landscape.
His work in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator is so brief that it could be considered a cameo, but though he only has one scene to work with, Law makes his mark playing the sly Errol Flynn. In a sprawling film full of strong performances, Law’s ability to stand out so comfortably is perhaps what finally won me over on his acting skills.
But that doesn’t erase the fact that I’ve somehow missed seeing every major performance by this acclaimed actor. So I’ve decided to start working my way through the highlights of Law’s filmography. Based on acclaim, fan favourites, and variety, I’ve decided to watch these five films over the next little while. I’ve never done a planned marathon before, so we’ll see how it goes. But hopefully I’ll get a chance to write a bit about each film after watching them:
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) (Oscar Nomination)
Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001)
Road to Perdition (2002)
Cold Mountain (2003) (Oscar Nomination)
I Heart Huckabees (2004)