Friday, 18 July 2008

Tears of a Clown

What is it about Thomas Jane that makes me laugh, even when I don’t want to? It’s hard to say.

I remember watching Boogie Nights, Face/Off and The Last Time I Committed Suicide, but I don’t remember him being in them. The first thing I registered him in was Deep Blue Sea. I saw it in the cinema and laughed like a drain – to me, it’s always been one of those ‘so bad it’s funny’ movies. His looking slippery and buff in that wet suit also made the movie an easier pill to swallow.
Maybe that’s where it started.

I couldn’t make it all the way through The Sweetest Thing. But if you think you can take one for the team, you can witness therein Thomas Jane having good old college try at ‘comedy’.

Next, he turned up in Dreamcatcher: another film I place firmly in the ‘so bad it’s funny’ vein of things and was directed by Lawrence Kasdan, who also wrote Raiders of The Lost Ark and Empire Strikes Back (and is penning the screenplay for the remake of Clash of The Titans). At the time, and even now, if you pitched a film to me like “It’s got Jason Lee, Timothy Olyphant, Damian Lewis and Morgan Freeman in it. It’s a sci-fi movie about an alien invasion, by the guy that wrote Raiders!” I’d be all “That sounds AWESOME.” It isn’t. Look, here’s a trailer:
See? Looks pretty good, huh? Not even a whiff of shit weasels.

There’s a scene in that movie, which I probably can’t do justice. It’s a scene in which Thomas Jane is riding in a truck and hears a phone ringing. He picks up a gun lying nearby and talks into it like it’s a mobile phone. This is supposed to be a dramatic scene. I still laugh when I think of it.

So at this point, even though I know Thomas Jane isn’t really suited to comedy, I associate him with laughing a lot. I go on to miss out on Stander and The Punisher, so the next thing he appears in is Arrested Development, where he plays himself to great comedic effect.


But recently, here’s The Mist: a deadly serious monster flick by Frank Darabont, with a sobering downbeat ending. The human race is all doomed; we’ll destroy each other without the aid of CGI tentacles, etc, etc. And I’m watching for a while, aware of the rave reviews, respectful of Darabont’s career (I still think The Fly 2 is as grim as all Hell and definitely one of the best things Eric Stoltz has ever done) but something’s feeling a little...weird. Then I realise, sort of anxiously, that I’m grinning as if I’m stoned. Thomas Jane’s mere existence is amusing me. I find I can’t look at his face and take him seriously. And he gets work! A lot! With his Paul Newman-y good looks and his Patricia Arquette-banging lifestyle! He’s going to keep being in serious movies! And people will be all “I really liked The Mist/Whatever He Does Next” and my mental agenda will be “Yeah, I mean, yeah...but, didn’t you think that it was unintentionally funny?” and I’ll get that blank stare by return.

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