Friday, October 8, 2010

Minghella makes a comeback

No, not Anthony Minghella. He's been deceased since March of 2008. However, I wouldn't be surprised if that's who you thought I was talking about. The guy has had more posthumous producing credits than Tupac Shakur had posthumous albums.

I'm actually talking about his son, Max, pictured here.

Max Minghella got on my shit list a couple years ago by appearing in one of the most loathsome films I have ever seen, Terry Zwigoff's Art School Confidental, also pictured here. It doesn't make much sense to blame an actor for being in a movie you hate -- I don't hate Paul Giamatti because he was in Lady in the Water, do I? (Incidentally, Lady in the Water saved Art School Confidential from ranking last of all the films I saw in 2006.)

However, I do understand the logic -- even if it's just to rationalize my own position -- of hating an actor when the bad movie in question is the only thing you know him from. I wrote a post about this last year regarding Joseph Gordon-Levitt, about how he had been cinematically rehabilitated since I hated him so much in Brick (which I no longer hate as much as I once did). Minghella is a better example, because I did know Gordon-Levitt from his estimable role on Third Rock from the Sun. Prior to Art School Confidential, Minghella was a complete stranger to me.

And after I got out of the theater, I wished I'd never met him.

However, I won't go into details today about why I find Zwigoff's movie so repugnant. Because I'm here to talk about Minghella's own rehabilitation. You see, Max Minghella has appeared in two of my favorite movies of 2010. First it was Alejandro Amenabar's Agora, which I've already praised several times on this blog, and which was actually released in 2009 in Spain, but didn't make its stateside debut until this year. Then, most recently, Minghella appears in The Social Network, in the relatively small but fully realized role of one of the guys who wants to sue the pants off of Mark Zuckerberg.

Welcome back into my good graces, Max Minghella.

In Agora, Minghella plays Davus, a slave granted his freedom in 4th century Alexandria, right at a time that a Christian upheaval is changing the whole sociopolitical landscape. At first I wasn't sure how much I cared for his character. He's possibly the most mercurial character in the movie, frequently changing allegiances, as he functions as a symbol of the average Alexandrian's struggle with the new God vs. science debate being thrust upon them. This mercurial quality sometimes comes across as snotty or petulant, and it was here that I was reminded of Art School Confidential. But as the movie moves along, his character's essential role becomes more clear, and it all hits home during the film's denouement. On my second viewing of Agora, I appreciated him from start to finish.

In The Social Network, Minghella plays Mwfmwf Benoofwoof. At least, that's how I heard his name every time it was spoken, given that neither part of his actual name -- Divya Narendra -- was recognizable to me as a name I'd heard before. (Whereas I could easily follow the "Cameron" and "Tyler" parts of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.) Narendra is a member of the Porcellian final club alongside the Winklevai, quite the contrast next to their tall, good-looking, Aryan bodies, toned by hundreds of hours of rowing crew. His character's shrewdness and intelligence is obvious, as he first recognizes the theft of the Facebook idea and pushes the twins to sue Zuckerberg -- something they take quite a long time to do, which eventually damages their prospects. Fresh off Agora, I liked Minghella from the moment he appeared on screen.

I don't have much more to say, except to be reminded of the truism that a first impression can really stick with a person. I'm glad Max Minghella has gotten the chance to give me a couple more impressions.

Agora arrives on DVD on October 19th. The Social Network is, of course, currently available at a theater near you.

All the DVD copies of Art School Confidential should be found at the bottom of a landfill, if there were any justice.


Mike Lippert said...

I'm very curious as to why so muhc spite for ASC, a film I found to be a funny and, in places, spot on satire. Sure the whole plot about a murdered sucks but there are big laughs in the classroom. Have just graduated college at the time of seeing it I thought it was an accurate reflection of what post-secondary education is like.

Simon said...

Words cannot describe the amount of loathing I have for ASC. Maybe the satire was too strong, it crossed over into actual anti-quality, but shit.

Vancetastic said...

Let me try to sum it up in the words that I, like Simon, also do not have:

It's needlessly dark, mean-spirited, misanthropic and sad, and all of those character traits describe Jim Broadbent's character perfectly. It's not funny when it's trying to be, and it's not deep when it's trying to be. The murder plot is ridiculous and leads to a ridiculous character arc for Max Minghella's character, who goes from a normal guy into a jealous psychopath. The film looks terrible -- the sets are dingy and dirty. John Malkovich and Anjelica Huston try to class things up, but are barely even in it. So yeah, the script is terrible also. I don't think the movie has a single useful thing to say about anyone, anywhere.

Wow, I did better than I thought I would. ;-)