***½/**** Image A Sound A
starring Ashley Judd, Luke Perry, Bruce Young, Jim True
screenplay by Peg Haller & Bob Schneider
directed by John McNaughton
by Bill Chambers I might be apocryphally attributing this to Pauline Kael, but I'm fairly confident that it was she who said there's no such thing as bad acting, only bad casting. When people hear that John McNaughton's Normal Life stars Luke Perry and Ashley Judd, they tend to lose interest, but to quote another of my favourite critics, Alex Jackson, "a great performance incorporates and molds a persona. It deals with it. Their body, voice, and persona are inescapable facts [and] the greatness of a performance lies in nothing more [than] the acknowledgment of these facts." It's interesting that the contemporary actors most likely to be credited with soul-searching to find the emotional truths of a character--Johnny Depp, Sean Penn, even Mark Ruffalo--are heirs apparent to Lon Chaney, gradually transforming themselves from without. In the same piece quoted above, a review of Midnight Express published just prior to last year's Academy Awards, Jackson says he values Christina Ricci's work in Monster over that of her co-star Charlize Theron: Where Ricci plumbs the depths of her established screen persona, Theron's aesthetically-assisted turn is so anomalous in terms of her career as to register as standoffish. "I suspect that it takes more courage to be an icon than an actor," Jackson brilliantly surmises.