Tropic Thunder (2008 )

“Tropic Thunder” (2008 )


Acting actors who act actors

*** This comment may contain spoilers ***

I must confess i’m not a great admirer of Ben Stiller. Even though sometimes he finds interest concepts to explore in the films in which he is more actively involved (as writer above all), his own performances strike as relatively ordinary, despite effective, and that passes me the impression of being watching a minor actor.

Well, not here. Not at all. Here he embraces a reflection and a deconstruction of what an actor does, and essential what may mean to be an actor. A film about acting, where actors act several roles, one over the other in some cases. I like this material. In this ride to the jungle of actor constructions, he takes Downey Jr. Casting him is one of the most intelligent things here.

So we have a group of actors who move to the jungle to shoot a film. Along the way, due to a series of events, they eventually take ‘real’ locations for sets, and ‘real’ people for actors. They keep on acting, even when they know they’re no longer in the reality of the film within the film we are watching. Maybe they’re acting for us.

The writer of the film within the film is himself an actor performing a role he invented for himself. We come to know that as we find out he is a fake, and invented the whole plot of the film within. What everybody in the film we’re watching takes as real events is in fact fiction the fake supposedly handless writer creates. So he also creates the places every actor on the film within will perform. In that film everybody acts differently and over posed roles: Stiller is trying to outdo himself, so he tries to grab the main role which would naturally (in the reality we are given) belong to the ‘star’ Downey Jr. Eventually he comes to find a star role in an improvised stage. Stardom is his theme, and the motivator of his acting.

Downey Jr is the most interesting and more complex character, for the own construction in the screenplay and for his own deepness as an actor. He is an Australian actor, blond and blue-eyed. We know Downey Jr as a public figure and he is not like that at all, so we get him acting right here. In the film he dies is skin black, changes his hair and eye color to look black, afro-American urban black. This is another role, representing a certain stereotype who actually acts all the way, whenever they perform they’re urban character. The plot also has a real black guy who has frictions with Downey Jr for him to act like a black guy without being one when in fact they both act that part, latter on we’ll have a glimpse at the real sensitive gay personality of the real black guy. The comedy is in this contradiction between both characters.

Jack Black is the most straightforward character. Also the most uninteresting to me. That’s because his acting is only as a ‘public’ personality in the reality of the film we are watching. An idol to child and teen audiences who actually is an addict to drugs, and a fully uninteresting character in his real life. It’s a version of Groening’s Krusty, the clown. Black has a great potential for comedy and for playing interesting games with it, petty that couldn’t come out here.

A discreet yet interesting character is the one Baruchel performs. That’s because he is the only one who doesn’t perform in the mad reality of the jungle. He knows where he stands, he doesn’t enter the hallucinating world the others embrace to the point of mixing they’re own personalities, and probably that’s why he is, in the film, the weakest actor. He acts to get laid, no special relation to it.

All this mad, beautiful playing with actors who play characters who play characters who… is well framed in the beginning and in the end by the ‘celebrity’ reality of those actors. This is underlined by the Oscar ceremony where the film we watch ends, and for all the gossip and past lives of those actors we come to enter to a certain extent. The beginning gives us a number of false trailers of films where the actors have starred. Cameos like that of Tobey Maguire establish the credibility of this. The film starts with no credits, and we are given those trailers as if they were in fact part of the trailers we see in theaters always before the film we’re expecting. I loved the detail.

For the first time since Magnolia, Tom Cruise acts. He was not announced, or very little mentioned in the promotion of this tropic thunder, and that was intended for us to be surprised. Double surprise. Not only he is there, he is also ‘not’ there. He is acting… that’s a surprising little account on the ‘actors who act’ theme. He is vibrant, he really is funny because we wouldn’t expect him to do everything he does. It was a pearl.

I suppose American audiences will appreciate the fun made around goofing with australians and English characters. i’m out of it.

I mark this with my higher mark, though it may change based on future viewings of the film and, mostly, how it will accommodate in my mind. I just found it so intelligent and well executed, i think it deserves the place.

My opinion: 4/5

This comment on IMDb


2 Responses to “Tropic Thunder (2008 )”

  1. 1 Andy Garcia October 30, 2008 at 12:55 pm


    Thanks for the great review!

    Really want to see the film now! :-)


  2. 2 ruiresende October 30, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    I’m glad you liked. Thank you for reading me. Hope you come back more times.


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