Listen, Meg Ryan: 'Get Thee to an Acting School'Good movies usually have a few things in common: colorful characters, cinematography, special effects, an entertaining plot, suspense and drama, the list goes on and on. Seriously annoying movies have other things in common, actresses named Meg Ryan and actors named David Caruso.
Watching the film "Proof of Life," I rack my brain trying to remember why Meg Ryan is considered a good actress. I recollect a few of her earlier romantic comedies, "When Harry Met Sally" and "Sleepless in Seattle," and her break away from these light hearted farces in "City of Angels." Entertaining movies, but still, the reason I liked those movies had less to do with Meg Ryan and more to do with the talent of the lead males, Billy Crystal, Tom Hanks and Nicolas Cage, who seem to have practically carried Ryan through the films.
In "Proof of Life," once again, the responsibility of carrying Meg Ryan's dead weight around is placed on her leading man, Russell Crowe, whose real-life romance scandal with Ryan did more to promote this film than it did for itself.
Crowe plays Terry Thorne, a hostage negotiator hired to rescue kidnapped engineer Tom Bowman (David Morse), from guerrillas in the fictional nation of Tecala. When it is discovered that the insurance of the company Tom works for does not cover K & R (kidnapping and ransom), Thorne is recalled by his agency. However, feeling responsibility for the plight of Tom's wife Alice (Meg Ryan), he returns to Tecala and offers his services as a freelance agent. Later, we abruptly discover that these motives are based not only on his integrity, but also on his attraction to Alice.
The romance between the two develops in all of two minutes before the final rescue mission for Tom Bowman. This surprise comes out of the blue and, with such little focus placed on their romantic development, serves only to throw off the audience rather than add to the intricacy of the plot.
Ryan's on-screen persona will forever be marked by her previous zany and capricious characters. Try as she might to throw off the harness of this typecasting, here she fails once again to transcend these boundaries. Ryan does seem to come alive in scenes opposite Crowe, but her other lines are unconvincing to the point of being trite. In one crying scene, it actually looks as if she is trying not to laugh.
Regardless of the script he is given, Crowe has the ability to express an array of emotions through a combination of quiet reserve with physical presence. The Russian founder of Method acting (not to mention unofficial god of all aspiring actors and actresses), Constantine Stanislavsky stressed that good acting takes place not only during dialogue, but also in the so-called non-acting moments. Whether it be smoking a cigarette in contemplation or by walking into a room, Crowe's non-acting moments draw as much attention as when he speaks.
The best and worst aspects of this film were not only the two main characters and their interaction, but the two supporting characters who played Thorne's right-hand man, Dino (NYPD Blues' David Caruso) and Alice Bowman's husband Tom (St. Elsewhere's David Morse). Think of this movie as the battle of the Davids, with Caruso playing the asinine and irritating friend of Thorne who literally cannot keep from bobbing his head up and down as he whines throughout his scenes, and Morse, who plays the hostage with such convincing and raw emotion you wonder why he hasn't been given his own film yet. Although Morse's performances just keep getting better and better, his stellar portrayal in this film, along with Crowe's talents were just wasted.
by Joseph Kim