Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Why "Memorial Day" Is Worth Your Time: Reason #3

Do you know who Snookie is but not James Cromwell? Shame on you.

Most regular folks know Mr. Cromwell as Farmer Hoggett from "Babe," and yes, the actor received a well-deserved Oscar nomination for that performance. But let me tell you something, James Cromwell ain't just Farmer Hoggett. His IMDb page lists 157 titles and growing, including other memorable roles in "L.A. Confidential," "The Green Mile," "Six Feet Under," and of course, "The Artist."

My hope is that some day this incredible American actor will be most commonly known as "The guy who played Bud Vogel in 'Memorial Day.'" Because this is one of the biggest roles he's played in a feature film, and he absolutely nails it.

Sure, I'm biased. But I only echo the sentiments of others who've seen the movie in screenings: When "Bud" takes his first drink of lemonade on the porch at about 14 minutes into the movie, everything changes. The movie grounds. A palpable weight settles over everything. The story feels like it's really starting. And you just want to pull up a chair next to "Opa" and listen for bird calls.

I can't claim to have any inside scoop on Mr. Cromwell. I spoke briefly to him on a few occasions on set, and I wrote him a long and hagiographic (look it up) thank-you note when the film was over. I can tell you that he's as kind and generous a human being in person as you would imagine. But mostly I can tell you that this role should cause the country (and, frankly, the Academy) to finally give him his proper due.

Why is "Memorial Day" worth your time? Because you get to see one of the world's greatest actors at the top of his game, absolutely shattering that patronizing "character actor" moniker, and bringing to life a man who's so specific that he becomes universal.

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