New Haven native Paul Giamatti delivers amazing, heartfelt and divergent performances in a recent string of unusual film roles. A strong character actor, (and graduate of the Yale University School of Drama) Giamatti has also ably demonstrated that he can carry a commercial theatrical film in a leading role, and is not afraid to mix it up by also taking on television mini-series and independent films.
In fact, Giamatti will play one of the principal roles (Ben Bernanke) in the highly anticipated HBO TV film Too Big to Fail, which premieres this coming Monday, May 23 at 9 pm. ET. Too Big to Fail tells the story of the financial meltdown of 2008 and stars another talented Connecticut resident, Topher Grace.
Giamatti continued his string of successes this year with Barney’s Version, an incredible tour de force of one man’s life and loves, that carries a poignant sweetness and sharp pangs of regret from start to finish. Four stars. Highly recommended. Co-stars Dustin Hoffman. Barney’s Version is available now on DVD.
Win-Win (go here for full review), provided another glimpse, earlier this year, of Giamatti’s everyman roles, where he lets us see inside the character’s heart and feel his pain, his remorse and his thirst for redemption. This story of a small-town lawyer who coac hes a wrestling team is a fine film for the entire family. This film is also available now on DVD and for rent.
Cinderella Man, directed by Ron Howard, tells the Depression-era story of a down and out boxer, (played by Russell Crowe) looking for his big comeback. Giamatti is remarkable in this Academy Award-nominated performance as Joe Gould, the boxer’s trainer/manager. Giamatti’s face reflects his exuberance and pain. His performance alone is worth renting or downloading this film.
Sideways was Giamatti’s break-out hit, a film about two men taking a weekend road trip through the California wine country just before one of them marries. The film also starred the surprisingly wry Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy) and a quirky but compelling performance from Thomas Haden Church. Sideways is an adult comedy that is worth renting and seeing again and again. Plus it single-handedly resurrected American-made Pinot Noir wines.
Giamatti won a well-deserved Emmy award for his outstanding, approachable portrayal of John Adams, in the HBO mini-series of the same name. If you haven’t had a chance to view that series, it is great summer viewing; you can rent the whole series from Netflix. Or download it and view it piece by piece.
M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water allowed Giamatti to indulge his love of sci-fi and fantasy, in a film that also stars Ron Howard’s daughter Bryce Dallas Howard, in one of her first major film roles. Best mostly for sci-fi and fantasy fans, Lady in the Water, while it has flaws, offers another great Giamatti role, and more than a cameo appearance by its director.
Other film reviews you may enjoy (many now available for purchase on DVD or rental/download):
Last Night– playing in limited release in theatres now, this film stars Kiera Knightly and Sam Worthington. A great flick.
The King’s Speech- outstanding performances by Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham-Carter make this unusual, but powerful film, well worth seeing. I predicted that it had a high probability to sweep the Oscars, with Firth a shoe-in for Best Actor. It was gratifying to see him win it.
The Black Swan- Natalie Portman won the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Actress in her performance in this film and she deserved it.
Winter’s Bone- an astonishing performance by Jennifer Lawrence, for which she has received an Academy award nomination. Lawrence is set to star in The Hunger Game films.
The Infidel – a hilarious offering from last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, available now for rental or instant download on Netflix.
Win Win – see review above. Giamatti is wonderful in this film.
Never Say Never – Justin Bieber, his rise to teen stardom and his dedicated fans. An interesting documentary and concert flick, fun and entertaining.
Love & Other Drugs- best for older teens and adults. Rated R for a reason. Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal are naked for most of the film.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- a real treat for HP fans