Polished Performances


Actor: Tom Cruise
Character: Frank T.J. Mackey
Film: Magnolia

With a hugely successful career that now spans more than three decades, Tom Cruise needs no introduction. Quite simply, he’s one of Hollywood’s most familiar faces. In some senses, being such a huge star can sometimes detract from the actual acting qualities that are displayed and I’ve often found this to be the case with Cruise. Say what you will about his personal life and his dedication to Scientology or his sometimes mindless blockbusters, but when Cruise commits to a role outside his comfort zone, he can be very effective.

Having been a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights, Cruise personally asked Anderson to consider him for a part in his next film and he was given that opportunity with Magnolia in 1999. It was a role that initially terrified him but he decided to take a step back from lead actor and embrace the supporting part that he was offered. Ultimately, it shocked and surprised many who hadn’t seen him in such a role before.


Cruise plays Frank T.J. Mackey, a self-proclaimed “master of the muffin”, who holds seminars on how to conquer women or, in his own words, “how to turn your [female] friend into a sperm receptacle”. Frank is a shark-like misogynist who has no reservations about treating women as the lesser sex and actively encourages men to use them through his “Seduce and Destroy” self-help system. He’s a distasteful and bitterly twisted individual that shows no concern for others unless it’s to stroke his own ego. However, underneath his cocksure exterior, it’s revealed that he holds a deep vulnerability and it’s in the duality of the character that Cruise delivers an undeniably bruvura performance.

Given his role in Hollywood as the handsome boy-next-door or sought after lothario, there’s an element of self-parody in Frank Mackey and it’s a role that will, no doubt, upset Cruise’s legion of female fans. That said, this is partly the enjoyment in seeing him embrace it while there’s no denying it’s power or his bravery to play against type.


If he’s not strutting or gyrating across the stage while demanding his followers to “respect the cock and tame the cunt”, he’s peeling back layers to reveal his insecurities. Despite, the vibrant bravado on show, he’s also afforded a couple of scenes that demand a heartfelt emotional response; One during an interview with a female journalist who sees through his facade and poses difficult questions – at which point he refuses to continue with the interview and instead chooses to sit in silence and “quietly judge” the reporter. The other is at the bedside of his dying father where his carefully constructed mask finally slips. In both scenes Cruise is given the perfect opportunity to showcase his range and he’s very impressive to say the least. Mackey is a deep and complex character and it’s arguably the best Tom Cruise has been in his entire career.

Oscars? – After winning a Golden Globe and widespread critical acclaim, Cruise was Oscar nominated in the supporting category. Many expected him to win (myself included) but he was overlooked in favour of Michael Caine for The Cider House Rules. This was a huge mistake from the Academy and if Cruise can’t win for this superlative performance, then I have no idea what else he has to do to win one.

(For more Polished Performances gyrate your way over here)

Advertisements

30 Responses to “Polished Performances”

  1. Excellent post Mark. Magnolia is still my favorite Paul Thomas Anderson film and one of my all-time favorite movies in general. Cruise’s performance is magnificent and compliments his own onscreen persona in other films (it also yields comparison to his Dr. Harford character in Eyes Wide Shut). I really wish Cruise would take more roles like this, he really is quite good when he’s out of his element.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Charles. It can be quite tricky in picking a favourite film from Anderson as he’s done so many good ones. I’d still side with The Master but I remember Magnolia blowing me away when I first saw it. Cruise’s performance was a huge part of that.
      He really is quite something here. He reminded me a little of his cocksure arrogance from The Color of Money but he dials it right up and shows some very impressive range in the emotional scenes. Probably one of my favourite performances of all time (of any actor), to be honest.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I would concur with the last part. The deathbed scene is just so heartbreaking.

        Honestly, PTA hasn’t made a bad movie thus far in his career. Hard Eight’s probably his weakest film and even that is pretty great.

        Liked by 1 person

      • He hasn’t made a bad film. I recently revisited Hard Eight and although, it isn’t perfect, it’s a damn fine debut and you could see flashes of what was to come. He also has a real knack for teasing out great performances. In fact, three of my all-time favourites come from Anderson… Day-Lewis, Phoenix and Cruise.

        Liked by 1 person

      • PTA really does bring the best out of actors. I was particularly surprised how good Adam Sandler was in Punch Drunk Love.

        Out of curiosity, how would you rank PTA? It’s difficult for me to choose, but I think I would say this:
        1. Magnolia
        2. The Master
        3. There Will Be Blood
        4. Boogie Nights
        5. Punch Drunk Love
        6. Inherent Vice
        7. Hard Eight

        Liked by 1 person

      • Indeed! If PTA can get Adam Sandler to act, he could get anyone to act. 😉

        Rankings wise, I’d be…

        1: The Master
        2: Boogie Nights
        3: There Will Be Blood
        4: Magnolia
        5: Inherent Vice
        6: Punch Drunk Love
        7: Hard Eight

        As we said, though, there’s still not a bad film among them.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Especially well said at the end there Good Sir. I wasn’t aware Cruise was even nominated for this and that he lost out to Caine (a great actor for sure), but….yeah, if he can’t win with this performance I don’t know if he ever will. This was extraordinary work from him, a totally different characters. And that exchange he has with his father is just downright powerful

    Liked by 1 person

    • Totally agree, man. Cruise should have won for this. Hands down!! He was magnificent and that scene with his father was the icing, man. He displays all sorts of emotions throughout the film. Really great work and proof for anyone who questions Cruise’s ability to act.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Magnolia has been on my “to watch” list for quite some time! Looks great!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a very good film, Courtney and well worth the watch. Cruise certainly isn’t the only good thing about it but he is quite outstanding.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I wish Cruise would go back to making films like this one instead of continuing this action movie star streak :\

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I read a good article recently that mentioned this was Cruise’s time of chasing Oscars. He was putting himself in different roles like Interview with a Vampire, Eyes Wide Shut, Magnolia and even Jerry Maguire in order to attract Oscar glory. However, having been snubbed so many times, he went back to doing action movies and less demanding roles. It’s a shame. I wish he’d challenge himself again as well.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post Mark, you really make me want to watch Magnolia again now. The whole cast really knocked it out the park, particularly Tom Cruise.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a movie that demands multiple viewings. I appreciate it more every time. This was a surprising role from Cruise, with so much depth, really incredible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Magnolia is always a winner. The first time I seen, I was really taken aback and it does hold up on repeated viewings. Cruise is a huge part of its appeal as well. He is quite incredible here. It was a brave role to tackle and he absolutely nails it.

      Like

  6. Some may argue this was the moment Cruise came of age – a standout in an excellent ensemble. He’s a truly unpleasant figure for much of this – “Respect the cock!”

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Say what you will about Tom Cruise but he always gives 110%. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed, Lloyd. When he changes course and challenges himself, Cruise can really deliver the goods. His work in Magnolia is a prime example. I think he’s magnificent in it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree but I do love how that saying has become predominant on the internet. I’ve seldom seen him in a bad film but Jack Reacher 2 did not float my boat.

        Liked by 1 person

      • To be honest, I didn’t even bother with Jack Reacher 2. I wasn’t a fan of the first one. There are some films with Cruise I don’t care for but I can’t fault his performances. I was particularly fond of him playing bad in Interview with the Vampire. I thought he was great.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well I really liked original but to each their own. Performances like the one in Magnolia and Interview with the Vampire were interesting and against type. For the past decade he’s been retreating more and more into the action genre which is fine but he can do so much more and the two performances you’ve cited prove that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I mentioned this earlier in the comments but I read a good article on Cruise’s career recently. He went through a phase of chasing Oscar glory: Interview with the Vampire, Magnolia, Eyes Wide Shut and Jerry Maguire but he was snubbed so often and he’s now fell back on the action and enjoyment in a role. Hopefully, he had another go at challenging roles, though.

        Liked by 1 person

      • We might have read the same article. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cool! I thought it was a good insight into his career.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Damn you Mark. Damn you!! You keep writing about movies I need to see again. Totally with you, I’m not a huge Cruise fan but he is freaking perfect in this flick.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cruise can be irritating sometimes but we embraces a role that goes against his norm, then he can really deliver the goods. He’s outstanding in Magnolia. One of my all time favourite performances from any actor.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: