This is the column that shines a light on cinemas unsung heroes, the guys who work hard, work well but are just not quite given the respect and exposure they deserve. No longer as we, The Snooty Ushers bring you; The Dependables.
Dylan McDermott, Paul Bettany and Ben Foster have all featured so far, but this time, we have chosen an actor who has impressed me every time we have seen him. Ladies and Gentleman, we give you Patrick Wilson.
So impressive is Patrick Wilson’s body of work that it has taken 3 Ushers to do him justice. Wilson has appeared in over 35 feature films and is currently leading the brilliant second series of Fargo (FX 2014-) but he has a diverse filmography that includes his portrayal of William B Travis in The Alamo (John Lee Hancock, 2004), a short but crucial cameo in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus (2012), the villain in The A-Team (Joe Carnahan, 2010) and an interesting turn in the little seen crime comedy Stretch (Joe Carnahan, 2014), never heard of it? Dan reviewed it a while back, check it out here.
Without further ado, we will look at our favourite of his performances as The Snooty Ushers celebrate… Patrick Wilson
Hard Candy (David Slade, 2005)
Dave : This is a thriller based on the kidnap and torture of a suspect sexual predator and murderer by a 14-year-old female vigilante. It is a tense, brutal and difficult watch which is down to the two leads. It was the spring-board for Ellen Page, but Patrick Wilson, in the more challenging role, is brilliant.
To take on the role of a suspected sexual predator, pedophile and murderer is a risk for any actor, especially one just starting out, like Wilson was here. Sure, Kevin Bacon did similar in The Woodsman, but he was already an established actor and that was at least a story of redemption, Hard Candy is a different story.
As Kohlver adamantly protests his innocence throughout and as his torture at the hands of his kidnapper intensifies, you are left wondering if she has the wrong man and is testament to the actor that your loyalty shifts backwards and forwards during the film.
As I mentioned, this is an uncomfortable and difficult watch, Wilson plays the role with a charismatic vulnerability that at some points have you questioning his intentions…he couldn’t have? Could he?
By the time the film reaches its conclusion, you are left in no doubt, but it is quite a journey. It was an early indication of the career Patrick Wilson would have. A risk takingly brilliant performance.
Little Children (Todd Field, 2006)
Dave: Based on the satirical novel of the same name by Tom Perretta, it is a multi layered tale of a group of people living in a small Boston community.
Patrick Wilson here, plays Brad, a man married to a beautiful, successful documentary film maker. He struggles with his role in the marriage and is frustrated by the lack of intimacy. He is a stay at home dad, nicknamed Prom King by the other play ground parents, Wilson brilliantly captures a man who fears that his best years are behind him as he struggles with his future. He dresses like he did in college and instead of studying for his up coming bar exam, he plays football with a local team and watches the local kids skateboarding, fantasising about when he was young and carefree
He eventually begins an affair with Kate Winslet’s fellow unfulfilled parent, with this all being set against the back drop of the release as of a convicted sex offender back into the community. This is a wonderful film and while Kate Winslet and Jackie Earle Haley have the showy roles (both were nominated for an Oscar in 2006) it is Wilson who, for me is the stand out.
Like Hard Candy, the subject matter is difficult at times and the film asks some difficult questions, but it is a great watch with some truly memorable performances, none more so than Patrick Wilson.
Watchmen (Zach Snyder, 2009)
Dan Dreiberg/Nite Owl II
Dave: Cast by Synder after he saw him in Little Children, Wilson takes on the role of Dan Dreiberg, the second Nite Owl. Watchmen is an epic production on every scale, one of the most important and critically acclaimed graphic novels of all time, the film had a very troubled history before it finally hit the screen in 2009.
It is set in an alternative future where Richard Nixon never gave up the presidency and costumed vigilantes are outlawed. Following the death of one of their number, the vicious Rorschach, who still continues to operate outside the law, attempts to get his team back together and uncovers a massive conspiracy.
Now, that is a massive over simplification of the plot, but to get into it would take way too long, I am trying to talk Welshy is doing a Re-View on this film. For now, I will just focus on Patrick Wilson.
As I said he plays Dan Dreiberg, the second incarnation of The Nite Owl character, a kind of hybrid of Batman and Blue Beetle, a technical genius whose gadgets and ship are based around owls. He has grown impotent since giving up his suit and lives a quiet life and regrets giving up his role as a crime fighter. When his former partner Rorschach turns up, he joins him reluctantly at first, but soon gets a new lease of life by putting his costume on again.
Wilson was not a comic fan, when the was offered the part, but loved the source material and opted to actually gain weight for the role rather than be subjected to any kind of prosthetics. While Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorschach or Jeffery Dean Morgan’s Comedian were used to promote the film, it’s Wilson’s immersive performance that is at the heart of this ambitious and at times stunning interpretation of the novel.
Insidious: Chapter 2 (James Wan, 2013)
Dan: The character of Josh Lambert in Insidious was a fairly normal role, a worried father looking to rescue his son from the indescribable evil that haunts his family. However come the end of the first film, and for the majority of Insidious: Chapter 2 (spoiler) Josh becomes possessed by the spirit of serial killer Parker Crane. This spirit has actually haunted Josh since he was a kid, looking to take advantage of his astral projecting abilities and possess his body. As a result Patrick Wilson plays the character Josh, but as possessed by Parker Crane, it’s an intriguing duality of character that takes a talented actor to pull off.
If you watch any film with possessed characters they are more often than not played straight, by this I mean they act exactly like they do when their characters are no possessed. When it comes down to Josh, Wilson plays his a bit differently, thanks in part to the script but mainly to his acting abilities. Josh is off-key, looking gaunt and acting almost the opposite to his normal self, and even at times gets downright sinister as Cranes identity becomes apparent. It’s an overlooked element of Insidious: Chapter 2 but is none the less an impressive turn from the awesome Patrick Wilson.
Space Station 76 (Josh Plotnick, 2014)
James: Space Station 76 is a very interesting film that I briefly reviewed in Negotiating Netflix Part 10, with Liv Tyler and Patrick Wilson as the only marketable “names” in the cast. They also play the two most senior characters (Captain and co-pilot) but while Tyler’s Jessica gets wrapped up in relationship issues of the crew, Captain Glenn (Wilson) has his own more personal – and mostly separate – story.
Glenn is hostile towards Jessica as his new co-pilot. Originally it seems as though it is because she is an inexperienced woman (this is the 70s, after all), but later on it becomes clear that his feelings for his former co-pilot Daniel were much deeper, and the loss of that relationship affects Glenn a lot.
It’s hard to categorise, but I think Space Station 76 is a black comedy, and it’s the scenes with Captain Glenn that are the “funniest” – whether it his wry reaction to realising what Doctor Bot really is, or his suicides attempts. Then, later on, he is reduced to a truly pathetic figure while watching a video message from his former co-pilot.
The tone of Space Station 76 is a little bit low-key, to the detriment of the film. Patrick Wilson pitches his performance perfectly however, making you feel Glenn’s sadness. He is a man alone, trapped on a space station who has lost his only chance at happiness when his co-pilot left. It’s an impressive, subtle, world-weary (space-weary?) performance from Wilson.
These are the types of low-key performances that Wilson does best, yet are also the type of roles that don’t always get the recognition they deserve. Well no longer…
Patrick Wilson – The Snooty Ushers salute you!