' ' Cinema Romantico: Johnny Depp's Misunderstood Performance In The Tourist

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Johnny Depp's Misunderstood Performance In The Tourist

"The Tourist", the spy romance of 2010 starring Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, was due south of less than well received. It is currently pulling down a cool 20% on Rotten Tomatoes. And of the many flaws noted by critics, the performance of Johnny Depp was right near the top of the list, as evidenced by a recent article at Grantland that accused him of "sleepwalking" through the role.

Slate's Dana Stevens felt Depp was "blinking his way through the movie with an expression of blank-faced puzzlement that recalls Dan Quayle in the 1988 vice-presidential debate."

The esteemed Roger Ebert also did not care for the performance and wrote that Depp "plays his math teacher seriously and with a touch of the morose."

I cannot deny these accusations but here's the thing - and, well, to discuss that thing we need to discuss the movie's most crucial twist and so while I could and should issue an official Spoiler Alert (!), I will not. And I will not because the movie was released 2 years ago and so you have either already seen it or have no genuine desire to see it. So here goes.

Scotland Yard is hot on the trail of master thief Alexander Pearce and, thus, are hot on the trail of Pearce's old lover - played by Angelina - who they hope will lead them to Pearce. Instead Pearce instructs Elise to track down someone resembling Pearce on a train bound for Venice in order to fool Scotland Yard into thinking the decoy is Pearce. She picks Johnny Depp's Frank Tupelo, a math teacher from Wisconsin.

Even people who haven't seen the film will say, I just don't buy Johnny Depp as a math teacher. Except, as it turns out, Depp isn't really playing Frank Tupelo. He's playing Alexander Pearce. Tupelo is Pearce! That's the twist! He's merely altered his face! (Don't ask.) So what this means is that Alexander Pearce is playing the part of a math teacher.

How do we generally (unfairly?) think of math teachers? Perhaps as people who blink their way through class with an expression of blank-faced puzzlement that recalls Dan Quayle in the 1988 vice-presidential debate? Or perhaps as serious people with a touch of the morose? I think of my Algebra II teacher who was drab, monotone and often appeared to be, ahem, sleepwalking through class. So that's how Pearce chooses to play the part of the math teacher! As someone who is drab and monotone and appears to be sleepwalking!

By playing the part uninterestingly, Johnny Depp is, in fact, playing the part perfectly. Which is sort of what makes the movie unwatchable.

It's a riddle that might just do a math teacher proud.


Anonymous said...

I think this movie is terrible, but the blame is mostly in the script and Angelina's performance. I didn't mind Depp so much, in fact, he was quite amusing in the chase scene. I only saw this movie out of my undying love for Timothy Dalton :)

Speaking of crushes, I came here to let you know of this movie starring your beloved Malin Akerman. Well, she has a supporting part anyway, I think Carla Gugino and Rufus Sewell are the leads: http://hotel-noir-film.com/

Looks pretty good!

Nick Prigge said...

Thanks for the news, Ruth! I was actually aware of the existence of that movie and her presence in it and the idea looks really, really good. I just watched another movie that guy made, though, was not enamored. Still, I have my fingers crossed.

Andrew K. said...

Truly, Nick, your staunch defenses are better than this performance, although I don't really hate the film (it's C/C- territory for me which isn't GOOD but I don't loath it.).

Also, to counteract Ruth Angelina is weirdly fun in it and the film is worth it just for her opening sashaying through in the opening.

Nick Prigge said...

The opening was my favorite part of the film, the part where I actually thought it worked. And I still want to see someone try to make a 90 minute film (well, maybe 75 minute) comprised entirely of Angelina Jolie walking, I think it would be more entertaining than people would admit and/or realize.

Mrgr33ng3 said...

I think im the odd ball. I enjoyed the movie and would watch it again. He played the part of not being a wanted man while being the wanted man. Julie played an excellent role. Professional, sophisticated sexy woman who is jsut traveling the world. I think my favorite part was the fact that Pierce wasn't this badass shooting, neck breaking machine and was just a guy in he wrong place wrong time.