February 23, 2016

Ronald Colman, A Double Life

Won: Academy Award - Best Actor | Golden Globe Award - Best Actor
Ronald Colman's one of those actors who, no matter what he plays - a convict, an eccentric thrill-seeker, an amnesiac, an actor so method he inherits his role's murderous impulses - always invokes a heavy sense of self, meaning I'm never under the impression that he truly transcends his roles to become who he's playing. And when we're dealt with a role which literally involves a man consumed by the spirit of Othello, I think that that lack of metamorphosis creates a minor void, even if the performance itself ends up being enjoyable.

For starters, I do think that Colman does a very solid job in the role of Anthony John. At the same time, it's the sort of role that has enough weight to it such that most actors would produce an agreeable performance out of it. I'll say that while Colman and A Double Life were very watchable, I didn't feel galvanized watching him. He does what he does well, but for a role that's so exciting in its makeup, there was a lack of spark here that would forcefully engage a viewer. I couldn't help but feel that had this film been delayed by a decade or so, someone like Marlon Brando would have really dove in and brought an incredulous level of excitement to the Tony. Nevertheless, Colman navigates through Tony's escalating paranoia in the film deftly. It is said that his Othello scenes in the film were the first time Colman attempted Shakespeare--I myself could not gather any sort of opinion on these scenes. Colman's Shakespeare is...good I suppose? He is on stage after all, and thus came off as very stagey as would be expected, but I had neither positive nor negative feelings towards it all. I was hovering around a sturdy level of neutral esteem for the performance up until Colman's final scene - when Tony realizes the trouble that awaits him off stage, Colman exudes a heartbreaking air of defeat. He acts out the rest of the final scene with such bittersweet emotion - you can feel the regret that seeps from out of him - and it's in the duration of this scene that I was really, truly gripped. Still, I wished that that level of excellence found its way through the entirety of the performance. And it happens often, my being positively neutral for much of an actor's performance before being thoroughly impressed by a single scene, but what can you do? As a whole, this was a performance that was executed swiftly--and safely--enough such that I can't justify scoring it any lower. But I won't be able to look back and reflect upon this as being one of those wholly outstanding works. The bummer is that the ingredients were obviously there for it to be wholly outstanding.


  1. I'm with you on this one, though I don't think it merits more than a 3-Oscar rating. I think Colman is professional and competent, but I don't think he digs deeply enough into this role's potential. He has charm as an actor, which I think he over-relies on, but he could have done so much more with this part. I'm also not very impressed with his Shakespearean scenes: they're average at best. I suppose I was expecting more from him in this role, which is why he disappoints, though I agree with you that he is quite effective in the final sequence. He plays on several levels here and it only makes me wish he'd done this for the film's duration.

  2. I recalled being really impressed by this one :D