Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Entertainer

It must be a sad life that Archie Rice (Laurence Olivier) leads. Beneath the layers of greasepaint he wears for his act, he is nothing more than a tragic clown.

When Archie is on stage, he possesses a liveliness that could be matched to that of Fred Astaire. Off stage, however, one could become shocked that this was the same Archie Rice that performed with great enthusiasm. The reason for such a remark? His liveliness and enthusiasm are replaced by desperation.

Can you blame him? The only reason he's in show business is to avoid going to jail for tax evasion. He's also trying to get out of the shadow of his father, a famous (and more talented) name in vaudeville. It's a losing battle for Archie; he simply can't upstage or even match his own father.

There's a scene in The Entertainer that showcases what Archie really feels. After his tryst with a beauty contest runner-up, she pours out her feelings for him. The camera lingers on his face, which expresses a sort of happiness that he is unfamiliar with. This is perhaps the only time in the film (and maybe in his own life) where Archie feels loved.

Olivier has portrayed tragic heroes and cold villains, but his role as Archie Rice is a complete departure from his other roles. We can't entirely sympathize for him but we don't hate him either. There's one thing there's no denying about: The Entertainer contains Olivier's best work as an actor.

My Rating: ****1/2

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