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Overall Rating

Awesome: 28.57%
Worth A Look52.38%
Average: 19.05%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

6 reviews, 27 user ratings

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by Greg Muskewitz

"Harris functions better portraying Pollock than as the director."
3 stars

Following "Before Night Falls," the newest biopic of an artist is that of Jackson Pollock and his painting (versus that of Reinaldo Arenas and his poetry). In "Pollock," in addition to starring in the role of the title character, Ed Harris also makes his directorial debut --if not so much an auspicious one, still one with a minimal hint at admiration. But where "Pollock" finds difficulty is in the complete understanding of what drove him to actions he took.

After an interposed clip of Jackson Pollock (Harris) attending an unspecified gala, we are thrown back into the chronological advancements with his work in late 1941 when he was "discovered" by painter and connoisseur Lee Krasner (Marcia Gay Harden). She helps promote his not-quite surrealistic, not-quite abstract paintings into a marketable audience. And if you didn't already know, it was quite well known by anyone who knew him that Pollock was synonymous with a "heavy drinker" a/k/a a drunk.

While he does fairly, but still not quite adequately, things develop much more to his liking when renowned art patron Peggy Guggenheim (Amy Madigan) gets him his own gallery showing. Reactions are at first tepid, but with each successive batch of new paintings, they seem to do better. They are not only better received --by critics such as Clement Greenberg (Jeffrey Tambor)-- but also by the public and other patrons who are buying them.

The partnership of Jackson and Lee is fond, and obviously somewhere rooted in love; in a nicely composed scene, they spontaneously arrange andplan their wedding, and soon after move from the hubbub of New York City, out to the country in Long Island, where the house they acquire doesn't even have hot water. However, it allows Jackson to concentrate specifically on his painting, provides him plenty of space, uninterruptedness and privacy, in addition to working towards becoming sober. This, of course, is all taking place over numerous years into the latter Forties and then early Fifties when Pollock's expressionistic form of painting transmogrifies into that of tachisme. And resultantly, this leads to much recognition and speculation on his impact on the art world.

Being a biographical movie, "Pollock" also includes the downhill step that Pollock takes when resuming his alcoholic consumption and the subsequent deterioration of his and Lee's marriage, and then his "untimely" death.

Adapted by Barbara Turner and Susan J. Emshwiller from the book "Jackson Pollock: An American Saga" by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, "Pollock" certainly is knowledgeable about it's subject. Like "Before Night Falls," there was plenty I learned about these two very unsimilar artists of different strokes (and feathers). Where I felt that "Before Night Falls" was faulted by the lack of inclusion of Arenas' actual work, there is no shortage on hand of Pollock's. Harris believably, and seemingly skillfully recreates these paintings and makes it convincing that we are watching the real Pollock at work. But where we did see much of what fueled and shaped Arenas' life and the politics that ran it, we are never satisfactorily explained to about the bad blood between his family members, and what his alcoholism stemmed from. Too often, there is a lot left unanswered and simply unacknowledged, and it hurts "Pollock" because the ripples that causes, turn into undulations by the end.

One of my qualms with "Pollock" was when the disintegration of the marriage was amplified. Out of nowhere he screams at Lee, and explicitly and luridly calls her "whore," "fucking cunt," and other such hurtful items. The introduction of this comes so sudden, and unbalanced that again, it affects the movie in a negative light. We know that they shouldn't exclude certain events since they did happen, but the way it is handled is so maladroit and uncalled for that it just unhinges everything following that. In the end, "Pollock" had broached too much without giving sufficient reasons as to why.

Harris functions better portraying Pollock than as the director. He displays some interesting images, and has an eye for some nice shadowy and distant shots of ambulatory silhouettes. Much credit is also due in capturing that to cinematographer Lisa Rinzler who shot the drippingly gorgeous "Three Seasons." Like Harris, the strength is more in certain performances. Harris works very diligently as Pollock and it shows, but his character is mostly always upstaged by the character of Lee. Again, her character was so interesting, but we learned so little about her or her motivations. Harden is very good as Lee, but still so many of her mannerisms were caked on and easily read as putting on a performance. Bud Cort shows up for a good, brief role, as were Tambor's scenes mostly appreciated. But Val Kilmer and Jennifer Connelly (sprouting those bushy eyebrows that were missing in "Requiem for a Dream") are wasted in nothing and nowhere roles, or cameo bits really.

Harris persevered as Pollock and he worked very hard for the validity he earned. Harden as well deserves attention for her role, and those two performances alone do make this over-long movie, at only two hours (it seems longer) worth seeing, because for those who know nothing about Jackson Pollock, they are sure to derive plenty from it. You will still see where from a certain point on, it feels like a rushed Cliffs' Notes version put on autopilot with cassette version.

Final Verdict: B-.

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originally posted: 02/23/01 08:39:19
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User Comments

8/06/06 ibrahimRehman i m writer i wrote a storys i wont to show it 5 stars
3/31/06 Thomas Semesky Hated Pollock's paintings, but liked the movie. 4 stars
2/23/05 andrea313 I love Ed Harris, but this one didn't do it for me. 3 stars
11/17/04 Michelle Execellent Moive!! Great acting. 5 stars
5/15/04 The More You Know adds to his legacy for better or worse, at least now I won't confuse Pollock w/ Browne. 5 stars
5/14/04 zee "NO! DON'T HAVE THAT DRINK!!" But, damn, he does... Ok, now go break some furniture! 3 stars
2/26/04 R.W. Welch Well done biopic. Helps if you're into the art scene. 4 stars
4/20/03 Dillon Sorry Eddie, I love you but this was too one-note for me. Harden terrific, tho 3 stars
4/19/03 Jack Sommersby One of 2000's 10-best films. Harris and Harden are brilliant! 5 stars
4/11/03 Jack Bourbon Ed Harris, Ed Harris, and more Ed Harris (which is good). Good job by Tambor, too. 4 stars
2/21/03 Jim the movie geek great cast, great story, understated, but kept me engrossed the whole time 5 stars
8/14/02 Bryan Brooks Ed Harris is outstanding. 3 stars
6/20/02 Reini Urban Thanksfully not too hollywood-like overly dramatic 5 stars
3/31/02 Film Guy Great Movie , not just for art lovers 5 stars
3/02/02 rue the whirl I thought it was... 5 stars
2/20/02 Xaver Marcia Gay Harden was supreme! See it. 5 stars
11/12/01 phil m. afficiando Awesome for the performances,casting,and directoral passsion. Not perfect, but who is? 5 stars
9/10/01 The Bomb 69 fragmented storyline, all over the place, great acting with poor directing (tough to do) 3 stars
6/05/01 Peter Brook good acting, poor directing, jumpy storyline. Should have been better than actually is. 3 stars
4/11/01 Spetters Harden and Harris make this worthwhile, because the narrative is sloppy sometimes. 4 stars
4/03/01 J.P. Couch Harden does an amazing job. 4 stars
3/29/01 skye great cast. fascinating subject. good movie 4 stars
3/24/01 Soggy Bottom Boy One of year's best, KICK@SS soundtrack. Top-notch acting, really loved this flic. 5 stars
3/05/01 Artist Freak Worth it just to see Ed Harris in the painting scenes, has other good points too. 4 stars
3/01/01 Roger the Shrubber Good acting + ok direction = worth a look 4 stars
2/28/01 Heather Great acting/directing from Ed & Marcia, a fly on the wall look at a destructive artist 5 stars
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