Albert Brooks in 'Drive': Betsy Sharkey's film pick of the week
If, like me, you’ve missed seeing Albert Brooks doing big things on the big screen, then “Drive” will satisfy that hunger. As Bernie Rose, a B-movie producer turned mob boss who changes the destiny of Ryan Gosling’s “driver,” Brooks alone is worth the trip -- though I’ll have lots to say about Gosling’s cinematic power in Sunday Calendar.
But back to Brooks as Bernie -- careful in his dress, conciliatory in his conversation, ever the dealmaker whether it’s money or payback on the table, and unwavering, even a little apologetic, when tough decisions have to be made.
Brooks first won me over in the ‘80s, as an actor/filmmaker capturing a new generation of the disaffected and taking a big swipe at consumerism in 1985's “Lost in America” -- the "nest egg" rant is still a classic. To this day, I’m charmed by his flop-sweat in 1987's “Broadcast News.” Then he seemed to go into remission -– work that was interesting but didn’t require much attention. If you missed it, it didn’t seem to matter. (There were other movies, I know, and some terrific TV turns, but I'm talking film here, people.)
Finally he resurfaced, sorta, as the voice of the never-give-up dad in “Finding Nemo.” But I missed the face, because Brooks knows exactly how to use that mug. Self-deprecating charm comes easy, and he is better than most at telegraphing irony -– in the slow, knowing blink of an eye, the set of his chin, the way his head cocks to one side, a slight laugh to ease tense situations, the shrug. It’s all there with even more force in “Drive.” One bad dude, one big deal gone very wrong, one super-bad (and by that I mean very, very good) performance. Did someone say supporting actor Oscar nomination? I think so.
-- Betsy Sharkey
Photo: Albert Brooks as the never-flustered B-movie producer turned mob boss in “Drive.” Credit: Richard Foreman / FilmDistrict