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Albert Brooks in 'Drive': Betsy Sharkey's film pick of the week

September 22, 2011 |  5:35 pm

Albert Brooks in "Drive"
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.


Tour L.A. with 'Drive's' director [multimedia]

'Drive' locations map

Is Ryan Gosling turning into George Clooney?

-- Betsy Sharkey

Photo: Albert Brooks as the never-flustered B-movie producer turned mob boss in “Drive.” Credit: Richard Foreman / FilmDistrict

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