Archive for April, 2022

Hurt Feelings

So I see, with great sadness, that William Hurt has died at the relatively young age of 71.

There were occasions when I felt he was miscast—which is not the same thing as giving a bad performance—e.g., as Rochester in Jane Eyre (1996) or Duke Leto Atreides in the second of the seemingly endless versions of Dune (2000). But he endeared himself to me from his very first film, Ken Russell’s 1980 adaptation of Paddy Chayefsky’s Altered States, one of my quintessential “love stories that’s not obviously a love story,” like James Cameron’s The Abyss (1989). I still remember how powerful I found the Altered States trailer when I was working at Cinestudio back in my Trinity College days in Hartford.

The less said about Peter Yates’s Eyewitness (1981), the better, despite the presence of Hurt and BOF fave Sigourney Weaver; interestingly, I considered Breaking Away (1979) overrated and actively disliked Four Friends (1981), both sans Hurt but also written by Steve Tesich. I have dim yet favorable memories of the thriller Gorky Park (1983), and especially of his Oscar-winning turn opposite Raul Julia in Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985), while if I was, as Dad used to say, “just whelmed” by Children of a Lesser God (1986) and Broadcast News (1987), it wasn’t due to any deficiency in his performances, both also nominated. In fairness, the latter contains one of my favorite lines, when Albert Brooks says to Holly Hunter, “Okay, I’ll meet you at the place near the thing where we went that time,” a classic example of the “private language” between longtime friends or lovers that to this day we willfully misquote chez nous as “I’ll meet you at the place by the thing.”

Until the End of the World (1991) was a typically quirky opus from Wim Wenders, whose The American Friend (1977) and Paris, Texas (1984) are both on my (long) short list; it has the added attraction of newly composed and deliberately futuristic songs by, among others, my second-favorite band, Talking Heads (“Sax and Violins”), and my daughter’s favorite, U2 (the title tune). I’m sorry to say I have yet to see Hurt’s final Oscar-nominated performance, in David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence (2005), which I naturally confuse with Wenders’s non-Hurt The End of Violence (1997). Of his work that I’ve seen from this millennium—ouch—Steven Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), of which a re-viewing is overdue, stands out most in my mind.

To me, however, Hurt’s work (see selected B100 reviews) will always be defined by his collaborations with writer/director Lawrence Kasdan, and if I was less transported than some by Body Heat (1981), it’s because I was too busy being outraged over his betrayal by Kathleen Turner. (In my mind, I made a very brief sequel entitled Ned Racine’s Revenge, in which we see him emerge from the foliage on her tropical beach and blow her away. The end.) I thought The Accidental Tourist (1988) was solid, even if it did have that Turner broad—whom I’ve unsurprisingly never liked—as well, and you couldn’t ask for better compensation than Geena Davis.

I Love You to Death (1990) epitomizes my “underdog favorites,” and in this case I am joined by Madame BOF; we simply cannot understand why that delightful film is not better regarded. If I had to pick my signature Hurt role, it would be sometime talk-radio host Nick Carlton in The Big Chill (1983), which is not only one of my all-time favorites but also, in my humble opinion, one of those that best employs a soundtrack of existing songs.

Less than 48 hours after reading Hurt’s obit in Time, I was following Madame BOF to her VW dealership so that we could drop off her Jetta for some routine maintenance, and what should come on the radio but “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” which I dearly love specifically from its use in The Big Chill. Between that and the always welcome reminder of my oldest friend and best man, Rolling Stones über-fan Fred Pennington, I positively wept tears of mingled joy and sorrow.

Nick, you may always consider me part of your “small, deeply disturbed following.”

You will be missed.

Bradley out.

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