The Tourist

I feel flooded with media recently. In the last thirty days I’ve watched:

- Black Swan (twice). Amazing. Natalie Portman was transcendent.
- Tangled (don’t ask.)
- Rabbit Hole. Another excellent movie. Nicole Kidman was great.
- Winter’s Bone. Freaky.
- Hereafter. I wanted to love this movie. Even with Matt Damon, I just couldn’t.
-Sex and the City 2
-Old School. Love Will Farrell. This movie sucked.

Yet the movie that remains most vivid, playing behind my eyes, is the horrendous “The Tourist”, featuring a rather bland Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp.

Angelina is, of course, a very beautiful woman. I met her once in Washington DC and she is positively luminous in person — the kind of person that you simply can’t take your eyes off. But as I watched The Tourist, my eyes remained fixedly on Johnny Depp.

I’ve always enjoyed Depp’s movies. In Alice In Wonderland, he rendered himself unrecognizable as the Mad Hatter. Oh yes, he has a flair for props; one recalls the Pirates of the Caribbean with mixture of exasperation and pure joy. But The Tourist didn’t require gobs of makeup or costumy clothes.

Depp plays Frank Tupelo, an American tourist in Venice. He’s had some sadness in his life – his wife expired in a car accident three years ago – and he is without the refinement that Jolie amps up to a thousand degrees. Jolie looks like a gorgeous, exotic insect with her enormous eyes and big pillowy lips.

Depp’s it is one of the most compelling performances I’ve ever seen. It is a bad movie – let us never mistake this for high art – but Johnny Depp is absolutely supreme. Just like he was devoured by the madness and the costumes of Alice In Wonderland, he is subsumed here in this alternate persona. His eyes look sad. Forehead lines look more apparent. His beard is a bit scruffy, not quite adequately groomed. His hair is unbrushed, a little too long – like he’d given up on his appearance since his wife died.

In one scene, he says to Jolie, “It’s a nice hotel room isn’t it?” But “Isn’t it” comes out as “Iddnt it”? It is so subtle and spontaneous you’d think he’d lived every day of his life in Indiana. I had to reply it to make sure I’d heard correctly. It was genius.

As he monkeys through the movie, being inexplicably chased by bad guys, he does it with a naturalness that shocks me; his reactions have the immediacy of a documentary.

Johnny surprises me with each performance and he proves that even when he takes a silly popcorn movie like The Tourist, he elevates it to more than it deserves to be.

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  1. We watched the tourist last night on amazon vod. I wouldn’t say it was “bad”– I’d tell a potential viewer to “hang in there” because the payoff does eventually come. But it is dreadfully slow for the first 50 minutes. You begin to wonder if anything substantial will ever happen. It tries to be an artsy-mystery-drama but doesn’t quite make the sale. At 60 minutes in, you’ll start to wonder if you’re going to regret giving this flick 98 minutes of your life. At 70 minutes, you think you have it pretty much figured out, but then the scene changes and you doubt yourself, then you’re certain you really don’t know after all and then there is the reveal and the credits.

    Throughout, Depp is, as we’ve come to expect, phenominal.

    Even if the movie really is bad, and I’m not agreeing that it is, but even if it is (and it’s not!!) it is worth seeing just for Depp’s performance. And Jolie’s curves. I retract the last sentence, and move that it be stricken from the record.

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