The Richard Gere DIY Film Festival, Or How to Appreciate the Underappreciated Actor

by Paul Preston
The Movie Guys

I don’t know why I’m on a Richard Gere jag. It’s not his birthday, he’s not getting a lifetime achievement award or anything, I am just finding good movie after good movie featuring Mr. Handsome and it feels like they’re all criminally underseen. When the average movie lover thinks of Gere, I imagine two films come to mind – An Officer and a Gentleman and Pretty Woman. One put him on the mainstream popularity map and the other was a bona fide blockbuster. Then there’s the second tier of critical hits along the lines of American Gigolo, Days of Heaven and The Cotton Club and a second tier of audience hits like Runaway Bride, Sommersby and Primal Fear (which features such a great breakout performance from Edward Norton, you forget that Gere was very compelling in that film, too).

Primal Fear

All of the above movies are from over nineteen years ago. Since then, Gere has been cranking out performances of crackling intensity in films you haven’t seen – but you should! He’s an actor who continuously picks off-the-beaten-path projects and brings his all to them. Let’s chronologically explore some of his finest work since the year 2000.

ChicagoCHICAGO (2002) – Best Picture, winner of six Academy Awards – while it doesn’t sound like I’d need an article to uncover the greatness of this legendary musical, it certainly doesn’t hurt to single out Gere’s performance in it. The Academy couldn’t find room among the THIRTEEN nominations the film garnered to include Richard Gere’s excellent turn as Billy Flynn, a role where he WON Best Actor at The Golden Globes. They even nominated Queen Latifah for a role of modest charm and one big number, but Gere carried grand swaths of the film on his back with dynamite charisma, tap dancing and a brazen sense of humor. I wouldn’t have put Gere at the top of a list of Hollywood actors who could carry a musical, but there’s no denying by the end credits that he was PERFECTLY cast. Flynn offered up Gere’s best shot at a late-career Oscar nod. Shame The Academy saw it differently.

 

 

The HoaxTHE HOAX (2006) – Gere plays Clifford Irving, a con man journalist who claimed to have access to the notoriously reclusive millionaire Howard Hughes. He scores a one million dollar advance based on the lies he’s told about his secret meetings and correspondence with Hughes. This is a brisk movie that rests on Gere pulling off not only Irving’s ability to hustle and charm, but to offset that smoothly with a nagging un-likability. Man, is it fun watching Clifford get out of situation after situation he’s gotten himself into, but there is a growing desperation that anchors the entire performance. It’s a terrific balancing act that starts with the allure we know as movie star Richard Gere, and surprises with the depth underneath.

 

 

The Hunting PartyTHE HUNTING PARTY (2007) – Based on an Esquire Magazine article about an improbable account of three journalists’ attempt to take down one of Serbia’s top war criminals, the film purports that “only the most ridiculous parts of this story are true.” That launching pad leads to another offbeat Richard Gere performance as a photographer teaming up with a cameraman (Terrence Howard) and an enterprising journalist (Jesse Eisenberg) in an at-times dangerous and at-times snarky trip through Europe. Director Richard Shepard (who helmed the also not-seen-by-enough-people The Matador) jumps tones left and right but the audacity of the film carried me through all the outrageous ups and downs. In the middle of it, Gere continued a mid-2000s run on unsavory and unpredictable characters with his dynamic take on Simon Hunt. Coupled with The Hoax, it’s a great “characters getting themselves deeper and deeper in to a nightmare situation” double feature.

 

ArbitrageARBITRAGE – Richard Gere was made for this part. The majority of his career’s success has come from playing white collar guys. Nowadays, post-Wall Street recession, most white collar guys are considered assholes. So, it’s only right that now Gere is totally convincing here as a white collar ASSHOLE! With that being said, he also makes the asshole human, making this thriller compulsively watchable. As the film starts, Gere’s character is trying to close a big corporate deal and have it all, like these greedy assholes often do. But his greed has mortal consequences and he spends the rest of the movie trying to cover everything up. Tim Roth shows up to crawl up his ass, decked out like a seedy cop, and he looks like he’s having a blast being shlubby. So it’s shlubby vs. asshole. You don’t get any more current that that. This was the first feature from Nicholas Jarecki, yet it’s directed with impressive confidence, and he builds real suspense as Gere tries to hold his career together. Unfortunately, we’ve yet to get a follow-up from Jarecki. Also unfortunate was Oscar passing over Gere once again for one of the best performances of his career. Shame.

NormanNORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER (2017) – So, this brings us to the present, and chances are you missed another good Gere performance as Norman Oppenheimer, a New York opportunist who gets close to an Israeli politician who rises to great power. Norman tries to tag along on nothing but his power to wield relationships. Everything we’ve talked about in the last three reviews is on display here as Gere plays another guy risking out of desperation, then becoming even more desperate to hold together his exaggerated notions. Norman is the saddest of all this article’s characters, and Gere once again dives all in. The whole of the parts didn’t connect with me like the other films, but there’s no denying Gere is the key to the whole film working at all.

 

 
 
 
 
 

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