WHY I LOVE ROBERT DE NIRO PART THREE
Hello and welcome to Why I Love Robert De Niro, part three! Parts one and two can be found here and here. Please find the final 10 best performances, in chronological order, below.
- Jackie Brown: It is only right that Quentin Tarantino would work with Robert De Niro, given Tarantino's electric and overwhelming style and talent. Jackie Brown, released in 1997, is the only Tarantino feature length picture based on the work of another, in this case, Rum Punch by the late, great Elmore Leonard. De Niro is in a supporting role as a man who has an appreciation for smoke and blonde surfer girls. I love the quiet mumbling that De Niro does for most of this picture, finally culminating in an explosion of anger, that is at once hilarious and terrifying. A little odd to see De Niro in a film like this and not be the lead, but he is an integral part in the greatness of the movie, which is among Tarantino's very best.
- Flawless: Directed by Joel Schumacher, Flawless is a film that would possibly sink without the performances of Robert De Niro and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but with them, this is a powerful and highly entertaining picture. Flawless is about a homophobic cop, played by De Niro as he struggles with the after effects of a stroke. His neighbour, a transsexual person waiting to begin transitioning to a woman. To help De Niro's character regain his speech, Hoffman gives him singing lessons. Around this, the heart of the movie, is a pretty disposable sub-plot about stolen money and underworld figures. What makes this movie enduring is the incredible power of seeing these two actors working together, both the greatest actors of their respective generations. Life affirming, with a great sense of humour, sharply written and well directed, Flawless is one of the true hidden gems in De Niro's filmography.
- Meet the Parents: I saw Meet the Parents in 2000 with my father, in New York city. We had no expectations going in, but we, and the audience, laughed. A lot. To truly appreciate this movie, one has to understand the context in which it was released. De Niro had only done a couple of comedies, and was still widely respected as an incredibly consistent and brilliant actor. To see such a legend deliver pitch perfect jokes and bring his legendary commitment to the role of an ex-CIA spyhunter, was utterly sublime and knock down funny. Two sequels would follow, the first being decent and the second being utter nonsense. The original however remains as one of the great comedies of the 21st century and a joy to watch. Ben Stiller is also excellent.
- City By the Sea: While City By the Sea received mixed reviews, this was a surprisingly good picture, and the themes of fatherhood that run through it, resonated deeply with me. It is a pleasure to see Robert De Niro with Frances McDormand, and James Franco is good as the son. The ending, a powerful expression of the love and protection that a good father has for their son, had me crying, reminding me of the similarly powerful conclusion to the remake of 3:10 To Yuma. A minor film in De Niro's filmography, but one well worth checking out.
- Stardust: Stardust is an adaptation of a book by the great Neil Gaiman, whom you will know from his Sandman graphic novels, and American Gods, adapted into a briefly great show on Amazon Prime. This is a really fun and imaginative film with a large ensemble cast. De Niro is featured in a small role as Captain Shakespeare. While the focus isn't on De Niro, he is still very good in the part, reminding me of his one scene part in Terry Gilliam's brilliant and audacious, Brazil. If you like fairy tales and Neil Gaiman, definitely give this one a go.
- Everybody's Fine: Like many of De Niro's films of the past fifteen or so years, Everybody's Fine is a movie with issues. The writing is just okay, and there are some parts of the film that don't really work. De Niro is however rather good as a father who goes on a trip across the country to catch up with his family. This is a picture that is on a knife edge, occasionally risking failing altogether, but on the strength of De Niro's performance, this ultimately winds up being in the recommend column. A touching and well judged effort and one that hits hard in the end.
- Silver Linings Playbook: Unlike Everybody's Fine, I can wholeheartedly recommend Silver Linings Playbook as one of the greatest movies of the last decade. Just utterly superb, with perhaps the greatest performance from De Niro of this century. It is a beautiful, profoundly moving, and life affirming picture, with great performances from all involved, including Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Jackie Weaver. Robert De Niro is at his best, as a father who is desperately trying to protect his son, who is suffering severe mental health issues, and give him a future that he deserves. When De Niro's character gives his son advice at the climax of the movie, it makes me cry, every damn time. I love this film with all my heart, and De Niro shows how great he can still be, given quality material. If you haven't seen it, go and watch it NOW. If you are down, it will lift you up and make you feel human again.
- The Intern: Directed and written by Nancy Meyers, The Intern is a film that was badly reviewed for reasons that entirely evade me. This is a sharply written and directed picture with two very good performances from Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway. It is funny, genuinely sweet and moving, and altogether charming. De Niro plays a man getting back into the workforce, willing to do any work that will get him out of the house. Anne Hathaway plays a businesswoman who struggles with balancing her work and home life. In other hands, with other actors, this could easily be a hacky bit of work, but with the talent on display here, it is a delight to watch.
- Joker: It does my heart good to know that Robert De Niro was in the two best films of 2019. Joker is a provocative, fearless, and brutally brilliant look at social isolation, poverty and mental illness, told through the lens of a comic book movie. This is a comic book movie that takes more risks than any other in the history of the genre. Joaquin Phoenix completely deserved to win the Oscar for Best Actor. In a supporting role, Robert De Niro is pitch perfect and as nearly always, he is performing to make the movie better, not just to raise his own stock. It is a small role, but one which is integral to making the film work as well as it does. It is only right that he play a talk show host here, in a nod to Martin Scorsese's King of Comedy, which had a big influence of Todd Phillips' picture. Phoenix's character and performance is clearly heavily influenced by De Niro's work in that film, as well as Taxi Driver, but that is not at all a knock. This film is a play on an old joke, as Brian De Palma's Obsession was of Hitchcock's Vertigo.
- I Heard You Paint Houses: It took a long time, but I Heard You Paint Houses finally reunited Robert De Niro with Martin Scorsese in a feature length film. Throw in the return of Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino, and you have a tantalizing opportunity for a modern classic. I Heard You Paint Houses is an incredible work of art, with a sloooooooow burn, and three elite level performances from De Niro, Pesci and Pacino. It is a joy to see these three together on the same screen for a considerable running time. There is so much to say about this picture, but let me start with it allowing for a performance from De Niro that easily rivals the best of his career. To see him work with A+ material in a lead role, with an A+ director and A+ actors, is a pleasure and a joy that we have not experienced for quite a long time. The film is quiet, realistic and without much of the bombast and bravado of Goodfellas and Casino. It is, as was said by many upon its release, a grown-up movie that rarely gets made these days.