Oscar Vault Monday – The Crying Game, 1992 (dir. Neil Jordan)
Posted by Marya E. Gates
Neil Jordan is one of my favorite directors. I have so much love for Interview With A Vampire and Breakfast On Pluto. I finally got around to watching this film, Jordan’s only film to be nominated for Best Picture, a few years back and I so fell in love with it. I think I watched it twice before I sent it back to Netflix and then got it for Christmas a few months later. It is just such a beautiful film. On the outside it’s a film about the IRA, but really it’s a film about love and how it can arise so unexpectedly. The Crying Game was nominated for six Academy Awards, winning one: Best Film Editing, Best Original Screenplay (won), Best Supporting Actor Jaye Davidson, Best Actor Stephen Rea, Best Director and Best Picture. It was up against A Few Good Men, Howards End, Scent of A Woman and winner Unforgiven.
I don’t actually know many other people who have seen this film, but those I do know who have seen it love it. At time of its release it was highly critically acclaimed, and currently holds a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film also contains one of the biggest plot twists, revealed about halfway through the film, in recent film history. Although, if you know what Academy Awards the film was nominated for the twist isn’t really a twist anymore. But the thing is, the film doesn’t need the twist to make it compelling; its characters are strong enough, twist or no twist, to make you want to keep watching and return to this film time and time again.
In one of his largest film roles Neil Jordan staple Stephen Rea gives one of my all-time favorite performances as Fergus, a fallen away IRA soldier on the run. Rea, a native of Northern Ireland, is most often seen, at least on our shore, in supporting roles. But he manages to carry the bulk of this film with a very subtle, quite performance, which earned him a much-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Although he lost the award to Al Pacino in Scent of A Woman, I think this was one of those cases where the nomination was the award. I’ve yet to see Pacino’s performance, but I’ve often read that is was a case of “he’s been nominated sooo many times for so many great roles, let’s give him one now even though he’s far from his best.” Either way, Rea’s competition, and fellow losers, are among some of the greatest actors of their generation: Clint Eastwood for Unforgiven (the film won Best Picture and Eastwood Best Director), Robert Downey, Jr. in Chaplin (a must see film for Downey, Jr. fans) and Denzel Washington in Malcolm X. Along with his Academy Award nomination, Rea was nominated for a BAFTA and won the Best Actor award from the National Society of Film Critics.
Jaye Davidson only made two feature films in his short career, The Crying Game and 1994’s Stargate. For his role in The Crying Game Davidson was nominated for an Academy Award, a BAFTA and was named “Most Auspicious Debut” by the National Board of Review. I read somewhere that Davidson believes it was the role that was nominated and not his performance. That could be true to some extent, at the time anyway, since the role was so unique and shocking. But if it were only the role that was good and not his performance, the film would not have aged as well as it as. I think his performance is phenomenal and that he hit every note perfectly, allowing the performance, as well as the film, to be just as compelling nearly twenty years later.
The chemistry between Rea’s Fergus and Davidson’s Dil is utterly electric. It’s there from the first moment that Fergus sees Dil and it remains as an undercurrent throughout the rest of the film. What I love so much about this relationship is that it never once feels forced, but rather grows organically as the film progresses. It’s one of my all-time favorite film romances and, for me at least, is what makes the film so great.
Miranda Richardson has a small, but vital role, as Jude, a vindictive IRA soldier who feels personally double-crossed by Rea’s Fergus. It’s her image that is featured prominently on the original theatrical posters for the film, as well as its subsequent DVD releases. I’m not sure that I really like that they use her image to market the film, it sort of gives off a false perception of what the film is really about. That being said, Richardson is wonderful in her role, in all its ruthless glory.
Future Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker has a very small, but pivotal, role at the beginning of the film as Jody, a British solider who is kidnapped by the IRA. It is Jody’s accidental death that provokes Rea’s Fergus to seek out his girlfriend Dil in London. It is also Jody who tells Fergus about the two types of people, the scorpion and the frog:
Scorpion wants to cross a river, but he can’t swim. Goes to the frog, who can, and asks for a ride. Frog says, “If I give you a ride on my back, you’ll go and sting me.” Scorpion replies, “It would not be in my interest to sting you since as I’ll be on your back we both would drown.” Frog thinks about this logic for a while and accepts the deal. Takes the scorpion on his back. Braves the waters. Halfway over feels a burning spear in his side and realizes the scorpion has stung him after all. And as they both sink beneath the waves the frog cries out, “Why did you sting me, Mr. Scorpion, for now we both will drown?” Scorpion replies, “I can’t help it, it’s in my nature.”
SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT
With that parable in mind, I want to end this post with the last scene in the film, because I just love it so much.
Dil: You’re doing time for me. No greater love, as the man says. I wish you’d tell me why.
Fergus: As a man said, it’s in my nature.
Dil: What’s that supposed to mean?
Fergus: Well, there’s this scorpion, you see, and he wants to go across a river. . .
If you’re interested in buying this film, you can do so here.
About Marya E. GatesCinephile to the max.
Posted on November 15, 2010, in Oscar Vault Monday and tagged 1992, Forest Whitaker, Jaye Davidson, Miranda Richardson, Neil Jordan, Oscar Vault Monday, Stephen Rea, The Crying Game. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.
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