Greg Kinnear, underrated actor

Greg Kinnear with his movie son, Bobby Coleman (a fine young actor himself) in The Last Song.

Greg Kinnear is one of the finest actors working today, but also one of the most underrated.

This thought occurred to me while I was watching The Last Song, the obnoxiously gooey Nicholas Sparks-penned film that was written specifically for its young star, Miley Cyrus. (This also means I’ve seen every Sparks film adaptation, ever. Feel free to punch me in the face as hard as you can, so I can somehow forget the plot of Dear John.)

Kinnear plays the girl’s estranged father, a guilt-ridden musician living in a beach-side town. He almost gives the movie the kind of heart it desperately desires. Without his performance, the film would have been an empty shell that continuously struggles to showcase Cyrus’ mediocre attempts to be taken seriously as a grown-up actress.

Kinnear’s ability to gently convey his regrets for not being able to be there for his children makes the character as sympathetic as he has to be, but not as grossly sentimental as the movie itself is. His performance doesn’t superficially gloss over a man who pretty much walked out on his family, but shows him as burdened and, well, sad.

And his chemistry with the other actors is, to say the least, graceful. Cyrus is most tolerable when she’s in a scene with Kinnear. Even when I didn’t believe Cyrus’ character would read Tolstoy, I believed that she was the daughter of Kinnear’s character. The scene they share together at the church is actually quite moving–and Kinnear sells it, even when it’s mentioning something as lame as not being there to buy a prom dress for his daughter.

Looking through Kinnear’s filmography, I’m both impressed and disappointed.

Impressed, in the way that I almost forgot that he delivered a delightfully moving Oscar-nominated turn in James L. Brooks’ As Good As It Gets as the homosexual artist who befriends a misanthropic Jack Nicholson. He made his film debut (fresh off from being the host of E! network’s Talk Soup) in Sydney Pollack’s lovely remake of Sabrina, as Harrison Ford’s younger, playboy brother, which he does almost as fine a job as William Holden did in the original and is perhaps, even more endearing than Holden could ever be. (Not to say that Holden was not an endearing actor because he certainly was, but he seemed oddly out-of-touch with some of the fluffier comedic scenes.)

Kinnear has done some great supporting roles: as Meg Ryan’s pretentious journalist boyfriend in (one of the best films ever, no matter what people say) You’ve Got Mail, Ashley Judd’s slimeball boyfriend (the Hugh Grant role in Bridget Jones’s Diary) in Someone Like You, and Abigail Breslin’s father in the ensemble indie charmer, Little Miss Sunshine.

Disappointed, because, why hasn’t this man gotten more mainstream starring roles? He’s starred as the lead in several smaller pictures (Auto Focus, Flash of Genius) and has received acclaim, but why hasn’t Hollywood given Kinnear the opportunity to officially have mainstream leading man status? He’s always paired off with a “bigger” star in mainstream movies (Ricky Gervais, Matt Damon), but he’s always been able to steal the show.

Kinnear could’ve been the alternate Tom Hanks, or, to put it better–had some of the roles Hanks has received over the years. Why isn’t he? And it’s not too late, right?

(On another note, I’m kind of skeptical about the mini-series, The Kennedys. Love Greg Kinnear, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think he can do no wrong–I mean, I would have never casted him as John F. Kennedy.)

So my question is: When will Greg Kinnear have a script penned with him in mind?


One Comment

  1. Greg is indeed woefully underrated, which is a shame. He and Aaron Eckhart are two actors, who incidentally remind of each other, who need better work than they get (or find).


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