The first thing I did when I came home from seeing Source Code was look up reviews and read only the bad ones. There weren't many - and the ones that are out there are mostly similar in their critiques (of which some I agree with and some I don't) - but satisfied that I hadn't missed anything major in my assessment of it, I decided to proceed with my own review as if I hadn't read anyone else's.
Source Code is pretty damn good. I liked it.
And I could leave it at that, actually. But I won't... (It's me, after all. I'm bombastic and wordy when it comes to reviewing Jake movies.)
Look, you may not know this about me, but I kinda like this Jake Gyllenhaal. Yeah, he and his entire family and everyone associated with him - personally and professionally - has been pretty douche-y to me for the past five fucking years, but he's like an old friend that I still run into from time to time. I've earned the right to give him shit but I don't wish him any ill will. I want him to succeed. It was hard for me to watch his last two movies collapse under the weight of their own stupidity the way they did.
As I drove up to the theater yesterday, I had a surreal moment of contemplation, the same that I had when Zodiac came out (the first Jake movie released after I started blogging about him) but haven't had since: This is what it's all about. We all sit around and talk about him, write about him, speculate about him, but we're here because he makes movies. And when he has a film out, none of us are any different than the people sharing the theater with us. Everyone in the room has paid the same amount to be entertained. There's something so mystically satisfying about that, about sitting in a dark room with strangers and entering a new world. The people in the theater with me no more knew that I was "Prophecy Girl" than I knew anything about them; when the lights dim, it stops being about any of us and our personal interests and it starts being about the communal human experience of enjoying a story.
This is what he is paid to do. This is why we are all here. And at the risk of offending some (many?) of you, he doesn't always come through. Sometimes you can see him "acting." Sometimes the story is shitty. Sometimes all of us are confronted with the undeniable truth that Jake Gyllenhaal isn't an actor who can draw an audience. He can draw us, but we're the exception. We're emotionally involved. The vast majority of humanity isn't. The vast majority of those who were involved after Brokeback Mountain, even, isn't.
Source Code wasn't perfect. There were moments when it didn't flow and moments when I thought that Jake, great as I think he is, has yet to grow into his charisma. It's the same complaint I've always had: He rarely makes me believe this is what he wants out of life. It can feel as if I'm looking through him when he's on screen. The same nagging doubts have followed me ever since I learned (in my Jake-driven youth) that he's often cold to fans. Why? I wondered. Why be a movie star if you don't like attention from your audience? (Isn't that the whole point?) Why act if in doing it you're merely going through the motions? Why is it, exactly, that he does this?
Source Code is a good story. But it's not impeccable. It makes you think, but it won't change your worldview. And Jake is excellent, but excellent for him has yet match the excellence of the top echelon of Hollywood.
I know why he's a hard sell as a leading man. But right now, I'm proud of him. He did well. He entertained me. And I'm about as hard of a critic as he's going to get...