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Wednesday
Nov222017

Happy 50th Mark Ruffalo !

by Eric Blume

Today marks the 50th birthday of one of our very best actors, three-time Oscar nominee Mark Ruffalo. Ruffalo burst onto the scene in 2000 with a remarkable lead performance in Kenneth Lonergan’s You Can Count on Me.  His complex, layered work had critics fairly sprouting comparisons to Brando, and his gorgeous duet with Laura Linney still feels like the standard-bearer for on-screen sibling chemistry.  It’s astonishing to think Ruffalo missed out on an Oscar nomination that year, considering his performance is unquestionably better than several of the eventual nominees -- was it category confusion or lack of name-recognition? Oscar has remained historically slow to coronate good looking young actors, and that recognition remained on hold for him for over another decade...  

Ruffalo followed with interesting work in a variety of quirkier films (XX/XY, In the Cut, Eternal Sunshine, and We Don’t Live Here Anymore) before catching Hollywood’s eye for casting in more mainstream fare (13 Going on 30, Rumor Has It, etc.).  He spent the following few years acting in a mixture of the two (Shutter Island, Reservation Road, Blindness) 

 

Ruffalo finally scored his first Oscar nomination for his role in Lisa Cholodenko’s 2010 film The Kids Are All Right.  It was the perfect marriage of actor and role:  Ruffalo trades down on his natural charm so strongly that it’s easy to forget his character’s gargantuan selfishness.  You can see how easily he would win the kids’ favor, and how everyone in his orbit turns purely around him.  He’s the film’s literal and metaphorical dick that throws the drama into motion, and he’s a hopeless boy flailing cluelessly in an effort to become a man.  Yet you root for him, as the characters do, that maybe he’ll pull through, like that guy you know in real life that keeps disappointing but perhaps this time he won’t.  It’s a carefully thought-out piece of acting by someone in full control of his role in the piece and his own screen power.

Fascinatingly, Ruffalo seems out of his element when he’s playing a more conventional lead in a more typical Hollywood film.  I’d argue he’s flat-out bad in John Carney’s Begin Again:  he looks deeply uncomfortable, and he seems to be “playing” the “romantic lead” in an affected style that comes across as dishonest from him.  And in his Oscar-nominated role in Spotlight, he pushed too hard with his big speech and seemed more naturally at home in his smaller moments when he could fold back into the ensemble.  And he seems off his game in the Now You See Me movies as well, as if he’s embarrassed about taking them for the paycheck. 

But what a glorious array of fascinating characters Ruffalo has given us these past eighteen years! 


He has a particular gift for igniting his fellow actors to deliver career-best work.  What he found with Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher was sheer magic… their physical sparring told you everything you needed to know about those brothers and their relationship.  His interplay with Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey, Jr. in Zodiac made for an incredible jump down a rabbit hole… they kept each other on their toes.  And that final scene in You Can Count on Me, where he and Laura Linney sit on a bench and pack the past, present, and future of their characters into three minutes of sad reconciliation and hopeful promise will always be one of the best movie endings ever.

What is your favorite Mark Ruffalo moment, and what do you hope to see from him his next fifty years?

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Reader Comments (11)

I'm waiting for that rom-com with him, Reese Witherspoon, and Paul Rudd where he plays Witherspoon's ex-husband who becomes Paul Rudd's best friend much to Reese's horror. I also want to see him as the Hulk as he's just so much fun in being Hulk/Bruce Banner.

November 22, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

Catching the firefly in You Can Count on Me.
Looking sharp in 13 Going on 30.
DIscussing mentors in Foxcatcher.

Happy 50th to one of our greats.

November 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

The contrast between Mark and Leo in Shutter Island is tremendous. They're in plain white undershirts (tank tops) and only Mark looks like a desirable man in his.

November 22, 2017 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

So much this. I don't think he's ever quite topped his breakout turn in YOU CAN COUNT ON ME but then I'm biased since that's also one of my favorite movies. He was so very good in FOXCATCHER, though - and like Mike, I have a soft spot for him in 13 GOING ON 30. Also great in IN THE CUT, which in general was a seriously underrated film.

I can't believe he's 50 already, but he will never not be dreamy.

November 22, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterlylee

"lack of name-recognition"

This.

He was an acclaimed stranger competing in the leading actor category with veteran actors (Tom Hanks, Ed Harris, Geoffrey Rush), a sensation (Russell Crowe), a European superstar (Javier Bardem) and do not forget non-nominated veterans (Michael Douglas, Sean Connery) and a child revelation (Jamie Bell).

November 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHarmodio

I admire his high-caliber performances, but only God knows how much I love him as Bruce Banner / Hulk!!!

November 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEd

lylee--I'm also a fan of "In the Cut." Not perfect, but I love that film.

It pains me to say this, but Ruffalo has been off his game lately. I thought he was absolutely terrible in Spotlight. I've never seen someone overact so much while making photocopies lol. That said, he's often been terrific (You Can Count on Me, In the Cut, The Kids Are All Right, Foxcatcher). I'm sure he'll continue to do some great work.

November 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

I would personally blow his candle. Happy Birthday, Mr. Ruffalo!

November 23, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterforever1267

Joe : I thought he was awful in Spotlight too. Seemed like he was in a different movie from the rest of the actors. Loved him in Foxcatcher and You Can Count On Me. Aboit that egregious snub for You Can Count On Me I seem to remember the studio campaigning him as Supporting Actor which undoubtedly led to vote splitting.

November 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

Brave committed actor especially in his emotionally raw but understated performance in The Normal Heart...It was his and Julia Roberts participation that finally got the project made...

November 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDO

I fell for him hard after first seeing him in MY LIFE WITHOUT ME. Loved seeing his growth into the mainstream with popular films, indie films, and his Oscar-nominated work.

November 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge P.

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