A single scene sums up An Actor Prepares. When universally loved world-renowned actor, Atticus Smith (Jeremy Irons) is discussing politics with his son, he is told ‘I bet you voted for Reagan’
‘No, he was a terrible actor, I voted for no-one’
‘Your apathy disgusts me’.
The self-centred, Hollywood focussed egocentric versus the dogmatic single-minded Liberal. Father versus son. Steve Clark’s new dysfunctional family road movie stars Jeremy Irons in one of his best roles for years but struggles to find its feet as an engaging story.
When Atticus collapses at a post-awards party after mixing copious amounts of cocaine and champagne, he is told categorically by doctors to mend his partying ways. He requires heart surgery with his beloved daughter’s wedding only a few days away. He refuses, and when told there is no way he can fly to New York for the ceremony, his alienated son Adam (Jack Huston) is press-ganged into driving him across America in a Winnebago. After ditching their Hell’s Angel driver, a spy placed by the film company to keep an eye on Atticus, the pair travel cross-country alone, attempting to understand each other’s choice of lifestyles.
The main issue with An Actor Prepares is its plot. A cantankerous father with outdated views – women seen as shagging trophies to collect, doctors as meddlers – and his estranged modern-thinking son – meditation and documents post-post-feminist film-makers – going on a forced road-trip really has been done to death. Add a softening to the relationship at the start of act 2 and we could be watching one of ten or so movies made from the past 5 years. Switch out Jeremy Irons for Ed Harris and you have Kodachrome.
What most of those other film lack however, is Jeremy Irons himself, who is in top form here. He is obviously revelling in the role, allowing himself to ham up every conceivable situation in character as an ego-centric world-famous actor. Make no mistake, this is the Jeremy Irons show; everyone else is here to make up the numbers and give the Vectensian thesp cannon-fodder for his verbal assault. This strategy comes with risks, creating what is essentially a board-walking character piece can falter on the big screen in front of a less enduring audience, and it risks slipping up in several places before Irons pulls things back on track. There are other plot-lines going on – Adam has a testicular cancer result looming, his sister is soon to be married – but neither are given much attention, seeming to exist simply to work into Irons’ character arc.
What An Actor Prepares lacks in originality and narrative, it makes up for with Jeremy Iron’s performance. If you’re looking for a twist-laden cerebral narrative then you’ll most likely be disappointed, but if you enjoy watching one of our finest actors going to town in a role that was made solely for him, then look no further.
Review by Colin Lomas
AN ACTOR PREPARES is available On Demand now
Dir: Steve Clark
Scr: Steve Clark, Thomas Moffett
Cast: Jeremy Irons, Matthew Modine, Jack Huston, Megalyn Echikunwoke, Mamie Gummer, Ben Schwartz
Prd: Steve Clark, Tom Butterfield, Tom Lassally, David M. Rosenthal, Will Rowbotham, Derrick Tseng
DOP: John Baily
Music: Tony Morales
Run Time: 97 minutes