Saturday, May 9, 2015

Temple and Page

It's...oh...between 3 and 4 in the morning and I'm writing this on a phone, in the dark, with no sleep. See, my baby girl is sick, but if I sleep in her room, next to her, she sleeps in peace (as does my the other room), while I can make sure she's still breathing. So, you'll have to forgive my fat thumbs and meandering thoughts.

The other day, I wrote a review of the Daredevil series on Netflix (through 8 episodes...I have since watched the whole thing), and wrote a bit about the highlights of some casting/character choices in the show. Aaand...Alexis called me out for glossing over a couple of the prominent female actors. This post hopes to rectify that.

First, understand I wasn't trying to profile all the characters in the show. There were some actors who did fine work that I didn't find particularly "noteworthy" (like the greasy Wesley or the amusingly self-interested Leland). There were other characters that I didn't think were written particularly well, or whose rolls were wasted or simply "filler" (like Madame Gao, Ninja Nobu, or Mrs. Cardenas who had her name constantly mispronounced, even by the characters who spoke Spanish).

[speaking of filler characters, there's an amusing anecdote I once heard: when Benicio Del Toro read over his script for The Usual Subjects, he realized that none of his character's dialogue mattered in the slightest...his character, Fenster, was simply an extra head-count to get offed (as a plot point) and none of his lines contained exposition to further the plot or develop the character...they were simply in the script so he wouldn't be standing around silently, waiting to die. Del Toro than made the brilliant decision to give his character a weird, unintelligible mumble of an accent since it didn't matter if the audience could understand him or not. It certainly made for a more memorable role!]

Anyway...Rosario Dawson and Deborah Woll were highlights worth mentioning (which I did), but I find I have a few more words to say:

[minor spoilers follow, I'm afraid]

Dawson is an actor that I consider to be fairly well-know  (i.e. famous) given her presence in a number of high-profile "blockbusters." What's more, she seems to have appeared in a fair number of "geek culture" type films (of the kind many of my readers would have seen), so I made an assumption that folks would grok what I meant when I said she did her "normal" good work.

However, while it feels like I've seen her in a number of shows, reviewing her filmography, I only find a handful of familiar titles. Rent was probably where I first saw her (and she was good), I remember disliking Sin City immensely, she was excellent in Deathproof (but then I love that movie, so I'm biased), and while I know I've seen a couple others (like Unstoppable), the films were so forgettable as to not leave a lasting impression.

A stitch in time saves appearing in a few episodes.
So allow me to say that Dawson is an excellent actor, not only adept at being natural on screen, but also wonderful at conveying even subtle emotion, packing a lot of action into a small, nuanced reading. This she did with the Claire Temple character in Daredevil (and, yes, she's magnetic and charismatic, too) making it a memorable character...a highlight. But Temple is a minor character...she disappears round about episode 7 and I don't think she ever makes another appearance (in episode 10, Foggy says she dropped by to stitch Matt up, but we never see the character). As I said before, Claire appears more prominently in Power Man comics, so I'd be expecting (and hoping) for her to show up in the already planned Luke Cage series on Netflix. It would have been nice to see more of her, but what was she going to do? Keep stitching and chatting? Become the regular girlfriend? It's kind of a wasted bit on her. I would have preferred (and REALLY liked) to see her cast as Typhoid Mary (a bit of a stretch for Dawson...or at least different from what I've seen her do in the past), but that character probably won't appear till Season 2 (or 3 if it goes that long).

Deborah Woll is not an actor I'd expect folks to know (unless they'd watched a couple-three seasons of True Blood), but Karen Page is a character that should be familiar to most Daredevil fans. Just to sum up her story: character is secretary/love interest for Murdoch, character breaks up with Murdoch after learning he's DD, character becomes pornographic film actress addicted to heroin, character sells DD's secret to dealer for a "fix" (who subsequently sells it to Fisk who proceeds to ruin Murdoch's career/reputation), character pulls herself out of the gutter (with Murdoch's love-support), character becomes anti-porn/anti-drug crusader. Oh...and then she gets killed by Bullseye (just like Electra).

Vampiric Woll = much more interesting character.
The character is not all that interesting, and that's part of The Usual Problem of when (in history) the character was created/introduced. There have been plenty of, love interest-distressed damsel-secretary characters populating the Guy's World of Comics over the years. Trying to inject life into the Pepper Potts, Betty Ross, Karen Pages, etc. of the genre is the albatross that all superhero filmmakers get strung up with. It's one of the main stumbling blocks of the genre, and not just because of our "O So Fair and PC World;" the trope is TIRED and non-interesting.

And of course it's one of those "damned if you do, damned if you don't" things. Stray too far from the original character and the purists (i.e. fans) hate on you. Write the character as the weak-sauce furniture piece she was originally and...well, you see the problem.

So you get half-measures. Woll's Karen Page is a fairly capable type put in an unreal position and finding the courage to take on the bad guys. Just not the effectiveness. That we have to leave for our Good Old Protagonist of the story, yeah? Or Foggy...'cause he saves her with a baseball bat at one point.

[yes, she does do for Wesley, and that's a great scene. The writers do have moments, and Woll displays the perfect amounts of trembling rage and righteous hatred. I said she was a highpoint, yeah?]

Is that gun smoke I smell? Or character development?
Ms. Woll's interpretation of the character is fine (making Page plenty watchable for the 12 episodes in which she appears) but for me it's very much the same thing as her True Blood character (the sweet young thang that gets abused and has to toughen up so the audience won't hate her). It's not Woll that is's the way her character is written that lacks punch. If the writers decided to merge the Karen Page character with Typhoid Mary, for example, it would feel rather trite at this point: oh, yeah, the nice girl pushed too far so now she gets a violent, split personality. Yawn. It seemed (at times) that this is exactly what the show was trying to foreshadow, what with the hard drinking and Wesley-shooting. Then again, maybe they're trying to stick to the comic book story arc. Regardless, her whole conversation with Foggy RE: "I was thinking of moving up [from booze] to something heroin," was either tremendously UN-subtle or else a joke in very poor taste.

Still, it's kind of fun to watch her guzzle the bourbon.
; )

All right, it's 5:05 and I have a long day of asados tomorrow. I'll post this in the morning when I can use my laptop to add pix and formatting.