Ethan Hawke: Why Do I Love You So?
As my post on movies not to miss this fall/winter may have alluded to I’m pretty pumped for Sinister this Friday. I’m up and outta my seat for any performance of Ethan Hawke which is why I probably sat through all of Daybreakers. The man rocks those mangled bottom teeth of his in the same manner Tom Hardy makes his quirky two front teeth work. I’m even willing to completely overlook some of his questionable facial hair choices, many of which are front and center in the performances I shall discuss in a moment.
But on a more serious note I caught myself wondering today (aside from being aesthetically pleasing) what draws me to Ethan Hawke so much and then I realized something. He has enough solid performances and delivers so well even when a movie is complete crap that I can’t help but watch them all. That is why when you take a movie like Sinister that already seems captivating and combine that with a top-notch actor like Hawke I can’t help but try and get everybody to the theater. With all that being said let’s take a moment to look back at the best of Ethan Hawke on the silver screen.
JOE THE KING
I’ll start off small with a movie not many people are probably familiar with and honestly I’d be one of them if my brother didn’t force me to watch it years ago. He had an incredibly strange obsession with Val Kilmer that I’d rather not delve into. I have never forgotten the pain that is The Ghost and the Darkness.
Joe is the youngest of a family that has an abusive drunk father, a mother willing to take it and a brother that isn’t the victim of his father’s rage. Hawke plays Joe’s guidance counselor but not the type you encounter in these sorts of movies very often. It’s clear within their first meeting that he is utterly clueless and you begin to wonder if he could even give himself guidance on tying his shoes. Instead of offering any sort of support or concern for Joe’s situation at home he becomes just like everyone else and misses the big picture that Joe is dealing with far too much for his age.
Even though he is just like all the other people in Joe’s life, Hawke enhances his character with little touches that add bits of comedy and while you shouldn’t like his character you can’t wait for the interactions between him and Joe. From the way he wears his ridiculous sandals to his completely stumped reaction when Joe asks him what the word pithy means Hawke livens up Joe the King. Not to mention he pulls all this off with an outrageous mustache, just one of many battles with facial hair I spoke of earlier.
I just flat out love this movie. I think I liked it back in my EVEN MORE surly days when lines like “Hello, you’ve reached the winter of our discontent” really spoke to me or some bullshit. Even though I have tried to move on from that bitter stance in life, Reality Bites still remains one of my favorites. It has the 90s written all over it (I mean we’re supposed to buy Ben Stiller as a handsome yuppie) and Ethan Hawke really hammers home that brooding bad boy character.
He plays Troy Dyer, a guy who has a totally lovable attractive female best friend constantly by his side but just won’t take that down because he can’t accept his feelings of love for her. Because this totally happens in real life…. But seriously guys, even with his mock goatee situation and bass like kisses Hawke kills it in Reality Bites. By the end every female is ready to hop in the sack with Troy and give him all the love he needs.
Troy brings sarcastic to a new level but Hawke fires off his one-liners in such a way that you look past the bitterness and wish you came up with them yourself. One of my favorite scenes from the movie is when the group dances in the gas station to “My Sharona”, well all of them that is except for Troy Dyer of course. For many years I have wondered how on the earth he did that move with his mouth. It’s as if he makes his cheeks vibrate somehow.
BEFORE SUNRISE / BEFORE SUNSET
I can’t shower enough love on this set of movies. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy got to act out a fantasy I think many of us have had at one time or another. Since I don’t see this fantasy coming true anytime soon I’ll have to live through the glorious movies that are Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. If you want to know why these two are so fabulous as a whole you can check out my article on sequels.
More the point here is what Ethan Hawke brings to the table. This may be getting old but first and foremost he brings some more questionable facial hair, but he’s making it work! His character Jesse seems like a strange extension or close cousin of Troy Dyer minus the aggressive bitterness. Jesse still has his doubts about things and has opinions for days but he meets his match in Celine.
These are essentially two movies about a man and a woman that walk around and talk yet they remain enchanting throughout. Hawke plays off of Delpy so well and there are moments when you almost feel like it’s too personal and you’re watching a real conversation that was recorded. Hawke was very involved in both movies both in front and behind the scenes adding elements of his own personal life, which is evident in the way he performs. My favorite moment of either film will always remain this admission that Jesse makes to Celine, he makes all us women hope that one day we will all have a Jesse in our lives.
This is another movie that I almost never knew existed but I heard about on The Film Vault podcast from the always-fantastic Anderson Cowan. Hawke teamed up with Richard Linklater again (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset) and grew some funky facial hair to give us the wondrous Tape. Hawke seems to strive in a limited movie environment as Tape takes place entirely in a hotel room with only two other characters.
He plays an always-stoned troublemaker by the name of Vince that comes to town to support his high school buddy who has a film in the local film festival. Uma Thurman enters much later and the story revolves around the love triangle that as the movie trucks along seems very messy. Vince is the kind of guy you love to hate and those feelings remain strong and flip-flop throughout the entire movie.
To me this is the kind of performance I look for in a great actor. With his dingy wife-beater and oversized boxers Hawke bounces off the walls and stirs the pot. The movie was shot in real-time adding an extra layer of realism that pays off in the end. I encourage any of you that have a Netflix account to at least check out the movie at 1:05:51 for one of my favorite scenes that includes singing and dancing from my main man.
The only good part about taking Biology in high school was that Gattaca was deemed scientifically sound enough to be shown in its entirety. Well, that is all except the very tame sex scene mid-way through. When you get down to it Jude Law and Ethan Hawke don’t really work as identical males but hey, I can dig it. Gone is the horrible facial hair and in its place is slick hair, ties and jackets.
The movie is gorgeous and Hawke is amazing. You can feel every bit of his pain as his character Vincent does everything he possibly can to get to space. This is probably my absolute favorite role of his and every time I watch it I fall more in love with his performance. The movie moves through different ages and stages of Vincent’s life and along the way Hawke is convincing in all of them. There is a cautiousness to the character that Hawke conveys simply through his eyes. With those Hawke shines in Gattaca when he must explain his reasoning to each person in his life especially the scenes with his brother. Even if Mr. Hawke did only terrible movies from here on out we will always have Gattaca to remind us what true talent in an actor is.