Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tom, Please Complete Us

Before the Mission Impossible franchise permanently transformed him from a sensitive romantic lead to a robotic, battery-operated action hero in the late ’90s, Tom Cruise was an actor with great promise and considerable range. He could play light comedy (Risky Business) or heavy drama (Born on the Fourth of July) and hold his own opposite Hollywood heavyweights such as Paul Newman (Color of Money) and Dustin Hoffmann (Rain Man). Cruise took risks, playing roles that may or may not have pleased his fans, including the flamboyant Lestat in the homoerotically-charged Interview with the Vampire.

Audiences got their last look at Tom Cruise’s irresistible combination of bravado, vulnerability and humanity in Cameron Crowe’s brilliant Jerry Maguire (1996). These were the qualities that helped make him a star in the first place, and Crowe’s intelligent script about a sports agent’s spiritual epiphany and resulting mid-life crisis allows Cruise to shine and touch our hearts. Jerry Maguire is a flawed character audiences could identify with, unlucky both at work and at love, but striving to be a better man and to achieve the “kwan”—true happiness and fulfillment.

Ably supported by a powerhouse cast including Cuba Gooding, Jr. (who won the Supporting Actor Oscar), Jay Mohr, Kelly Preston and Bonnie Hunt, Cruise carries the picture with conviction and momentum, as Jerry evolves from a jerk with intimacy problems to an open-hearted seeker who is as needy for love as the rest of us. Best of all is his chemistry with Renee Zellwegger, who plays the woman who loves Jerry unconditionally with her heart firmly planted on her sleeve.

Tom earned a well-deserved Best Actor Academy Award nomination for his role as Jerry Maguire. He’s done nothing since with this much depth and for a showy supporting role in Magnolia, which satirized his a**hole celebrity persona and allowed him one gut-wrenching scene at the bedside of dying father Jason Robards. (OK, I like that one too, a lot, and he got an Oscar nod for that as well!)

Tom Cruise, you’ve proven you are indeed talented enough to win an Oscar, but you need to seek out material worthy of your skills and inner gifts. Your fans are waiting!

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