December 15th, 2006 06:38 EST
Displaced Artifacts Refined
Acting is an artistic craft commonly underestimated or undermined in importance and execution, both by society and many so-called actors. It is the actor’s noble duty and joy to help tell a story by participating in that story as a character. Some people mistakenly think that simply appearing on screen makes you an actor. The term “actor” often gets confused with the term “celebrity”, but these are not synonymous nor interchangeable.
A celebrity is merely someone who is famous. True, authentic actors are driven by a passion and pleasure to perform, to assume the identity of other people for the sake of the experience and as a form of expression—of self and of story. Matters of possible neurosis aside, they tend to engage their craft with integrity and solemnity, or at the very least with respect. They recognize its power, its significance.
Fame and fortune are only ancillary concerns… these aren’t why they do what they do, it is a just bonus and/or a practical means to an end. This isn’t to say that actors don’t necessarily like, desire or appreciate the money or notoriety their work may bring, as a side effect, but it is simply not their primary purpose or motivation to be an actor.
Some are more adept and apt than others. And there are people who act, who can act and even enjoy acting, but they shouldn’t be classified as genuine actors because they don’t crave and seek the performance; acting isn’t a lifestyle for them, merely a hobby or a curiosity. And there are also people who can act, but have no interest in doing so.
An actor who does not take their craft seriously, as a sacred calling-- whose attitude is to revel in the novelty, perceived prestige or perks of being “on TV” rather than in the part they play-- is not really an actor. They are merely pretending or imagining themselves to be one. And though they have their place and utility in fulfilling script requirements, and should not be dismissed as trivial because they are either posers or casual in their approach, it is right that we acknowledge that they are not actors.
To not do so would be to insult and diminish the craft of acting, and indeed actors themselves.
There is a certain tragic-ness about a talented actor whose talents are wasted or misused— either by the actor or by a director, because the actor is cast in a role that fails to utilize or engage that talent to its best and fullest extent, or because the role isn’t commiserate with that talent, or because a director provides poor direction for that talent. Unfortunately, such tragedy often befalls Rachael Cook, whose filmography is tainted with a plethora of what I consider bad script choices and improper casting.
It’s a genuine shame that she doesn’t do more movies or TV shows that I can enjoy.
Movies like She’s All That, Josie and the Pussycats, Stateside, Scorched, Country Justice and her appearance in an anti-drug PSA, Outer Limits and Dawson’s Creek demonstrate that Rachael is inimitably capable of so much more than the majority of her acting projects imply. And proves that she is equipped to do good quality scripts, good roles.
With a dismaying frequency, Rachael assumes roles which lack substance of character, relevancy, is unbefitting of her particular style, and does not enable her to employ or manifest her true acting proficiency. As if she is merely a token placeholder to fill an empty position; like an “extra” on set, little more than human scenery or an accessory for someone else. In some of her movies, her part is so limited, parenthetical and two- dimensional that she seems to “phone it in” or is barely “there”, given little or nothing to work with that allows her to actually act.
Through a kind of “guilt by association”, an actor who is in several bad movies can acquire the reputation and have an appearance of being a bad actor. They become a casualty of bad storytelling.
It is disappointing and frustrating for me to watch an actor of her caliber (and my favorite actress) consigned to and constrained by movie roles that squander her as an actor and are, quite frankly, beneath her. Many of the movies she is in are so inane and insipid that they ought not have been made, nevermind casting Rachael. Or she might do a movie in which her performance, her presence, is too exceptional or sophisticated for the movie.
Like Ben Kingsley in A Sound of Thunder and Bloodrayne. I can’t help but wonder “what were you thinking in accepting this movie?”. Was something lost in translation?
Well, as they say, “no accounting for taste.”
I understand the various motivations and rationales by which a role may appeal to an actor, and in that I can almost forgive these indiscretions. And I realize she doesn’t think of herself as "just" an actor, but is someone who enjoys acting. She admits to being somewhat shy, and I get the impression that Rachael doesn’t believe she is a very good actor, and maybe lacks the confidence to do better movies.
But I believe she is better, more articulate, than she gives herself credit for. There are some roles actors are not suited for, and there are actors some roles are not suited for.
I really would prefer she be more discriminating, daring and aspiring in determining the roles she accepts, and take on better parts in better scripts. Rachael Cook is a remarkably talented and underrated actor, with a uniquely charming quirkiness, manner and presence. I wish she could see that in herself, as I do. But Rachael has the appearance of someone playing it safe. She would do well to select more carefully roles that are more compatible with her personal style of performing, and that are more substantial, so that her talent may achieve a more complementary and complimentary expression.
Especially since she has her own independent production company, and thus the luxury of being more discerning, and more courageous.