25 July 2021: Jack Nicholson (Part 3)

So this is the third and final Jack Nicholson post. You know the deal. I’m going to move into the films quickly because there’s going to be some wrap up at the end.

“The Shining” (1980)

I really like “The Shining” and Jack Nicholson is an undeniable force of nature in it. It’s an iconic role and an iconic film. I genuinely don’t think anyone else could have done what he did here and I think everyone who has played a manic and sinister character since “The Shining” has probably ripped something out of Nicholson’s Jack Torrence. It’s hard to put a finger on what is so good about his performance as opposed to what is so definitively him about it. He manages to create this character that seems menacing, but also kind of beaten down. He’s got a smarmy, everyman cheeriness that hides a shitty husband and a disconnected father.

My memory of it before rewatching it this week was of a less supernatural film. I remembered it as purely psychological piece. It is very open in it’s flirtation with the supernatural and it is quite obvious that something else is at play and I really enjoyed that this time around

“About Schmidt” (2002)

“About Schmidt” is a good film and Jack Nicholson is very good in it, but I really don’t like his character and I think it shaped the way I think about Jack Nicholson as a man when I saw it first. His Schmidt is a nightmare of a character. Just a helpless bastard. I guess in my mind, I felt that it was probably an easy role for Nicholson to play because he was starting to look like his character in real life.


So I’ve watched a bunch of Jack Nicholson films and I think it has changed my opinion of him. I didn’t get the hype and now I do. Even though there were films of his that I had always enjoyed, I didn’t really give him the credit he deserved. In particular, “The Shining” and “Chinatown” are two of my favourites. He has played some great roles and put in some iconic performances. Wikipedia claims he’s considered one of the greatest actors of his generation and I’m not going to disagree with that. He obviously had some misses and I think his really good performances seem to trail off towards the end of his career, but I give him credit for retiring when he did. There’s an honesty to not making films for the sake of it.

So Jack Nicholson passes my test. If there are any good Jack Nicholson films that I missed, I would love some recommendations, or if there’s terrible films that might are so bad they might change my mind, I’d like to hear about those. I’d also be interested to hear suggestions on other actors who should be put to the same test.

25 July 2021: Jack Nicholson (Part 3)

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