The Star (Malaysia), November 27, 1997

HUNKS AND ACCENTS

Having watched Brad Pitt as an Austrian Nazi mountaineer in 7 Years in Tibet and Keanu Reeves as a Southern lawyer in Devil's Advocate back to back, I arrived at the conclusion that hunks really shouldn't do accents.

I mean, it's all right if Meryl Streep does accents - she isn't a hunk as far as the Schwarzenegger hunk-o-meter is concerned. It's all right if Kevin Kline does accents. In In and Out, he's managed to persuade me (very convincingly) that he's as happy as Liberace, Gianni Versace and a lark in a potent mix altogether, minus the feathers. It's all right, I guess, if anyone from Sophie's Choice or Savannah does accents. But when you cast a hunk, a bona fide hunk like - say, Matthew McConnaughey - running for ear cover won't be as sufficient as a fallout shelter.

Oh wait a minute, Matthew is Southern, being from good ole cattle-growing Texas, so his 'Ah'm a ten on a scale o' the Schwaaarzinigger hunk-o-meter' is no put on. In fact, the greatest challenge for Matthew, besides landing a role that does not cast him as a 'girly' side interest to some prominent movie actress, is to speak without sounding like J.R Ewing.

'Mah greatest challenge,' I can hear him saying, 'is ta play thaat graid Amairican, Aybrahaam Linken......'

Nevertheless, Brad is blond and talented and very blond (which is the first thing you notice in 7 Years in Tibet - 'Who's that guy with the hair like buttercake?'), but he does a dratted Irish accent in The Devil's Own. If I were Irish, I wouldn't serve Brad a pint of lager within 10 feet of that dubious lilt. He seems to spout, with every toss of said butter head: 'Aieem arn Aieeerish terrorest, an' airm maihjorlee blonnnd and good-lookin'.' Heck, I'd be askin' for some IRA identification first, like 'Do you know what materials best make car bombs?'

Which leads me to the conclusion that blonds shouldn't really do accents.

I never saw Farah Fawcett putting on the Polish. Or Lisa Kudrow. Or Madonna. Wait a minute, Madonna played an Argentinian hick seductress in Evita. But she got away with it because she sang, and you can't really sing with an accent.

Brad seemed to jump onto the accent-wagon by following up Irish with Austrian. His character, Heinrich Harrer, in 7 Years in Tibet is a self-confessed Austrian Nazi and is so despicable in the first half that he makes Fidel Castro look like Martha Stewart. Heinrich Harrer lies, cheats, insults, abuses his wife and his friends while waving Swastikas around like a pair of old socks, all the while chirping, 'Ach, eeet's all rite for mee to be so weeeckerd, ja, Ah-eem blond and majerlee good-lookeeng.'

I'm hoping Brad's next film won't be set anywhere in Poland.

In fact, Brad ought to do what he does best - playing blond, long-haired hunks from the Mid-west, preferrably tucked into easy-to-disrobe checkered sweatshirts. But I hear he's in lieu to play Joe Black, who is actually the Devil incarnate come down (or is it up?) to Earth to make cow eyes at a woman.

I don't think the Devil does accents.

Another hunk who gets major flak for laying accents is Keanu Reeves, who has the most unusually distressing voice this side of Kermit. His British accent in Bram Stoker's Dracula was the most God-awful thing to grace the cinematic tableau since bed bug squeaks in autumn. You would've thought he learnt his lesson and stuck to playing roles like a California LAPD Swat cop with muscles, or a California surfer-dude undercover FBI agent with muscles, or anything involving California and muscles. But no. His characters had to migrate out of California and tour places like 2000 BC India (his Buddha had an Indian accent, rather fetching with those lavish curls and loin-cloth, I might add).

I'm figuring maybe next time they should write the role around Keanu instead, the way they do for Jean Claude van Damme, who's always a visiting kick-boxer from Belgium, or a visiting cop from Belgium, or a visiting language professor from Belgium (well, maybe not a language professor, that would be a stretch). Van Damme never originates from anywhere OUT of Belgium, which suits him mightily because he sure isn't going to convince anyone he's Californian. So Keanu in the script should never hail from anywhere outside California, and if he wanted to play Hamlet in Winnipeg, it should be explained in the program that Hamlet spent his childhood in California, just before he became Prince of Denmark.

Funny thing is Keanu wasn't even born in California. He's Canadian.

But Keanu did strike gold in The Devil's Advocate, a genuine hellbuster of a film which just has to be celebrated - it's that good. And he struck accent gold as well, miraculous as that may be. His Kevin Lomax is a North Florida lawyer who actually speaks North Floridan. And just when the poor kid gets it right, you can hear the critics sharpening their claws: 'Keanu Reeves with a Southern accent? Oh hoohah!'

To be fair to Reeves, all the Southern critics as well as the audiences think he's got the accent down pat. It's the Northern critics who don't think so, but they'll do anything to undermine Reeves, who by nature of being relatively sweet-tempered (for a movie star), has never thrown a libel suit or bashed a hotel room. And listening to Kevin Lomax for 2 ½ hours is kind of tangy. Makes you almost want to be a lawyer, just so you can say:

'Yer honor, ah preseant Eczibit A, which iz a US praihm roast beif stammed fer approval by the F.D.A. An' ahm hopin' yer'd settle the case in double taime, yer honor. Ah've gotta be gettin' home ta make baibies wit' mah wyfe.'

I've always thought the best lawyers are Southern anyway, coz you tend to underestimate them and their 'Ah have a Southern drawl so ah must bey from hick country.' You don't see them coming, and I don't mean in the metaphorical porno sense.

I gather Keanu shouldn't do accents anyway, whether he's gotten them proper or not, by virtue of simply being Keanu Reeves. No matter what he does, no matter how good he is (he was stupefying in Chain Reaction but he's darned good in Devil's Advocate), he's going to get criticized anyway. And I have a message for Keanu: 'Yer cain't win 'em all, kid. Yer cain't be good-lookin' an' famous an' rich an' sweet-tempered without someun' findin' fault with yer, some'ow. So jus' plug in there an' laugh yer way ta the bank, that'll learn 'em.'

Now I'm looking forward to Arnold Schwarzenegger playing an English butler next fall. I've got the fallout shelter all planned, right down to the earmuffs.




Article Focus:

Devil's Advocate, The

Tagged:

Devil's Advocate, The , Bram Stoker's Dracula , Speed , Point Break , Little Buddha , Hamlet , Chain Reaction



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