Jack Nicholson closed out the 1970s with three of his most confused performances in “The Missouri Breaks” (opposite Marlon Brando), “The Last Tycoon” and “Goin’ South” (which he also directed, though with less enthusiasm than he brought). ). to “Drive, he said he”). He rebounded throughout as deranged author Jack Torrance in Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” but this role is also Jack’s coding. It’s a great movie, and Nicholson delves into the psychosis of an auteur’s block, but he’s bragging most of the time.
This is the Jack from “The Witches of Eastwick”, “Batman”, “A Few Good Men”, “Wolf”, “Mars Attacks”. and “The Departed,” but no one has sailed more gracefully. Whether he was looking for a bankable star to play the Devil, the Joker, or the President of the United States, his list began and ended with Jack Nicholson, and he delivered with interest. You couldn’t wait to hear the next flashy performance from him (and he made the studios pay handsomely for our pleasure).
This is where some actors drop out and collect their paychecks (see Robert De Niro in the 2000s), but Nicholson remained committed. He’s terrific as Eugene O’Neill in “Reds” and makes “Terms of Endearment” shine as fun-loving astronaut Garrett Breedlove. He’s on fire with his real-life lover, Angelica Huston, in “Prizzi’s Honor,” and he’s a true womanizing cad opposite Meryl Streep in “Heartburn.” Nicholson’s performance as a battered retiree in “About Schmidt” earned him praise and an Academy Award nomination, but he was far more impressive as a driven detective in “The Pledge.”
If Nicholson’s turn as an imprisoned executive in James L. Brooks’ underrated “How Do You Know” is your send-off, it’s a great one. But to understand the essence of Jack, only one movie will suffice.
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