C'mon C'mon

C'mon C'mon ★★★★

Joaquin Phoenix is my favorite living actor. I must say "living," because the spot was previously occupied by the inimitable Philip Seymour Hoffman. It's perfect that the two of them got to collaborate on one of their greatest films, sharing the torch while they had the opportunity to do so, because they've always been quite similar as performers.

Neither has ever cowered at the challenge of plumbing humanity's most uncomfortable and most "embarrassing" depths. I must use quotation marks because the angry, depressive things I'm talking about are things we only think of as embarrassing. When we say we're embarrassed, that tends to mean we're vulnerable, and we don't want anyone to see it. Phoenix and Hoffman excel at bringing verisimilitude to vulnerability, at transforming themselves into avatars for it, leading to emotional avalanches like Caden Cotard and Freddie Quell, and to performances that mold cinematic icons out of genuine pain, like Truman Capote and Arthur Fleck. What Phoenix does in C'mon C'mon reminded me of Hoffman's work in Magnolia and in Almost Famous, leading with love instead of fear, full of compassion and encouragement for the people around him despite every fleetingly-addressed trauma the character has experienced.

I'm a big Mike Mills fan—thematically and otherwise, this one has something in common with each of his previous movies, not to mention the style (and my favorite musicians of all time) from I Am Easy to Find—and watching him zoom in so closely on one of our finest thespians means the world has been gifted another fashioned-in-the-stars pairing, just like when Phoenix and Hoffman went toe-to-toe.

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