Austin Film Festival Review: The Great Buck Howard

Score:B

Director:Sean McGinly

Cast:John Malkovich, Colin Hanks, Emily Blunt, Ricky Jay, Debra Monk

Running Time:87.00

Rated:PG

Having starred in such films as Orange County, Untraceable and The House Bunny, Colin Hanks is working hard to leave the shadow of his father, Oscar winner Tom Hanks. However, even with his commercial success, Colin has yet to give that big performance that will proclaim his talent to the world of cinema"¦until now.

Picking The Great Buck Howard, a film full of heart, soul and circumstance, Hanks gets the chance to break free of the mold, setting himself up for a long career in the 'family-business.' And though his performance isn't nearly as solid as it could have been; Hanks still delivers enough dramatic effect and emotion to give audiences a heavy peak at what this young star is capable of.

In the film, Hanks stars as Troy Gable, a law-school dropout who answers an ad for a "personal assistant to a celebrity performer." Hoping that the celebrity will be one to propel him into a high-paying career in the entertainment industry; Gable interviews for the job with high hopes. Little does he know that the so called ""celebrity performer" is actually Buck Howard, a 'mentalist' who is living his last minutes of fame, most of which was created through his 61 appearances on 'The Tonight Show.'

Though Hanks' character is easily the lead in the film, it is Buck Howard who serves as the story's central point of interest. Played by the often disrespected and underappreciated John Malkovich, Buck Howard carries a unique quality throughout the picture, a quality that sparks interest from your mind and a feeling of deep comfort from your soul. Howard's passion and fire help to combat his lack of talent; and though his title of "The Great" is a standing question amongst all those who truly know him, he is still a simple joy to watch.

And while Malkovich gives a complete performance as the supposed has-been, it is his work during the film's midsection that really forces you to sit up and pay attention.

In dire need of a comeback trick, Howard has been practicing day and night to perfect his road to glory. But when things go haywire during its first public showing, the emotional distress and anger that is exhibited sends a powerful message to those watching. But most notable is the way Malkovich is able to successfully show the anxiety and frustration as he relies on his body language more than his delivery or dialogue. It is a scary situation, one that took an immense amount of risk; but luckily, he pulls it off with little to no hiccup.

In addition to the two male leads, audiences are greeted with a pleasant and all too short performance by the irresistible Emily Blunt. Serving as the lone female in the film, Blunt carries a heavy weight of responsibility, not only to herself, but to her fans. Luckily, she delivers with a lighthearted, almost whimsical performance as Valerie Brennan, Howard's publicity representative.

But the film isn't all acting, in fact; a great deal of credit is owed to its writer, Sean McGinly. Created from one of the most unique ideas to hit theaters this year, the film stretches the imagination and presents a flourishing angle of a heartwarming story.

Ultimately, The Great Buck Howard is an acting school taught by John Malkovich. Capitalizing on every given opportunity, the veteran actor turns in an astonishing performance as the 'great' Buck Howard. And with a character of such raw emotion and pure heart; it is no wonder that that he delivers a knock-out performance; one that will have you smiling from ear to ear.

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About Stephen Davis

Stephen Davis
I owe this hobby/career to the one and only Stephanie Peterman who, while interning at Fox, told me that I had too many opinions and irrelevant information to keep it all bottled up inside. I survived my first rated R film, Alive, at the ripe age of 8, it took me months to grasp the fact that Julia Roberts actually died at the end of Steel Magnolias, and I might be the only person alive who actually enjoyed Sorority Row…for its comedic value of course. While my friends can drink you under the table, I can outwatch you when it comes iconic, yet horrid 80s films like Adventures in Babysitting and Troop Beverly Hills. I have no shame when it comes to what I like, and if you have a problem with that, then we’ll settle it on the racquetball court. I see too many movies to actually win any film trivia contest, so don’t waste your first pick on me. My friends rent movies from my bookcase shelves, and one day I do plan to start charging. I long to live in LA, where my movie obsession will actually help me fit in, but for now I am content with my home in Austin. I prefer indies to blockbusters, Longhorns to Sooners and Halloween to Friday the 13th. I miss the classics, as well as John Ritter, and I hope to one day sit down and interview the amazing Kate Winslet.

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