Time: 122 Minutes
AWARDS: Won Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Harden). Nomination for Best Actor (Harris).
Harris brings the brilliance of abstract artist Jackson Pollock vibrantly to life in this no holds barred biopic. Rarely a likable man, Pollock was nevertheless a visionary who created a whole new type of art with his paintings. What Harris so wonderfully captures is the inner world of the artist, what inspires him to change his style and the demons that plague him throughout his life. Pollock's chronic alcoholism, unrestrained anger and intense self doubt (painting in the shadow of Picasso), threaten to derail his career on more than one occasion. If not for the love and support of his wife, fellow artist Lee Krasner (played brilliantly by Harden), he probably would have died unknown and penniless. As it is, he still dies tragically, but after receiving much acclaim. She's the one who initially discovers Pollock and brings him to the forefront of the art world. Their marriage is a constant struggle between success and failure filled with genuine love, raging passion and a desperate co-dependency that almost destroys them both.
In the midst of all the drama, we are actively engaged in the artist's private process, joyfully watching the birth of many of his most famous works. Though intensely quiet, these sequences of Pollock painting are breathtaking and energetic in a way most other pics about painters fail to capture. The cinematography in these scenes is both expansive and intimate, capturing the creative spark that makes a genius. The chaos that is so clearly banging around in his brain flows out of the paint can onto the canvas. It's genuinely mesmerizing. Krasner devotes her life to his work, much to the detriment of her own promising career, yet denies him the one thing he most desires a child. His instability as a human being is enough to give any woman pause, however, it's really her views of his work as his legacy that eventually drives an insurmountable wall between them. His constant need for love almost breaks her spirit, how could she place that burden on a child, or possibly care for them both?
Pollock's eventual decline back into alcoholism is as unavoidable as it is heart-breaking. Harris pulls no punches, taking our hero down a dark and ugly path that's hard to watch. It seems neither love nor success was enough to save him from himself. True artistic genius apparently comes at a very high price. Clearly, it takes great pain to create visions of beauty that speak to the world. How true this is to Pollock in real life is probably debatable, however, what Harris creates is a picture of the artist that will stay with you for quite a long time. This is a well-crafted and stunningly acted piece that deserves the attention it received.