The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Jeff Goldblum
Jeff Goldblum was always a little ahead of his time. Nowadays, the “nerd” hero is all the rage. That was not necessarily so forty years ago when Goldblum started his career. Despite his unconventional vibe, Goldblum carved out a real niche for himself as a kind of alpha smart-guy hero. He’s the kind of star who looks equally at home in a lab coat, romancing the beautiful Geena Davis, running from dinosaurs or fighting aliens with mad computer skills. That’s not necessarily the easiest range to exhibit, but Goldblum always made it look easy, establishing a truly unique screen persona that’s made him one of the most easily identifiable, cult-like guys out there.
What’s really cool about Goldblum’s filmography is that you can see how for the first decade or so of his screen career, Hollywood didn’t quite know what to do with him. He actually made his debut in a really atypical way, with the usually personable Goldblum playing “freak #1” in DEATH WISH. He’s the ringleader of the main thugs who attack Charles Bronson’s family, giving him the titular “Death Wish.” From there, Goldblum eased into character parts in a couple of great Philip Kauffman movies, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and THE RIGHT STUFF, before really making a mark as part of the main ensemble in THE BIG CHILL. This gave him a big boost, but outside of his amazing star-turn in David Cronenberg’s THE FLY, Goldblum’s career was hit and miss until he got the call from Steven Spielberg to be in JURASSIC PARK, where his Ian Malcolm stole the show from the dinosaurs to such an extent that when the sequel rolled around his supporting player suddenly became the lead (although Malcolm lost something when they turned him into a more conventional hero).
Goldblum’s performance in INDEPENDENCE DAY shouldn’t be overlooked either. While Will Smith was the one who became a megastar, third-billed Goldblum gave the movie the everyman hero the film is remembered for now and appropriately enough he’s coming back for the much-anticipated sequel. Truly, Goldblum’s one of those iconic Hollywood character actors and even when his parts are small (like in Wes Anderson movies) he always makes a huge impression on the audience - to the extent that many of us are terribly disappointed he's not back for JURASSIC WORLD (barring a cameo). Sigh, oh well.
While some of you might be expecting me to list JURASSIC PARK, I can’t - in all good conscience – not put in THE FLY as both Goldblum’s best film and performance. David Cronenberg’s remake (produced by Mel Brooks!) of the old-timey horror flick is the perfect example of a remake done right – in that it’s barely one at all. Rather, Cronenberg and his writers turned the old “man-becomes-fly” gimmick into a kind of gothic romance. Goldblum’s chemistry with one-time wife Geena Davis is white-hot, but it’s his gradual decline that gives the film its pathos. Once Seth Brundle starts his torturous transformation into the hideous Brundlefly it’s hard not to sympathize with him, even as he’s using digestive enzymes to burn off John Getz’s limbs. Horror movies don’t typically scare me, but Cronenberg – with his emphasis on body horror – has always been the exception that that rule. Goldblum’s performance is so good that it’s a crime he didn’t cop an Oscar nomination, no doubt due to the way the Academy’s always regarded horror.
One of Goldblum’s best – but most under seen – movies is John Landis’ INTO THE NIGHT. A madcap romantic comedy/thriller, INTO THE NIGHT stars Goldblum as an insomniac who crosses paths with a beautiful con-woman (a young Michelle Pfeiffer) and winds up being chased through Los Angeles by all manner of hit-men (including David Bowie), crooked cops, gangsters and more. It’s a fast-paced flick and tons of fun, with dynamite chemistry between the two leads.
I know THE LOST WORLD has its fans, but I’m not one of them. While a reasonably entertaining popcorn movie, it’s far (FAR) from the classic JURASSIC PARK was. It’s one of the worst Spielberg movies ever made and it feels like everyone involved only did it for the paycheck. What’s worse is how Goldblum’s Malcolm is made into an ultra-generic hero, to the extent that he’s turned into a family man, something the swaggering mathematician from the first film certainly never seemed like. Heck, they didn’t even let Malcolm wear his cool transition glasses and leather jacket!
JURASSIC PARK is full of memorable scenes, but arguably the best bit belongs to Goldblum as he lectures Hammond (Richard Attenborough) on the short-sightedness of trying to genetically control living organisms, warning him that “life finds a way.” Obviously, Malcolm is proven right.
1. THE FLY
Goldblum’s busy as ever, with a starring role in the upcoming INDEPENDENCE DAY sequel. Hopefully he’ll continue to pop up on shows like Portlandia and Inside Amy Schumer, and who knows? If JURASSIC WORLD is a hit maybe we’ll get another Malcolm-centric sequel (preferably one that hems closer to his characterization in the first film).
CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...