Nic Cage was incandescent in “Moonstruck.” Then something happened. The bad film choices, the bad life choices and, we cannot fail to note, the eccentric fudgesicle stories all sort of overtook what was once a very promising and serious film career. Let me put it this way: no one would question whether or not Meryl Streep or, say, Daniel Day-Louis was a vampire. I’m just saying that there might be a gravitas deficit with Nic Cage.
It may be too late for Cage to break out of this negative turn, but it is not too late for Johnny Depp. Cage and Depp have had not dissimilar careers, though Depp’s is, at the moment, far hotter. No one begrudges Johnny Depp for taking “the stupid money” — rumored to be over $300 million for playing Jack Sparrow — if that is what is being put on the table. He has kids — we get that; private school tuition — we get that.
But no one is forcing Depp to take the stupid roles that he has agreed to of late along with those piles of stupid money. That’s the problem.
Johnny Depp’s quirky characters charmed us in the beginning. But quirky lines, particularly when delivered in a faux British accent, eventually becomes cloying after a while. And it has been a while since Depp has really challenged himself and his audience on a role that didn’t rest on its quirky laurels.
Johnny Depp is an immensely talented, good looking actor, one of the few top box office earners in a decidedly post A-list digitally more democratic age. He doesn’t need to be doing quirky for the sake of quirky. That gets old and, further, even quirky roles lose their indie cred if repeated ad nauseum. Depp needs to bring his earning power and his audience along with him to more challenging work. We want Johnny to take our relationship with his work to the next level. Johnny Depp is so damn talented he could probably convince an audience to suspend their disbelief as he convincingly portrays a Rwandan woman. You know he could do it; you just know he could.
What has Depp to lose? Johnny may fail spectacularly in moving away from his signature eccentric niche, his comfort zone, that which has won him and the suits a fortune. That’s a risky proposition in a risk-averse town, turning 180-degrees. But Depp has earned the right veer radically left. Johnny Depp needs to too spend some of that well-earned Hollywood capital, and do it soon because his career, IMHO, is smelling kind of Nic Cage-y.
Risk is what makes the world turn. Risk — think off-Broadway, nightly — is what makes acting exciting. Taking risks is what we have come to expect of true independent spirits, of working without a net. And it is pretty damn difficult to use the term “independent spirit” in the company of a vehicle as soulless as “Pirates of the Carribean, 4.” Just saying.