Last week, Variety
reported that music legend Bob Dylan is in talks to
appear in a film tentatively titled "Masked and Anonymous."
Dylan would star as Jack Fate, "a wandering troubadour
who is brought out of prison by his former manager for
one last concert."
Dylan won an Oscar for
best original song last year ("Things Have Changed" from
the film Wonder Boys), and perhaps he, like many,
has realized that you just cant DO a whole lot with
just one Oscar. You cant make Oscar bookends. You
cant fashion Oscar numchuks. And you certainly cant
modify them into Oscar salt and pepper shakers. Yep, having
one Oscar is almost a slap in the face, a big, golden
sign of a promising thespian future that you never lived
To get a taste of what
Bob the actor may offer us at the ripe age of 60, it might
help to look back at his last starring role: aging rocker
Billy Parker in 1987s Hearts of Fire. Hearts
of Fire is not a good movie, and Bob is not good in
it. Yet, its fascinating just to see the old boy
puttering around up there on screen, whether he be scratching
his face or giving you one of those patented "Im
looking at you but Im thinking of something that
happened to me 17 years ago" Bob Dylan looks. Either way,
its Bob Dylan, man, and its worth a second
Rock star Fiona (remember
her long, kick-ass career?) plays Molly McGuire, a small-town
Pennsylvania girl who sings in a cover band at a bar (OK,
a SEEDY bar). She meets rock legend Bob (his character
name is Billy but lets just call him Bob), who hires
her to play guitar in a show hes playing in England.
While theyre there, Fiona/Molly impresses British
rock idol James Colt (Rupert Everett), who takes her under
his wing and elevates her to super-stardom. Something
ensues, although Im not sure what.
acting style could be described as "naturalistic." Another
possible way to describe it would be "Acting style? What
acting style?" His stumbling, dodgy-eyed screen presence
combines the geeky, "Hee-hee, Ive lost my mind"
stylings of Crispin Glover with the menopausal, maternal
presence of "Golden Girl" Bea Arthur.
Whether the script calls
for "Thoughtful Bob," "Tender Bob," or "Downright Angry
Bob," Bobs got a one-size-fits-all expression that
caters to them all. Basically, what he does is look at
the other actor (sort of), say his lines (sort of), while
the entire time (and heres the genius part) kind
of glancing off into the distance as if watching another,
much better movie. On an emotional scale of 1 to 10, Bob
thoughtfully keeps it down to an energy-conserving 2 or
3. During a scene where Bob tears apart his hotel room
and tosses all of his furniture out the window in a blind
rage, Bobs face tells a somewhat different story,
something like "Boy, a pickle would be tasty right about
At least you cant
accuse him of trying to nab the spotlight from his fellow
actors. Unfortunately, Fiona also graduated from the musicians
school of acting, a program that apparently encourages
lots of mumbling and a general lack of enthusiasm. As
the films "bubbly, 18 year-old go-getter," Fiona
is supposed to be out-of-her-mind giddy when she meets
her idol, James Colt. But her face tells a somewhat different
story, something like, "Boy, I sure like the color brown.
It sure is a nice, brown color."
Between Rupert Everetts
thick English accent, Fionas mumbling, and Bobs
nasal buzzing, entire scenes pass by like this:
RUPERT: Snotsa bloody hell,
BOB: Ebba-webba weeza.
FIONA: Mubba bubba muzza!
BOB: (with finality) Eeeza
Thankfully, these bewildering
exchanges are kept short in order to make room for the
numerous concert scenes in which Fiona trades her Springsteen-ette
image in for leg warmers, ruffled sleeves, and bangs that
just wont quit. Meanwhile, Dylan stumbles around
the stage like hes drunk and even stage dives, all
the while looking like hes thinking, "I hope they
dont put mayonnaise on my sandwich again today."
Eventually, the story focuses
on the budding love affair between Fiona and Rupert. But
Bob keeps on popping up out of the woodwork like a scary
leprechaun or make-believe friend, spouting puzzling philosophic
gems like "You like stars? Those stars in the skies are
dead and a million miles away" and "I used to be the Pied
Piper; my pockets used to be full of gold."
Because of Bobs reputation
as, lets face it, THE MAN, hes in constant
danger of being cast as a wizened old bad-ass. But Bobs
never really been a bad-ass. His on-screen personality
is more like an awkward 13 year-old whos really
smart and knows the answer to the teachers question,
yet is too embarrassed to say it. His face twitches uncomfortably
while reciting lines and he tugs at his sleeves like a
nervous 6th grade girl.
To confuse matters more,
director Richard Marquand (Jagged Edge, Return
of the Jedi) skates uncomfortably around the concept
of the 47-year-old Bob as a leading man/sex object. Is
he? Isnt he? His relationship with Fiona is mostly
paternal, but theres plenty of weirdly sexual scenes
of Fiona in her underwear while Bob looks at her blandly,
perhaps longing to ravish her, or perhaps simply wondering,
"Will they ever solve the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster?
Man, Im hungry."
Its fascinating to
watch Bob in Hearts of Fire for the same reason
it would be fascinating to watch your dad star opposite
Julia Roberts he simply DOESNT BELONG THERE.
The best part of the filmthe musicis unfortunately
negligible by Bob Dylan standards and is gummed up with
too many Fiona tunes that sound as if they belong on the
Rocky III soundtrack.
Hearts of Fire suffered
a disastrous three-week UK release in 1987; subsequently,
Lorimar Pictures abandoned its US release, and distributed
the picture on video some three years later.
Still, theres hope
for Bobs "Masked and Anonymous" project. Does anyone
remember Bobs performance during last years
Academy Awards ceremony, beamed in via satellite and shot
in an unsettling, extreme close-up of Bobs pasty,
unblinking face? It was what performance viewers called
"chilling" and "really scary," and was eerily reminiscent
of the late Vincent Price. And if our Bob can be that
startling on prime-time live TV, who knows what hes
capable of on the big screen.