Amanda Mae Meyncke May 26, 2010
I’ve noticed that there’s no good way to talk about Jake Gyllenhaal without sounding like a lecherous old broad. It’s as if he was manufactured in some factory where I dream good things and then they happen. But not only is he easy on the eyes, the man can act, too. With the new Prince of Persia coming out Friday, I sat back and reflected on the top five Jake Gyllenhaal roles to date.
5. Nailed (2010)
OK, this movie hasn’t quite come out yet, but I think it’s going to be amazing. Jessica Biel plays a young woman who gets a nail lodged in her head and travels to Washington, D.C., where she meets a handsome young senator, “our man in D.C.” Jake Gyllenhaal. Man, romantic comedies, I don’t think he’s done very many of these. In fact, it’s kind of hard to trace any kind of continuity through his roles. Blockbusters and independents are side by side on his resume, and he’s obviously very selective about his work — he’s been in only about 25 films so far. So here’s the plan: first the rom-com, and then a musical, and then some sort of eco-friendly documentary about a trendy issue. Make it happen, Gyllenhaal.
4. October Sky (1999)
Gyllenhaal’s 1999 breakout role as a young coal miner in the late ’50s, adorably named Homer, who dreams of a better life working for NASA. I remember a lot of hokey accents and rockets being fired off and a bitter father (Chris Cooper, who plays an excellent angry father, see also: Remember Me) trying to squelch the dreams of young boys. Homer teams up with other boys from the town to build rockets, and eventually has a shot at a scholarship that will take him far from the rural mining town. 1999 was an exceptional year for movies, and October Sky is a fine example. I remember seeing this film maybe a year after it came out and being totally enthralled with the tantalizing combination of Gyllenhaal and rocketry.
3. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
One major component of this selection is cultural relevance. In 2005 Brokeback Mountain was an important cinematic event, and one that was wildly controversial. Everyone knows the plot: two cowboy sheepherders find themselves drawn together, eventually entering into a relationship. Looking back it’s strange to think how long ago that seems, how polarizing the film was between those who felt it a major step in the search for gay acceptance, and those who felt it to be propaganda for a lifestyle they did not condone. Heath Ledger was at the top of his game, and the setting and tone of the film are gorgeous. The film has very little talking at times, putting most of the burden of acting on Ledger and Gyllenhaal, and Gyllenhaal deftly brings out nuances of his difficult character.
2. Proof (2005)
You probably didn’t see this movie, but you should have. All of a sudden mathematics became so exciting … and attractive. Featuring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins, Proof tells the tale of the daughter of a prominent mathematician who comes up with an astonishing mathematical proof. Her love interest, fellow mathematician Gyllenhaal, makes a valiant effort to help her out of her depression, all the while trying to uncover the truth regarding authorship of the proof. Charming and idealistic, but believably nerdy.
1. Donnie Darko (2001)
People either love it, hate it, or don’t bother to take the time to understand what’s even happening. This movie will exist forever as one of the most haunting and eerie films that played a large role in the popular culture of a generation. Richard Kelly hasn’t had the best of luck with his other films, but this story is different. Gyllenhaal is Darko, a gloomy and troubled teen who has trouble at home, trouble with school, and trouble with a menacing giant rabbit who warns of the end of the world. In other words, typical teenager stuff. Part homegrown superhero flick, part complicated mind-melter of a film, Donnie Darko has some of the best music, acting, and visuals ever put to film for an independent. The sequence of children arriving at school in slow motion, set to the Tears for Fears song “Head over Heels,” may be one of the top 10 perfect film sequences of all time. The fact that it was shot for $4 million and in a span of 28 days just increases the magnitude of the project. The supporting cast (Jena Malone; his sister, Maggie Gyllenhaal; Drew Barrymore; Patrick Swayze) and strange little side plots, including a girl’s dancing team called Sparkle Motion and the possibility of alternate universes, make this a film that’s a delight to watch over and over.
Luckily, he’s only 29; we have many more golden years ahead of us.
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