Sunday, August 30, 2009

jack nicholson tribute: CARNAL KNOWLEDGE (1971)

Jonathan Fuerst in Carnal Knowledge (1971)
Continuing the current spree of Nicholson flicks in which he plays a womanizing low-life, I give you Carnal Knowledge. Fuerst is after nothing more than, as he so eloquently puts it, tits. And in an effort to combat the character's giant fear of commitment, the screenwriter saw fit to parallel Fuerst's character with love-seeking college roommate Sandy (played with a surprising nuance by a young -- and Golden Globe-nominated -- Art Garfunkel). And while it's difficult to watch the characters' downward spirals (Ann-Margret's saddening performance as Nicholson's over-looked lover Bobbie garnered one of her two Oscar nominations), Nicholson gives us another intriguing character to watch.

Sure, Jonathan's a hateful excuse for a human being, but what results from his maintaining of his "sex now, questions later" philosophy on life is a sometimes repulsive life lesson. Though Ann-Margret's chest may keep you interested for a few months, true satisfaction will be ever out of reach. Now, this one wasn't one of Jack's many Academy Award-nominated efforts, but he managed a nod at the Globes, and I think I understand why.

As seen by his performances in Chinatown and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Nicholson's role in the '70s was to take less-than-perfect characters and portray them in a way that makes him difficult to despise, no matter how hard he tries. In Carnal Knowledge, though he's clearly usurping on his friend's territory, a part of you thinks he has a right to see his roommate's girlfriend (Candice Bergen) on the sly. And judging by their more electric connection, she didn't seem to mind at all. But like other Mike Nichols efforts (see Closer), no one ends up truly happy, and Jack seems the most unfulfilled of them all. Life lesson -- don't make Ann-Margret unhappy.

Jack's Performance: B
The Film: B-

No comments: