Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
The Availability Gap: What We Lose When Netflix Wins The Availability Gap: What We Lose When Netflix Wins Mysteries of Laura Review: Debra Messing on NBC Mysteries of Laura Review: Debra Messing on NBC Daily Reads: The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made, The Last Blockbuster Video Stores and More Daily Reads: The 50 Worst Movies Ever Made, The Last Blockbuster Video Stores and More New York Times TV Critic Writes Article About 'Scandal' Creator Shonda Rhimes as an 'Angry Black Woman' New York Times TV Critic Writes Article About 'Scandal' Creator Shonda Rhimes as an 'Angry Black Woman' Comparing Lena Dunham to Woody Allen Is Unfair — to Lena Dunham Comparing Lena Dunham to Woody Allen Is Unfair — to Lena Dunham 'No Good Deed' Reviews: And the Twist Is That It's Good! (Not Really) 'No Good Deed' Reviews: And the Twist Is That It's Good! (Not Really) Now Streaming: 'Silver Linings Playbook,' 'Beginners' on Netflix Now Streaming: 'Silver Linings Playbook,' 'Beginners' on Netflix 'Ocean's Twelve' Is a Great Sequel About How Hard It Is to Make a Great Sequel 'Ocean's Twelve' Is a Great Sequel About How Hard It Is to Make a Great Sequel Why the Unanimous Praise for 'Boyhood' Is Bad for Film Criticism — and for 'Boyhood' Why the Unanimous Praise for 'Boyhood' Is Bad for Film Criticism — and for 'Boyhood' 'A Walk Among the Tombstones' Reviews: A Liam Neeson Movie Worthy of Liam Neeson 'A Walk Among the Tombstones' Reviews: A Liam Neeson Movie Worthy of Liam Neeson Studio Cancels All Screenings of 'No Good Deed' to Preserve Shocking Twist That It's Probably Terrible Studio Cancels All Screenings of 'No Good Deed' to Preserve Shocking Twist That It's Probably Terrible Daily Reads: Alison Bechdel Likes Non-Bechdel Test Passing Movies, Terry Gilliam's Influence and More Daily Reads: Alison Bechdel Likes Non-Bechdel Test Passing Movies, Terry Gilliam's Influence and More 'Transparent' Reviews: Amazon's New Series Is a Game-Changer 'Transparent' Reviews: Amazon's New Series Is a Game-Changer David Lynch on 'Eraserhead,' Women in the TV Industry David Lynch on 'Eraserhead,' Women in the TV Industry Criticwire Classic of the Week: Werner Herzog's 'Aguirre, the Wrath of God' Criticwire Classic of the Week: Werner Herzog's 'Aguirre, the Wrath of God' 'The Expendables 3' Torrent and the Techno-Utopian Delusion 'The Expendables 3' Torrent and the Techno-Utopian Delusion Newspaper Graciously Offers to Run Aspiring Film Critics' Work Without Charging Them Newspaper Graciously Offers to Run Aspiring Film Critics' Work Without Charging Them 'While We're Young': Noah Baumbach's Xer-Millennial Comedy Ponders the Difference Between Sharing People's Lives and Stealing Them 'While We're Young': Noah Baumbach's Xer-Millennial Comedy Ponders the Difference Between Sharing People's Lives and Stealing Them Daily Reads: Why Toronto Is the Best Place for Female Filmmakers, In Praise of Fincher's Women and More Daily Reads: Why Toronto Is the Best Place for Female Filmmakers, In Praise of Fincher's Women and More The Scrambled Sexuality of 'Frozen's "Let It Go" The Scrambled Sexuality of 'Frozen's "Let It Go"

Toby Jones, Household Face

Criticwire By Michael Nordine | Criticwire August 7, 2012 at 1:28PM

You might not know Toby Jones' name but you might recognize his face -- and you surely love his work.
0

"Berberian Sound Studio."
"Berberian Sound Studio."
Toby Jones is far from a household name -- but he might be a household face. Since the start of last year alone he's appeared in "Captain America," "My Week with Marilyn," 'The Adventures of Tintin," "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," "The Hunger Games," and "Snow White and the Huntsman." Now, with Peter Strickland's "Berberian Sound Studio" -- the most acclaimed world premiere at the Edinburgh Film Festival, and an early favorite here at Locarno – he arguably has his most high-profile leading role to date. The film finds him playing Gilderoy, a sound mixer hired to work on an Italian horror film in the '70s, with no shortage of giallo-inspired oddity and intrigue throughout.

You've seen this trajectory before: Paul Giamatti completed his transition from character actor to leading man in "Sideways," Richard Jenkins made the move in "The Visitor," and Philip Seymour Hoffman did it with "Capote" (if the P-Hoff similarities weren't already strong enough, Jones starred in the other Capote biopic, "Infamous"). The latter two received Oscar nods for their respective roles, but one doesn't expect Jones to receive his own thrust into the spotlight, even in the wake of his exceptional turn in "Berberbian." There's something about his gestural approach and the way he disappears into roles that doesn't quite feel conducive to star-making -- which isn't intended as an insult. Jones comes across as an actor's actor, a veteran of both screen and stage, who lets his work speak for itself.

Ironic then, or maybe not, that his performance in "Berberian" is so quietly expressive. Explaining his conception of the role at a Locarno press conference, Jones said that “the challenge with this character is this contrast between an English character and the Italian characters” around him, the latter being far more verbal. In one scene, he pushes himself to near-breaking point by screaming at the people around him; he's so shaken by the act that he's nearly moved to tears. “This is a character who lives purely by what he hears and what he sees. Speaking is not a top activity for him,” Jones added.

Gilderoy's unassuming demeanor as eternal observer is exactly what makes Jones so well-suited to play him. Though he didn't come right out and say it, Jones seemed to agree: “It's rare to feel certain you want to do something,” he said of his initial read-through of the script. “When I was a student, this world of indie/art-house cinema, as it's caricatured, is the kind of film I went to see... it's not a question of choosing to do these; it's a compulsion to participate when they actually get made.”

Given the variety (and increasingly high number) of his projects, it might be fair to start thinking of Jones as his generation's Gary Oldman, another great household face of uniquely chameleonic skill. Unlike Oldman, though, Jones rarely plays psychopaths; his bread and butter is the government official or semi-authority figure -- suits and squares, more or less -- and his humble countenance lends itself to a deceptive calm. There's always something bubbling beneath the surface with Jones, particularly in "Berberian," but we're rarely privy to what that might be, a key reason he's so compelling to watch. “I spent a lot of time trying to unpack what happens to this character,” Jones said before comparing "Berberian"'s slow, uncomfortable plotting to a David Lynch film.

One would be hard-pressed to name another actor who's appeared in more high-profile films since the start of 2011, and yet Jones isn't a primary selling point in any of them. Talking more about "Berberian," he offered that “something almost mystical happens through this hearing... he's a quiet man who doesn't really have the vocabulary to express himself, so he expresses himself through action.” So does our new favorite household face.

Michael Nordine is part of Indiewire's Critics Academy at the Locarno Film Festival. His work has also appeared in Filmmaker Magazine, LA Weekly, and the Village Voice. Click here to read all of the Academy's work.

This article is related to: Locarno International Film Festival, Critics Academy


E-Mail Updates