Mar 7, 2010

The best of Johnny Depp: Don Juan de Marco

1. Don Juan de Marco
2. Pirates of the Caribbean
3. Edward Scissorhands
4. Ed Wood
5. Public Enemies
I don't like much of what Depp has done, particularly with Tim Burton; most of their collaborations have frayed into over-ironised indulgence, with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sleepy Hollow, and Sweeney Todd being the worst offenders. They can seem like two kids at the back of the class, giggling incessantly at their own jokes until forcibly separated. Edward Scissorhands is the only time they've really hit a lasting chord together, and that picture partly belongs to Diane Wiest's avon lady, calling at the Castle on the Hill with a perky sing-song: Avon calling! Depp has for a long time seemed to sport the kind of chip normally associated with golden age starlets: disdainful of moviestardom, in flight from his looks, frittering away opportunities with fiddly self-sabotage (I defy anyone to watch Benny and Joon and keep their supper down). I had almost given up on him when he hit gold with Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean. For once everything — the manenerisms, the props, the ersatz self styling — came together, allowing for one glorious, rich, drunken flight of fancy after another. It was the first comedy in which he was actually funny, and it seemed to satisfy something in him, loosen him up a little, allowing to resume leading man duties in films like Public Enemies, not a great film by any measure, but one resting solidly on Depp's shoulders. He has a wide protective streak (as the papparazi will testify) and fairly narrow range as an actor: in Gilbert Grape he appears locked in behind his cheekbones, and he plays repression perhaps too well in Sleepy Hollow. My favorite role of his is in Don Juan de Marco where he played a psychiatric patent who may or may not be the legendary Don Juan. He got to play it straight and deconstruct at the same time, in other words. The film has a beautiful, lilting sun-kissed rhythm that is extremely hard to come by and certainly to sustain. Everything takes its cue from Depp's performance, and its contagious certainty: soon everyone is rolling around making love on the lawn.


  1. What about his hilariously psychotic turn in "Once Upon a Time in Mexico"? His blind CIA gunfighter with tear-strains of blood is one of my favorite movie images from the '00s.