A frequent topic of conversation in the Arts corner of The Heights office is, obviously, entertainment. When the conversation turned to Jake Gyllenhal earlier this week, my fellow editor asked an interesting question, that I wonder if the actor has ever asked himself: “Do you think Jake Gyllenhal is ever going to make it big in Hollywood?”
It got me thinking about what it means to “make it big” these days. More often than not, the actors who garner critical acclaim star in small budget indie flicks. Gyllenhal himself found himself Golden Globe-nominated for his role in the somewhat moderately budgeted Love and Other Drugs, a widely ignored movie that definitely deserved more acclaim. His tart and assertive Jamie carried the movie, sweeping it up from a disappointingly melodramatic turn by Anne Hathaway.
As Dastan in the atrociously boring (and what a waste of an opportunity it was!) Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Gyllenhal assertively attempted to stick his foot in the mainstream Hollywood world. This was his not-so-subtle attempt to announce to the world that he could hoist a major franchise onto his shoulders. It flopped in more ways than one. Critically panned, Persia featured Gyllenhal clumsily fumbling with an accent equal part British and Egyptian. Any sense of panache he had formerly brought to his roles was thrown out the window.
If Persia proved anything at all, it’s that Hollywood should back off adaptations of video games and try something more original. Its failure shouldn’t deter Gyllenhal’s pursuit of Hollywood glory—he seems almost perfectly suited for a Jason Bourne-type role, and the comedic chops that he so gracefully showed off in Drugs could come in handy in the future.
The actor must want to try it one more time, as evidenced by the promotions running on TV for the upcoming Source Code, an action thriller that looks to be equal parts The Taking of Pelham 12 3 and Deja Vu. With no gooey accent to bog him down, could the man who was Donnie Darko actually make a go at the big leagues?
Perhaps Gyllenhal would be content skirting under the public’s radar like his sister Maggie, a formidable talent who’s work in film and on Broadway is highly commendable. My first introduction to the lovely lady Gyllenhal was in 2001’s Riding in Cars with Boys, a movie I was far too young to be seeing at the time but did so anyway because much of it had been filmed in a neighboring town. The plot was soggy and trifling, but M. Gyllenhal’s brief moments on screen stick out in my head. She brought a brusque yet affable glimmer of light to the film.
Making a splash in 2006, Maggie Gyllenhal commandeered the screen in every scene of Stranger Than Fiction, a movie that was too smart for its own good. Will Ferrell starred as a mild-mannered accountant whose life was narrated by a British author who was simultaneously writing a novel about him (yeah, it got all sorts of Inception crazy before that mind-bending business was even cool), but Gyllenhal walked away with the street cred. Later that year, she lent her voice to the similarly quiet Monster House, a really lovely flick that brightened up an otherwise dull movie going summer. Last year, she was nominated for an Oscar for her subtly devastating performance in Crazy Heart.
Here’s the thing: I like Maggie exactly where she is. When she dropped into The Dark Knight, I was OK with it because her part allowed her to show off exactly what makes her so fascinating. Jake, on the other hand, would do well to conquer Hollywood. Brad Pitt seems to have quietly bowed out of the game, leaving his spot wide empty for the taking. Get in there, Gyllenhal, or else we might have to deal with seven more years of Taylor Lautner.