2010 looks like being a good year for the unpretentious leading man
By Tim Robey to Telegraph.Co.Uk
From his first major role, as the feckless prodigal brother in You Can Count On Me (2000), Mark Ruffalo has had a unique presence on screen, exuding a combination of scruffy-sexy charisma and a kind of hunched, hangdog sincerity which can often disguise how much terrific acting he’s doing.
He hasn’t fought shy of challenging work with serious-minded filmmakers — as a brooding cop in Jane Campion’s In the Cut (2003), an Updikian adulterer in We Don’t Live Here Anymore (2004), the one good thing in Terry George’s Reservation Road (2007) as a devastated hit-and-run driver, and close to complete burn-out as the fatigued chief investigator in David Fincher’s Zodiac (2007).
But what’s specifically lovable about Ruffalo is his unpretentiousness. He’s been a gift at least twice to candy-coloured romcoms — the jolly 13 Going on 30 (2004), and the rather ickier Just Like Heaven (2005), because he stumbles in looking so completely rumpled and bemused.
When the vast majority of romantic leads have an air of arrogantly gym-buffed and groomed entitlement, of having earned their right to poster prominence, Ruffalo always looks as though he’s turned up on set by accident, often without taking the time to shave or put a comb through his hair.
Not even he can save the truly garish or misguided ones – he looks merely unfortunate in View from the Top (2003) and Rumor Has It (2005) — but in a genre that needs all the off-hand unpredictability it can get, he’s a godsend.
On the whole, this is a good year for Ruffalo fans, whether or not you found his function in Scorsese’s Shutter Island as disappointingly constricted as I did. He popped up in Date Night, though not for long. Never fear: his role in Lisa Cholodenko’s Sundance smash The Kids Are All Right, as the sperm donor to Annette Bening and Julianne Moore’s lesbian couple, must count as one of his most delightful ever, from the moment he’s seen nonchalantly trundling around an LA vegetable garden with a pallet of tomatoes.
Mark Ruffalo as a scruffy, bemused organic restaurateur bonding with his teenage progeny? I was sold.