Innovative and tormented artist Jackson Pollock gets the big-screen treatment in this methodical debut feature by Academy Award flirt Ed Harris.
Introducing radical elements such as abstract, non-perspective action painting and abandonment of traditional easel painting, Jackson Pollock wowed the post-WWII art world to become the most famous artist in America via an influential Life magazine article. A social recluse and abusive drinker, Pollock's life from 1941-1956 is depicted, from the strange courtship with his artist wife Lee Krasner (Marcia Gay Harden) and sponsorship by socialite Peggy Guggenheim (Amy Madigan) to the after-effects of the article that catapulted him from struggling artist to American icon. Grappling with alcoholism and rage, the need to express himself, please his critics and placate his inner demons, Pollock alienates all who love him and ultimately succumbs to his own self-destructive nature.
Harris is believable as the volatile, taciturn and socially awkward Pollock, especially in the moments when he is creating. Flicking and splattering paint with broad and meticulous strokes, he realizes believable Pollock recreations before our very eyes with convincing naturalism. As Pollock's long suffering wife, Harden performs patience, detachment and angry outbursts like a pro, but paints herself to be much less of a dragon lady than the real-life Krasner supposedly was. In supporting roles, Amy Madigan (Harris' wife) stands out as the visionary but self-righteous Guggenheim.
Directing with an experienced hand and a keen eye, Harris' slow, plodding style requires tremendous patience from the audience. Attempting to cover a large canvas of 15 years, he only touches on key evolutions and transitions in Pollock's life, choosing to focus more on the silent, introspective moments to reinforce a bleak atmosphere. While successfully immersing the camera into the literal artistic process, Harris' fatal flaw is his failure to address the source of Pollock's anger and establish some of his more important relationships, such as the artistic rivalry with Willem DeKooning (Val Kilmer in a miniscule role) and the introduction to Ruth Kligman (Jennifer Connelly, perfunctory eye candy), a distraction whose love would tear him apart.
Reflecting the same despair and abstract confusion as the art he created, ''Pollock'' will ultimately fail to win over the average Joe.