For a few minutes there, I was about to make a huge mistake contemplating Mark Rylance’s performance in The clothe: I was about to compare him to another actor. It was, I believe, quite a glowing comparison, inasmuch as the East End Rylance adopts for The clothe made me think of Michael Caine and the coiled intelligence that Caine keeps behind his eyes. But eventually it occurred to me that Rylance really is an original, an actor who disappears so effectively inside the characters he had been working steadily for 30 years before he was “discovered” in his Oscar-winning film. . bridge of spies performance. Even the otherwise unbearable Don’t look up couldn’t dampen Rylance’s ability to bring something utterly singular to the screen.
What American audiences generally didn’t get to see, however, was what Rylance could bring to the table when, rather than being part of the supporting cast, he had to carry a movie. This is the opportunity The clothe gives it to him, and it makes me wish he had had a lot more opportunities like this. This catchy little chamber piece of a thriller drama has a lot going for it, but gets its biggest kick from watching Rylance build character complexity over his lifetime.
In a story set in Chicago in 1956, Rylance plays Leonard Burling, a post-WWII British immigrant who runs a boutique of fine tailored men’s suits. Thanks to Burling’s friendship with local crime boss Roy Boyle (Simon Russell Beale), this shop also became a cash drop-off point for Boyle’s operation – and possibly communication of a Secret “Underworld United Nations Organization” called The Outfit. When Boyle’s son, Richie (Dylan O’Brien) is injured in a shootout with a rival gang, Boyle’s chief lieutenant, Francis (Johnny Flynn), brings Richie to Burling’s shop to hide, sparking a tense night of suspicion and violence around the possibility that an informant in Boyle’s operation tipped off the rival.
Co-writer/director Graham Moore—the Oscar-winning actor The imitation game screenwriter, making his feature filmmaking debut – places virtually the entire film within the confines of Burling’s boutique with only a handful of speaking parts, giving it the feel of a stage adaptation (which it isn’t). not). Moore takes full advantage of the idea that the whole universe of Burling is made up of his shop, and allows the confines of the small rooms to build the physical and intellectual clashes between the characters, while the prowling score by Alexandre Desplat punctuates the meaning of consequence at all the right times. .
The clothe is also quite effective writing for something that ultimately takes on the twists and turns of a double/triple/quad crossover heist thriller. Moore and co-writer Johnathan McClain must establish multiple relationships: the conflict between Richie and Francis; Burling’s paternal affection for his secretary, Mable (Zoey Deutch); the respect Boyle has for Burling – in a fairly short period of time, and they do it remarkably well. Although performances are rare, the characters all register as separate individuals, right down to Boyle’s mountain bodyguard who laments that he’s “not good at puzzles”.
Above all, though, it’s a wonderful showcase for everything that makes Mark Rylance such a great actor. Although Moore alludes to a tragic history for Burling – with nightmarish flashbacks to a fire, for example – Rylance builds the character through his reactions to threatening situations that emerge during that fateful evening. Although the structure may have made Burling feel more like a man of reaction than a man of action, every eye movement and off-the-cuff apology from Burling makes it clear that the action is going on in his head as he figure out how to keep. (and Mable) alive. It’s the screen acting at its best: restrained, magnetic and filled with an inner life that only gradually bubbles to the surface.
On time, The clotheThe various reveals veer into refrigerator logic territory that doesn’t entirely stand up to thought (although a late character appearance subverts expectations brilliantly). But despite the gangster backdrop and the effective creation of moments where lives hang in the balance, it’s not primarily an exercise in genre. It’s a character piece – and when Mark Rylance plays that character, you realize you’re dealing with someone who deserves to have other actors over him.