Last night, Crushable was lucky enough to score a ticket to James Franco‘s latest indie endeavor, William Vincent, debuting at the Tribeca Film Festival. We hoped to snag a peek at the Columbia student, but since he was nowhere in sight, we settled in for the show. Writer/director Jay Anania (who was there) set the mood by explaining that the movie was based on the book In Praise of Shadows by Japanese author Junichiro Tanizaki.
And William Vincent was shadowy alright. Beyond the fact that every character and scene was masked in literal shadows — after the movie the director joked that the shoot was almost in total darkness — James’ title character was one sketchy dude. But while we were taking his violent and erratic loner behavior, the lack of dialogue, and William Vincent’s weird relationship with a mobster, his muscle and his prostitute, we had a feeling we had seen it all before. Was this not the furrowed brow that Harry Osborn labors under in the Spider-Man triology? Then it dawned on us, even when he’s playing comedic characters — as he does often in films like Pineapple Express, Date Night and even his short-lived cameo on 30 Rock — James Franco has that same empty stare, that same halting speech and the same raspy voice. The guy has a style.
That’s not to say James Franco doesn’t have range. He’s played real people — in James Dean, Milk and the upcoming Allen Ginsberg biopic Howl — and he’s been extremely busy while attending school and working on an upcoming short story collection, racking up credits on General Hospital and Eat, Pray, Love to name a few. But just because he’s busy doesn’t mean that every character he plays doesn’t have a certain Franco-ness. It’s sort of why you would go to see a James Franco movie — not sure what we were expecting. Maybe that James would try something different amid the indie movie’s shadows, without having to do so because he’s playing an actual person. Is that too much so ask?
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