Following a father and son on a road trip across America, An Actor Prepares takes this standard cinematic template and uses it to explore the dynamic of two very different men at very different points in their lives.
Jeremy Irons plays Atticus Smith, an aging actor and lothario who indulges himself in worldly pleasures, while Jack Huston plays his aggravated son, a self-professed feminist in a long-term relationship. When these two opposite ideologies come crashing together, the film offers brilliant dialogue and tension as they verbally wrestle with one another and try to find some common ground to fix their broken relationship. While they can come across as caricatures at certain moments, the film thankfully shows the pros and cons of both men’s views and works towards a compromise. Their radical opinions are never really changed yet each protagonist learns to live with the others choices, offering a very humanist view on family and politics.
With Irons playing an exaggerated version of himself, An Actor Prepares feels like a perfect vehicle for the seasoned veteran and he delivers an incredible performance that acts as the spine of the film, keeping it entertaining even in the slower scenes. Though it is the marriage of his daughter that kick starts this physical and emotional journey. Atticus’ relationship with his estranged son creates the most significant conflict within the story and the film wisely keeps its focus tight; rarely cutting away from the central pair and keeping their experiences both engaging and sympathetic. The film markets itself as ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ meets ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ and this proves true as it balances the fine line between comedy and drama perfectly. The title, An Actor Prepares, not only references the famous acting book but also alludes to the shadow of death following its protagonists throughout the film. Yet peppered throughout are genuinely hilarious lines from Irons that work well against Huston’s straight man act to create an almost ‘Odd Couple’ rapport. While Huston rarely gets the limelight on screen with Irons, he is given his own subplot that works well enough within the overarching theme of family and the younger actor is charismatic enough to at least keep toe to toe with the films real star.
Bringing compelling characters to life through brilliant performances and a tight script, An Actor Prepares takes a rather formulaic concept and proves why it works in the first place; following father and son on a long journey with plenty of baggage.
AN ACTOR PREPARES is available On Demand now.