Friday, April 14

Book Review: Nevertheless

It's been some time since I've read an autobiography/memoir and my life works better when I have one going.  Alec Baldwin has put together a bright and breezy one, ready for public consumption. I should tell you that I like Alec Baldwin and always have. There was a time I, um, really liked him but that's another posting. He's always impressed me as honest and sometimes a little loose-lipped and I thought the combination of the two would make for a good read. From my point of view he didn't disappoint.

I suspect that a primary reason for his writing another book, a very intimate one, was to set the record straight.  He certainly wants you to hear his point of view.  He addresses you quite a number of times... you, the reader. He is utterly aware that most or all of what you know about him on a personal level is gathered through the press.  And in his opinion, the fourth estate is not nearly as forthcoming about things as he is.

I have always liked him for several reasons, actually.  I do think he's a good actor, a very good one, in fact.  I think he can stand toe to toe with any actor who's shared a screen with him and trust me, that would be a very prestigious list of folks.  I would have dearly loved to have seen him and Jessica Lange (oh, be still my heart) in the Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire, although I was thrilled to have seen the 1995 TV version.  Is there anyone who doubts Alec Baldwin has the temperament and the skill set to play Stanley Kowalski?  Can't you imagine covering your ears when he cries out Stella?

What Baldwin has in spades, it seems, and what I find attractive in all people, is passion. I think dictionary definitions of the word passion should be altered to include at the end... see Alec Baldwin.   I have observed passion in every movie I have seen him in. Laugh if you will, but he is a most sensitive fellow and a searcher of truth, and he brings out a truth in those he portrays.  He says he has settled down a great deal with his 2012 (and only second) marriage to a younger woman and the subsequent births of three kidlets.

Without question that passion is a part of his personal life, as well, and it's apparently been there since his earliest memories.Some would probably exchange the word passion for embattled. Even I, the devoted fan, have been known to refer to him as the American Russell Crowe.  Most actors' personal lives we don't usually hear about unless they or their publicity mill want us to. Baldwin, admittedly, has a way of easily finding himself in the news.  He wishes it weren't so.

He writes about some of the big events in his life including the carnival-like atmosphere of his marriage and especially divorce from Kim Basinger, the voicemail to their daughter, Ireland, and gay slurs to a reporter.  He certainly seems to accept full responsibility for the second two.  There's not much to say about the Ireland episode... it's all there to hear, isn't it?  But he does say (and didn't he then?) that it wasn't really being directed at her but rather someone else.  I get the transference.  He certainly regrets it with all that passion he possesses.  I won't divulge what he says about the gay slur because you'd find it much more interesting if you allowed him to tell you about it.  But if I can buy what he says, I think you should be able to as well.  I mean, we weren't there, were we?

Frankly, I buy what he had to say about his divorce and that, too, is what he's always said... he loathed and raged against her lawyers. If I had anything going on here as the reader, it would be that I thought he skirted most things about the marriage.  I considered that he is keeping mum to honor their daughter but then I wanted him to say that.  I thought he soft-pedaled his and Basinger's behavior on the set of The Marrying Man (1991) although he does at least mention it.  I had a friend who worked on that film and remember him giving me daily updates of their obnoxiousness.

Baldwin spends a short time at the end of his book on politics.  I knew he would.  I was looking forward to it.  We speak the same language and we have a similar passion although he does more about it than I do.  If he believes in something or someone, he gives his complete interest, time, opinions and money.  Politics, public policy and humanitarian causes mean as much to him as anything, perhaps, except his family.  It certainly is more important than acting.

He sees one of his great shortcomings, it seems, as his incredible drive to make lots of money and considers it a main reason for getting into acting, along with a need for power and adulation.  He is candid about his love of working on the stage and not so much before movie cameras. He has rarely seen any of his films and admits he has done more than a few for the bucks.  He felt much the same about television but his stint on 30 Rock seems to have turned his head a bit.

He speaks of never being a bankable star and I'll take his word for it.  When he was young and gorgeous, he was top-billed in a number of films (1993's Malice and 1996's Heaven's Prisoners are particular favorites of mine) but he quickly drifted into second leads and then just as quickly into character parts.  But to his credit, the man has never stopped working in movies or in any number of other areas.

He provided insight to his early life.  I knew nothing about his parents. With each he had a rough go and yet he speaks lovingly and touchingly about both of them.  Most of us know that he has three acting brothers, Daniel, Billy and Stephen, and he seems cautious about saying anything much about any of them.  You may not have known that he also has two sisters, Beth and Jane. Beth is the oldest (Alec was next) and he speaks of her the most. He does refer to himself and his siblings, as youngsters living in poverty with their folks, as six pieces of driftwood.

While I was reading the beginning few chapters I was hearing some nasty press about the book.  My initial thought upon hearing it was of course... of course there would have to be some battling and/or someone has to find something wrong with something he's said or how he's said it.  It's long been the thing to do with Baldwin. Maybe it's some of both.  

He doesn't mention most of his films... it's not that kind of book. There's no... I made this and then I did that and then we went to Bulgaria to make... He mentions the films that move him in some way... sometimes the direction is down, mostly it's up.  He mentions one film where, he says, an actress with whom he did a love (not sex) scene was under-age.  It has caused a kerfuffle with the makers of the film and we will undoubtedly hear more about this.  I suspect that if Baldwin is wrong, he will apologize. Let's see.

The actor, in turn, has seemingly attacked his publishers, HarperCollins, for alleged sloppiness of some sort.  I did notice a few typos but not many.  He acknowledges Maggie Smith at the top of one page and says the same thing again at the bottom. Ooops.

I read something somewhere about all the people he attacks. He does?  What all the people?  A few perhaps.  Harrison Ford is one who is mentioned unfavorably but Baldwin was on-the-mark so we'll just wish Ford a safe landing and move on.

More to the point, Baldwin is so full of praise for so many.  Some are folks he's worked with, some he's never met.  I was delighted to see him mention four of my favorite actors (ones I mentioned in a former posting) from those golden years... William Holden, Gregory Peck, Burt Lancaster and Robert Mitchum.  He was especially rhapsodic about the first two, claiming Holden is his favorite actor of all time.  He says To Kill a Mockingbird gives more acting lessons than an entire year in drama school.

His acting mentor was Julie Harris, with whom he worked early in his career on TV's Knot's Landing.  More than once he pulled out another way to pay tribute to Anthony Hopkins, his costar in The Edge (1997). Three of his favorite leading ladies are Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary-Louise Parker and someone who's real first name is also Mary-Louise and last name is Streep.  He heaps lavish praise on Julie Andrews and now I say this... can he really be much of a badass? Does a badass heap lavish praise on Julie Andrews?  Huh?

He mentions that he himself wrote the book and I acknowledge the intelligent way he does so. It was told in his usual deliberate manner and peppered with self-deprecation and humor.  Perhaps some of us forget how funny this very serious man is... not can be but is.  

One thing... his current film, Boss Baby, in which he voices the bratty title character, is number one at the box office.  He has written a column for The Huffington Post, hosts a game show, has appeared in a concert version of South Pacific at Carnegie Hall, hosted the New York Philharmonic on radio, hosted his own podcast interview show and who knows what else?  Truly a man of many talents.

Oh yeah, Alec Baldwin, one more thing... thanks for keeping us humorously up-to-date on The Orange Thing.  I don't think of it as an SNL skit but more a public service announcement.

Next posting:
A good 70s movie

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