Hitting the Mark

Mark Ruffalo faced a long, hard road to the top. He has been working steadily since the late 90s and his “big break” came in 2000 at the hand of writer/director Kenneth Lonergan in the independent drama You Can Count On Me. The story, as Mark tells it, is that he had to convince his old friend to cast him in the film, for various reasons, but mostly because he didn’t look much like his on-screen sister, Laura Linney. I am exceptionally pleased he finally relented, as it remains one of my favorite films and Mark’s performance is indelible to its success.10271802_ori

It’s a lovely and simple story about two adult siblings who lost their parents very young and have been drifting apart for quite some time. Terry (Ruffalo) has been floating around, in and out of jail, and has found himself in a bit of a “situation” with a girl (he knocked her up) so he goes to visit her sister with the understanding that she’ll help him out. A couple of days turns into a week and before long, Sammy (Linney) realizes she’s not doing that much better than her brother and decides to stop worrying about him and sort out her own life. Ruffalo brings a unsettling quality to Terry that is equal parts endearing and infuriating. For that matter, so does Linney. They may not look like siblings but they were certainly cut from the same self-sabotaging cloth.

This movie is one of the reasons I chose to be a writer. I can vividly remember reading an Entertainment Weekly article about Mark Ruffalo, shortly after Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind came out, wherein it instructed “if you haven’t seen You Can Count On Me, put down this magazine now and go rent it.” It was still the early 2000s, mind. I don’t know if I rented it that day, but I did soon after, and I believe I watched it at least 3 times before taking it back. Later, I found a DVD copy in the bargain bin at Superstore for $4 and made my mother buy it for me. And about five months ago, I met Mark at the Toronto International Film Festival and asked him to sign it.


He looked at me and said, “Awh, I love this movie!”


Why was he at TIFF, you wonder? Why, to promote Spotlight and what would end up being his third Academy Award nominated performance for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. If you want to read more about Spotlight, google it, because I’m here to talk about my second favorite film starring both Ruffalo and Donal Logue.


In the mid-2ooos, Mark went on a bit of a rom-rom bender. He made two perfect romantic comedies, and two that were just okay, although your mileage may vary on which is which. I’m not here to tell you how to live your life, except that you should definitely make time to watch the first two/thirds of Just Like Heaven. Honestly, I love this movie so much that for a second I was like, “Should I just take a quick break and watch it right now?” It’s that good.


Any movie where this happens can’t be missed.

As with any rom-com, there are complications between Ruffalo’s David and his lady love, Elizabeth (Reese Witherspoon) but in this movie, they take those complications to the next level… of consciousness. Because, you see, Elizabeth isn’t just some career-driven, don’t have time to meet a new man, working girl, she’s also IN A COMA, because life is telling her to SLOW DOWN and LOOK AT THIS CUTE GUY who moved into your apartment that your sister sub-letted… for you…? Because I guess your mortgage is her responsibility now? Look, the details don’t matter because David is here and only he can see you and true love is waiting for you both… On the other side. No, no, just kidding, he doesn’t kill himself to be with her.. that’s the plot of another movie starring next week’s subject.

At the beginning of the film, David is clearly depressed, which we understand by the fact that he’s unemployed, drinks too much, and naps all day. I have a few favorite scenes such as the apartment hunting, the first time he sees Elizabeth, and the hospital bed chase featuring the aforementioned Donal Logue. Above all of those, though, is the moment when Elizabeth realizes David’s neighbor is hardcore hitting on him and she graciously tells him to go for it. He calls after her even though the other woman (Ivana Milicevic) is standing well within earshot. He doesn’t care. He cares only for Elizabeth and if this random neighbor thinks he’s crazy and talks to himself, that’s fine. Thankfully she just thinks he forgot her name because in this movie, only one female character has any agency. I may love it, but it was made at a time when the use of “bimbos” and unnecessary slut-shaming was at an all time high. Hell, Elizabeth even slut-shames herself at one point, after a hilarious mix-up leads the two to believe she’s been having an affair, but I digress.

After his rom-com run, Ruffalo went dark and made a couple sort-of thrillers including David Fincher’s Zodiac (which I absolutely adore but Ruffalo’s involvement is minimal and his best line involves a broken lamp, so I’ll save my thoughts on that for the day I write about Jake Gyllenhaal) and Rian Johnson’s The Brothers Bloom.

2009_the_brothers_bloom_003.jpgI love a good con-artist crime caper, and this one had three amazing performers as well as a strong director in Johnson, so I am surprised even to this day that it’s managed to slip by without acclaim. There’s nothing technically wrong with it. It’s got a decent script, some compelling characters, and a lot of style. It’s fun and light, while still maintaining an air of danger and mystery, which is a difficult tonal balance to achieve. Some count Looper as Johnson’s best work and some still point to Brick, but I found this joyous romp through Europe to be much more entertaining.

As Penelope, Rachel Weisz brought back some of the goofy charm that won me over in The Mummy and Adrien Brody sulked his way though another movie as the constantly put upon Bloom. Why he’s just called Bloom when Mark’s character is called Stephen Bloom they never explain and yes it still bothers me. As Stephen, Mark uses every bit of his good looks and charisma to con everyone watching, including the other characters in the movie. What’s fascinating here is that for the first time, he’s playing a character who is also playing a part. And Stephen is a better actor than Mark. He’s so good, I’m still not even convinced that Mark knew how the movie was supposed to end.


Feeling disenfranchised with Hollywood and on the verge of quitting when he got the script for Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right, it took the involvement of Julianne Moore to make sure he did the film. She succeeded, as did the film, and as did he, earning his first Academy Award nomination for playing the man biologically responsible for the two children raised by Moore’s Jules and her wife, Nic, played by Annette Bening. Obviously, this was a excellent career move because he’s been flying high ever since. Landing the role of Bruce Banner/The Hulk in the astronomically popular Marvel Cinematic Universe and still making time for indie dramadies like Infinitely Polar Bear, Oscar-Bait like Foxcatcher, and magician-capers like Now You See Me, which is getting a sequel. He’s also going to be in the next Thor movie, so you know what I said to Chris Hemsworth? Still applies here.


3 thoughts on “Hitting the Mark

  1. Love this post. I actually love Ruffalo now because how can I not become infected by your affection for him? Also, he stepped out of Rom Com Town which is where I knew him and showed off more of what he’s got. Love your posts, glad you’re back in the game x

    Liked by 1 person

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