Aaron Eckhart is more than just abs and cleft, so why isn’t he a household name?

Comic-Con-2013-Aaron-Eckhart-s-I-Frankenstein-Gets-3-New-PostersReel Guys By Richard Crouse and Mark Breslin – Metro Canada

SYNOPSIS: I, Frankenstein, Aaron Eckhart’s martial arts update of the famous Mary Shelley story wasn’t screened for the press in time to meet our deadline, so after a long conversation with our editor the Reel Guys have decided to do a column on Eckhart’s oeuvre. At least that’s how we saw it. Our boss has a different idea. “As your editor I demand a thorough dissection of Eckhart’s abs,” she wrote before adding, “More than pretty, Eckhart is.” What follows is our humble attempt to mix cinematic business with our editor’s pleasure.

RC: Mark, Aaron Eckhart isn’t exactly a household name, but he has appeared in some very big movies. He’s the only live-action actor in the Batman films to play both Harvey Dent and his villainous alter-ego Two-Face. The Dark Knight is by far and away his biggest hit, followed by his star-making turn in Erin Brockovich but despite those box office busters we don’t talk about the handsome actor in the same breath as a-listers like Cruise, di Caprio or Smith. He has the above- mentioned absn and is versatile to star in everything from video game action movies like Battle: Los Angeles to hardcore dramas like Rabbit Hole and yet doesn’t get the same recognition as many of his peers. What’s your take on him?

Mark: You mean the cleft that walked like a man? I could probably fit my grad thesis in there! Eckhart exploded onto my radar with two films he did in the late Nineties, both by the cynical playwright Neil Labute: In the Company Men, and Your Friends and Neighbors. In both films he plays despicable, curdled, almost unwatchably misogynistic men. The key word here is almost. As rotten as he behaves in these movies, there’s an inchoate grace under the surface that redeems the characters, and it’s a testimony to his acting skills that he can keep us watching. And that cleft.

RC: Some like the cleft, some the abs. I like his versatility. In a year span between 2010 and ’11 he released three very different movies. In Rabbit Hole and Nicole Kidman were a couple trying to deal with the death of their four-year-old son. They are at different stages of their grief, but they share a couple of things; a terrible sense of loss and an inability to know how to deal with it. Terrific stuff. Next was the alien invader movie Battle Los Angeles followed by The Rum Diaries where he played a slick PR person. Three different movies and three very different performances. Maybe we have a hard time defining him because he constantly does wild career flip flops.

MB: Or because there’s an opacity to him that allows him to play so many compromised characters, allowing us to project our feelings onto him. Look at one of his finest roles, as the tobacco lobbyist in Thank You For Smoking. He’s so slick, so shifty, we don’t judge him, precisely because we don’t really know him. A quality that’s great for an actor. but less so for a movie star. I really liked him in Rabbit Hole and Rum Diaries, too, but his mainstream work doesn’t register with me as much. Except for his cleft.

RC: He’s has made a number of movies I wouldn’t recommend for the big screen but work well enough as rentals. Two action films, Erased and Suspect Zero are very VOD friendly and feature many cleft hero shots.

MB: Or two romantic comedies that would have been disastrous without him: No Reservations and Love Happens. He doesn’t do nude scenes in them, though, because in close-up you couldn’t tell if it were his backside or his cleft.


Aaron_Eckhart_in_No_Reservations_Wallpaper_6_1024No Reservations succeeds because of one of the performance by its two Oscar nominated females. No, it’s not Catherine Zeta Jones as the control freak chef who makes this one worth while, it’s the sweet performance of eleven-year-old Abigail Breslin, a child actress so unpretentious and natural that she steals every scene she’s in. Audiences loved her as Little Miss Sunshine and she is the reason to go and see No Reservations.

In this remake of the marvelous German film Mostly Martha, Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Kate Armstrong, a well-respected chef at a trendy New York City bistro who adopts her niece Zoe (Abigail Breslin) after her mother is killed in a car accident. Kate’s entire reason for being is the kitchen, and the new-found role of mom disrupts her carefully arranged life. She also seriously lacks kid skills. For their first meal together Kate serves Zoe a fish, complete with the head. In her restaurant it probably sells for $35. The problem is you couldn’t pay a kid to eat it.

When the owner of her restaurant brings in a new sous chef in the form of the boisterous Nick Palmer (Aaron Eckhart) sparks fly—both professionally and romantically.

The odd couple doesn’t mesh at first, but this is a romantic comedy, so soon enough rivalry becomes romance and they bond over food and their shared affection for Zoe. Kate struggles to figure out that there is no perfect recipe for life and to find true happiness she must look past her four burner.

Zeta-Jones and Eckhart are perfectly acceptable romantic leads for a film like this. She’s gorgeous, he’s blandly handsome, but they don’t seem to have much in the way of romantic chemistry. Better are the kitchen scenes where they prepare beautiful, expensive food with the care and precision usually ascribed to diamond cutters or heart surgeons. The pair only seem to have any real connection on screen when they are ladling sauces.

The connective tissue here, the thing that brings it all together is Breslin, a scene stealer with expressive eyes and a knack for underplaying her roles. She’s so effective because she seems like a real kid and not the Hollywood version of what a kid in her situation might be like. There’s not a precocious moment in her performance.

No Reservations director Scott Hicks is best known for making big serious movies like Shine and Hearts of Atlantis, and he struggles here. The movie looks great and has a great sense of place—you’ll want to fly to New York for dinner right after the movie—but his pacing of the paper-thin and obvious opposites attract plot is out of whack. The movie is only an hour and forty-five minutes but feels much longer.

No Reservations—come for the story, stay for Abigail Breslin!