Most of you have heard of Robert Downey Jr. He’s been a presence in American film making for many years. Unfortunately, for a number of those years all we heard about him in entertainment journalism was about his use of substances and the repercussions of that use. If current references are correct, that is all behind him, now. I hope that is so, as I believe substance use is extraordinarily harmful, not only to the user but also to everyone in that person’s life, and he now has a family that I hope is the center of his life. Another reason I am glad that he has moved beyond that earlier life is that his storytelling and artistic capabilities are beautiful, and I for one enjoy as much of his work as I can. Actually, even when he was having trouble, his work was wonderful – drama, comedy, large roles and small. I love the movie “Back to School” and Mr. Downey’s totally delightful contribution. He was amazing in “Less Than Zero” and “US Marshall” as he kept us guessing and enthralled. He was brilliant in “The Soloist” and in so many more roles that I can’t reference them all here. I recently saw “Chaplin” and became an even bigger fan, especially in light of the fact that he was still relatively young and experiencing difficulties in his own life when he brought us that character. However, the two roles I love best, so far anyway, are Sherlock Holmes and Tony Stark. Of course, Sherlock Holmes is a much-beloved character, but he brought Mr. Holmes to life in a totally unique way, while preserving the essential tradition of the character. Another element of that role is that he was able to maintain his own distinctiveness on the screen while at the same time partnering within the fantastic team of Watson and Holmes with the talented Jude Law – the combination was full, rich, and utterly entertaining.
I am even more thrilled with Tony Stark. I was watching “Iron Man Three” this weekend and absolutely loved it. The movie was enormously enjoyable, and it was primarily due to Mr. Downey’s amazing artistry. All of the Tony Stark movies are wonderful to watch, and his portrayal of that character has grown in richness and complexity, even as the character Tony Stark has grown in depth. Mr. Downey has reached a level of artistry where he can be quick, sharp, full, and rich in his references, displaying the spectrum of emotional content and variation with a deftness that is powerful and rare. He has become, it appears to me, totally unafraid to present all of this depth without having any undercurrent of ego or acting. My phrasing is clumsy, I’m afraid, because I don’t mean he has no ego or intent of acting – I believe he has simply reached a level of trusting himself that allows him to “be” in his artistry – in my experience that means he is relaxed and peaceful within himself, and I hope that is so. Regarding “Iron Man Three” as a movie, well I must admit that the story line is interesting but a bit forced in the telling, although the visual elements are wonderfully eye-popping and totally satisfactory, to me anyway. However, the characters, script, direction, and sheer genius of the acting are the best parts. The most amazing thing to me is how Mr. Downey successfully moves quickly and effortlessly between wildly varying emotional states, with the most entertaining, poignant, and transparent verbal and physical sensibility. He also showcases the other characters and allows them their own impact without apparent concern for his own ego. I have to admit that the movie-ending comment that the armor was a cocoon is thrilling – the possibility of more Tony Stark is a wonderful prospect. I am also hoping that Mr. Downey continues his development as an artist, as a person – he is in an amazing place and has many more places to go, many more places to take us. Most of all, I am very glad for him that he is experiencing this amazing ongoing development – what satisfactions and opportunities that can bring! I also am glad that people are appreciating his work – a true win-win situation. One day nobody will even remember that he had a rocky personal path as he was developing the depth of his unique artistry … although it is all one beautiful, complex tapestry, and the picture would not be as rich without all of its parts. Thank you, Mr. Downey.