Action painter Jackson Pollock (1912-56) could be a real drip, and not just because he dribbled, spattered and flung pigment onto a canvas. When he drank too much, which was often, Pollock (Harris) became a blubbering, self-pitying baby who lashed out at those near to him, including wife Lee Krasner (Harden), who sacrificed her own painting career for years to champion his. Pollock reigned as America's biggest art star in the late '40s and '50s before dying in a drunken car crash at age 44. What inner emptiness was he trying to fill up with the booze? It is both the strength and weakness of this admirably restrained biopic, which Harris also directed, that it never explicitly answers that question.
Rather Pollock attempts to get at the artist's essence by showing him in all his self-contradictory complexity. Having struggled for years before achieving a major artistic break-through with his drip paintings, Pollock was insecure about his talent but also convinced that he was the greatest artist of his time. He craved recognition but was overwhelmed when he finally found success during a brief period of semi-sobriety, causing him to put down his brushes and pick up a bottle again.
Harris is nothing short of brilliant as Pollock, nailing the painter's sinewy physicality and tortured psyche. Harden is equally excellent as Krasner, movingly depicting a woman who eventually tires of playing the dual roles of mother and lover. (R)
Bottom Line: Worthy portrait
, Jordana Brewster, Christopher Eccleston, Blythe Danner
During a summer in the mid-'70s an 18-year-old (Brewster) heads to Europe with a backpack filled with old postcards. The cards were sent by her older sister (Diaz), who had made the same journey six years earlier and wound up dead, possibly a suicide, on a beach in Portugal. Now Brewster plans to retrace her sibling's steps, including looking up sis's old beau (Eccleston), to find out what happened.
The Invisible Circus, based on the 1995 novel of the same name by Jennifer Egan, is a minor coming-of-age drama as diaphanous as the gauzy, oversize hippie shirts worn by Diaz's character, a flower child turned terrorist. Seen in flashbacks, Diaz smiles benevolently, but her role is woefully underwritten. Brewster shows promise but isn't up to the emotional challenges of her big scenes, a fact all the more obvious when she's playing opposite the ever fabulous Danner, who is cast as her mother. Danner can play subtext as naturally as the rest of us breathe. (R)
Bottom Line: Not ready for the big top
>Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Pure movie magic, even if it's in Mandarin with subtitles. This tale of romance and martial arts derring-do will transport you. Just trust us and go. (PG-13)
Hannibal Fails to conquer. FBI agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore, subbing for Jodie Foster) and a still hungry Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) return for a pointless and gruesome, though well-acted, sequel to 1991 's The Silence of the Lambs. (R)
Head Over Heels
Stumbling romantic comedy has bland Monica Potter fall for bland Freddie Prinze Jr. until—shades of Rear Window—she thinks she sees him kill someone. She and her four supermodel roomies investigate. (PG-13)
The Pledge Intriguing, ambiguous suspense thriller stars Jack Nicholson as a retired homicide detective obsessively pursuing a case. Sean Penn directed. (R)
Saving Silverman Beyond rescuing. Crude, clumsy comedy about two laid-back dudes (Jack Black and Steve Zahn) resorting to desperate measures to break up the romance between their best pal (Jason Biggs) and his bossy fiancée (Amanda Peet).(PG-13)
Traffic Gets a green light. Superior ensemble drama about the war on drugs. (R)
Ed Harris, Marcia Gay Harden, Amy Madigan, Jeffrey Tambor