The unbearable safeness of biopics

Lately it seems like biopics/movie based on true stories have become the go-to movie when an actor or actress wants to be seen as a serious actress, probably because of movies like the Kings Speech. Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams, Michelle Youh, and Jessica Chastain are all coming out with biopics soon. And Sony Pictures is moving ahead with a Steve Jobs biopic who hasn’t even been in the grave for more than 2 months yet.Even if some biopics are met with mixed reviews like J. Edgar it seems like hollywood just loves keeping them going

I started thinking about this topic when i read that Jolie is going to play Getrude Bell in a biopic directed by Ridley Scott. Now, despite what i have heard about the Tourist i am still a big Angelina fan, so i figured i should be excited at the news of a Scott/Angelina collaboration, but i wasn’t. And that is squarely because its a biopic.

Now, i’m not saying all biopics are bad, and i have enjoyed a few like The Kings Speech, hence why i used it as an example above. And some of the upcoming biopics will probably be worthwhile. But to me it just felt like too safe of a choice. I have no doubt hollywood will welcome Jolie back with open arms for this, and could very easily get a oscar nom for it thereby getting her back on top. But the safe choice isn’t always the most interesting or memorable choice.

And this biopic thing has become old hat for Jolie. Not counting this getrude pic, she has done 3 movies which are either biopics or at least based on true story’s. Those 3 are Gia,Changeling, and A Mighty Heart, and she gave a fantastic performance in each and i have no doubt she will do the same in the getrude biopic and the Cleopatra biopic that is also along the way.Its gotten to the point where i wouldn’t be surprised if she was offered the lead role in a Marie Curie movie.

Another actress that had fallen out of Hollywoods good graces who i like is Nicole Kidman, and she managed to get back on top with Rabbit Hole(Until Trespass anyways), which was not a biopic or based on a true story. I would like to see Angelina do something similar and try to find a original movie to take the lead in. I would love to see her collaborate with a auterist director who doesn’t do a lot of biopicks/movies based on true story’s like Quentin Tarantino,Darren Aronofsky, or Lars Von Trier. She has the talent to carry a movie, and i would love to see her in something like Black Swan or Dogville that would really show what she’s capable of. Or even just a intriguing indie she could bring a large audience too would be fine by me.

Again, just to reiterate this is not a anti-Jolie post, and if Ridley and Jolie were collaborating something more original i would be all over it. Jolie is one of my favorite actresses but with this and the Cleopatra I just feel like she is just following the rest of the pack. She already has enough biopics/movies based on true stories and could afford make more daring choices than just going down the biopic route.

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35 Responses to The unbearable safeness of biopics

  1. DEZMOND says:

    as you know, I love biopics and those are always my favourite films at the Oscars and I always cheer for them πŸ™‚ I wouldn’t miss a biopic with Meryl Streep or Cate Blanchett even in the case of apocalypse πŸ™‚
    I wouldn’t agree that playing in biopics is the easy way, since they bring the biggest of responsibilities, since you have to portray someone who actually existed and thus must not put his/her character to shame with your acting.
    I didn’t like Nicole in biopics (HOURS) but I did like her in DOGVILLE and MOULIN ROUGE.

    • I think we will have to agree to disagree on this one. Again there are some good biopics out there, but i don’t feel every biopic is oscar worthy and right now i am starting to get biopic fatigue. And like i said Angelina has played real people 3 times already(Not counting Troy’s mother, but i haven’t seen troy and i’ve heard that movie is pretty bad so i don’t plan to check it out). Signing on for 2 biopics just seems unnecessary, when she has already proven herself in 2(3 if you count Changeling or not. Technically that is not a biopic, just a movie based on true events)

  2. Tyler says:

    I don’t really like seeing famous people acting in biopics; I just don’t see them as the person they’re playing, I see them as THEM, which can be annoying.

  3. Interesting article. I find biopics to be a “win-some, lose-some” genre. Now, I love history and was fortunate to study it in college, but some of the people chosen as the focus for biopics leaves me scratching my head. Some are great: The Fighter, The Pursuit of Happyness, Remember the Titans, The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, Schindler’s List. While others intend to be great but end up being a bore or just don’t make the cut: Ali, Evita, Antwone Fisher, Ray, Amelia, etc.

    I will watch one if the character of focus peaks my interest, but too many of them take away any type of surprise due to the fact that most times we already know what to expect. I like a little bit of suspense! I will say that I am a little tired of seeing so many, but truth is stranger than fiction, so perhaps that is why Hollywood keeps producing them.

    and, I, too, hope for Nicole Kidman to return!

    • I actually remember liking Ray, but i do agree not all biopics are great. Generally if a biopic gets good buzz i will try to check it out, but i think there are a bit too many of them.

      And i think with good material Kidman can get back on top again, but she needs to avoid things like Trespass. The main focus of this post was supposed to be Angelina tho. I was just using Nicole as an example

  4. The interesting thing for me is which films get labeled biopics and which get labeled as “based on a true story”. I suspect that in most cases it has to do with how famous the historical figure is. Technically Erin Brokovich was a biopic, but because I didn’t know who she was something in my mind treated it as if it were just an inspirational film. I sort of put changeling into that same category.

    And of course, the labels get even more confused because fiction writers often base their characters on someone they know… So can it be a biopic if the names have been changed to protect the innocent? What about Meryl Streep in Adaptation?

    Still, I do think that the Oscars tend to reward biopics a bit more, but then again, where else are they going to receive recognition? They usually can’t compete at the box office with Harry Potter or Twilight. And I often also wonder whether some of the fatigue is because they all come out at the same time (Oscar season), instead of being spread throughout the year.

    • Last when i checked on while the difference is that a biopic tries to tell someone whole life story while something based on true events covers just that event pretty much. But yes it can get ambiguous at times as to what a movie is(Especially if you’re including fiction based on real people or events, which i didn’t include in my post as i didn’t feel like making my head explode).

      And they normally aren’t big box office draws, but don’t successful ones like the Kings Speech and the Fighter still make a fair amount of money?

  5. rtm says:

    Interesting post, Julian. I feel like biopics are always popular and just like every genre, there are good and bad ones. I agree w/ Tyler in that some popular actors often overshadow the real-life persona they’re playing. One example is Leo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes, he was ok but I kept thinking he’s Leo pretending to be Hughes. Years ago I saw Terry O’Quinn playing Hughes in The Rocketeer and I think he was far more convincing. Btw, speaking of Jolie, she was indeed good as Gia, such a fearless performance in that one.

    • I don’t remember having a problem with Leo as Hughes, bu to each there own. And i’ve actually only recently saw Gia, but i’m happy your a fan of that performance as well(I will definitely include that performance in my defense of Angelina post). In fact part of the reason i’m not looking forward to her doing Getrude and Cleopatra is because i feel she has already proven she can carry a biopic in Gia. I am sure she will give a great performance as Getrude and Cleopatra, but i just would like to see her try something different.

      • rtm says:

        Now I’m not defending Jolie as I’m not a big fan hers as much as I was before, but doing another biopic doesn’t mean she’ll offer the same performance as in GIA. After all Gertrude and Cleopatra are two very different characters. Btw, nice new banner Julian, it’s got Scott’s signature all over it πŸ˜€

        • True, although i would still like to see her doing something else. And i’m beginning to think i am the only fan of her around 😦

          And yes the banner is Scott’s. I was informed on Ronans Tree of Life post that i am extremely controversial πŸ˜‰ so i figured i should get a banner to reflect that and Scott came through for me πŸ™‚

  6. Castor says:

    I’m with you Julian. I’m starting to get annoyed with all the biopics and how they are regarded as near sure-fire ways to be taken seriously as an actor/director.

  7. Dan says:

    Generally speaking I find biopics overly boring, largely uninspired and far too long. That said, there are a few that have stood out and I think the best ones concentrate on a particular moment in that person’s life. That’s probably why I loved The King’s Speech but others that span decades bore me to tears.

  8. Novroz says:

    what is the different between biopic and true story?? When it comes to drama, I prefer true story than made up story.

    • I think a biopic is more focusing on a single character while a based on true story is based more around a event, but the difference between the two can be ambiguous at times.

      I personally don’t have a preference towards either fiction or non-fiction when it comes to dramas, or movies in general

  9. markuswelby1 says:

    I kind of have a thing for Jolie myself. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. I consider the biopic to be just another genre. If done well audiences get an idea of what that historical persons life “could” have been like. I was kind of interested in seeing Edgar myself but keep hearing lousy things.

    • Glad to know i am not the only blogger who likes Jolie. And i am not against biopics as a genre, it is just there seems to be so many of them. And on the subject of Edgar i have read a few positive reviews. I would recommend seeing it for yourself and getting your own opinion on it

  10. Max says:

    Seems like Meryl Streep won an award for her role in biopic (The Iron Lady). People just seem to eat these roles up, but I like it better when a character has to invent a role.

  11. i agree that we are getting inundated by biopics, especially during this part of the year. BUT, Jolie over Kidman (any day). LOL

  12. Biopics bring about the laziest type of filmmaking. I agree with Devin Faraci in that it’s much more compelling to focus on one period of a person’s life as oppose to a-b-c account for the entirety of their career/life. To understand how someone really ticks, take an important part of their entire life and give it the deep understanding it deserves as oppose to just ticking off highlights

  13. Ronan says:

    I agree that Bopics are a safe bet for actors and directors, especially close to Oscar season. But I don’t think it’s unbearable. Some of the finest films and performances of recent years have come out of biopics. The King’s Speech, Invictus, even Erin Brokovich! Biopics may be a safe option but as long as they keep attracting people like Meryl Streep to roles like Margaret Thatcher in the Iron Lady which is, according to Empire Magazine, the performance of her career (sure to win her another Oscar), I’m all for biopics. Provided I’m interested in the subject. JFK is another example of a great biopic.

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