Performances to Watch - Gerard Butler

Category: Phantom of the Opera News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: September 12, 2004 | Publication: New York Times | Author: Karen Durbin
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WATCHING Gerard Butler in the large Hollywood musical "Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera" and the small Scottish indie "Dear Frankie" brings out the Mae West in a woman. Tall, broad-shouldered and ruggedly attractive, Mr. Butler is vintage come-up-and-see-me material. As Lord Lloyd Webber's vengeful Phantom, he's called upon to croon, bellow, murmur, snarl and, when he's off screen, hurl thunderous threats at the rest of the cast. Evading all those opportunities to look silly, Mr. Butler inhabits his role with such sulfurous intensity that his Phantom commands the screen not the easiest thing when you're sporting a ceramic mask and wrapping a fragile baritone around Lord Lloyd Webber's florid lyrics. Swashbuckling and dangerous, Mr. Butler generates an outsize masculinity that gives his scenes with the virginal-looking Emmy Rossum (who, at 17, is half his age) a scandalous frisson of "Story of O." When the Phantom is unmasked and his hideousness exposed, Mr. Butler makes us feel the intolerable bleakness of his humiliation. In the most sensational of melodramas, he creates a figure of real pathos.

In the darkly whimsical "Dear Frankie," which has been moved from its fall slot to March 2005, he plays one of the most minimalist romantic heroes in movie history. A merchant seaman on shore leave, he's so taciturn he makes John Wayne's granite-jawed cowpokes seem chatty. Yet he wins the hearts of Emily Mortimer's pretty young mum and her smart, skeptical son. Mr. Butler makes it work by defrosting his character with tiny gestures a mouth-twitch of amusement, a sympathetic glance, a refreshing refusal to charm until his quiet feels attentive rather than reserved.