Welcome to Part 2 of FDGKGDF! As explained in Part 1, I watched two Greg Kinnear movies to celebrate his 55th birthday on June 17 and FDGKGDF stands for Father’s Day Greg Kinnear Grand Double Feature. Snaps to those who’ve realized it’s a palindrome (and a great one, at that!). The movies I chose were A Smile Like Yours and Invincible. I reviewed A Smile Like Yours here, and my piece has already been short-listed for the 2019 Man Booker Award. You should probably read it.
Everybody knows you don’t actually save the best for last, and I initially had many more thoughts on ASLY than Invincible. But further reflection helped me see my own bias for certain Greg Kinnear roles. You see, Invincible-inspired introspection taught me that I prefer “Comedy Greg.” I’ve reviewed 8 GK movies to date and 75% have been comedies: two indie (Brigsby Bear, Salvation Boulevard), two rom coms (Sabrina, ASLY), and two general (Stuck on You, Mystery Men). Greg’s not a man who takes himself too seriously, and the ways he lets himself go in comedies are delightful. He’s smarmy, confused, uncomfortable, charming, confident, and musical. It’s great.
Just by default, “Drama Greg” isn’t as fun or smarmy thereby diminishing my enthusiasm. But “Drama Greg” does his homework, studying up on windshield wiper inventor Robert Kearns for his role in Flash of Genius and meeting with the real-life Dick Vermeil for his role in Invincible (the two dramas I’ve seen). And I believe “Drama Greg” can be outstanding–Auto Focus is in every ” Kinnear Top 10″ circulating online (like this one and this one). So it’s time to appreciate “Drama Greg.” And there is much to appreciate in Invincible. Also, it’s PG and my former roommate loves this movie!
Directed and cinematograph’ed by Erickson Core (whose resume’s clear highlight is the Ben Affleck Daredevil), Invincible is a Disney-produced feel-good sports movie in the mold of Miracle and The Rookie. The movie stars Marky Mark Wahlburg. Since the Wahlburgs are Boston-Strong, I have no problem if you stubbornly choose to believe Invincible is set in Boston. I do. Also, this is how you should picture Marky Mark in Invincible:
I care not for fashion, but that shirt inspires major envy.
The year is 1976, and Vince Papale (Wahlburg) is struggling to find work in Philadelphia. He’s 30, manages two part-time jobs as a substitute teacher and bartender, and unwinds by playing sandlot football with his buddies. He’s the fastest and best player on the field, but his wife Sharon (Lola Glaudini) is angered by this side hobby. She leaves him when he loses his teaching job.
Meanwhile across town, the Eagles (aka the city’s NFL team–you may know them from winning the Super Bowl last year) are terrible. As usually happens with such teams, they switch coaches–hiring Dick Vermeil (Greg Kinnear) from UCLA. Here’s our boy:
Eager to breathe fresh air into his new team, Vermeil announces an open tryout for anyone in Philadelphia. Which is not something NFL teams do. Papale is reluctant to attend, but his friend Tommy (Kirk Acevedo) convinces him to try out. Papale is the only participant worth a dime, but some guy with a cape is also pretty great (and the best comic relief in the movie). Vermeil invites Papale to join the team for training camp.
What happens next is fairly predictable. Papale makes it through every round of cuts, including the final one in which Vermeil keeps him over a better player because “character trumps talent.” Papale makes the team for opening day, but not all is peachy. The Eagles have lost all their pre-season games and drop their opener to the Cowboys. Papale freezes like a “deer in headlights” and makes a terrible play on the opening drive of that game. This results in a “personal crisis,” where Papale questions his place on the team. But after going home to play a game of sandlot football and chat with dad, Papale is re-invigorated and becomes a better player. He helps the Eagles win their second game of the season, and remains with the team for 3 more seasons.
There are two more subplots in the movie, one involving a cute relationship between Papale and the bar-owner’s cousin Janet (Elizabeth Banks) and the second involving city-wide labor strikes. This last subplot is given too little time and Disney ties it up too neatly with a simplified message that football gives people hope and saves everything. Despite this, Invincible is a fun movie and worth your time if you’re looking to tune out and feel good. And Greg Kinnear is great.
The best scene of Invincible happens in a bathroom before the season opener. We see an empty bathroom and hear vomiting, before Papale emerges from one stall and then Vermeil from another. Papale says nothing about his pre-game nerves, while Vermeil tries way too hard to downplay his. “Must have been something I ate. Oh yeah, room service. Definitely.” Greg’s Vermeil may be no Herman Boone or Danny O’Shea, but I can’t see Denzel Washington or Rick Moranis matching his awkward, forced casualness in this scene. This begs the question, how is Greg Kinnear as a movie football coach?
In short, he’s better than McConaughey’s Coach Lengyel in We Are Marshall and whoever the coach was in Rudy (no movie about Notre Dame football is worth watching, don’t @ me). But he’s no Denzel. At greater length, Greg studied old NFL footage and met with real-life Dick Vermeil to prep for his role. Here’s a nice visual comp of the two:
From this character study, Greg goes for the no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is coach. At the open tryout, he tells two current players to worry about their own status on the team instead of making digs at the participants. Later, he seeks the coaches’ opinions on Papale but ultimately goes against their wisdom with what he thinks is best. Greg’s Vermeil knows his role is first as coach and not the players’ best friends. His tone throughout the movie makes clear that he wants to be respected as coach. This came from real-life Vermeil, who told Kinnear “he’d inherited this anemic team and needed the players to realize it wasn’t going to be business as usual, that he’s not going to be your buddy.”
Despite this boundary, Greg’s Vermeil forms a nice, mostly wordless player-coach bond with Mark’s Papale. When they first meet, Vermeil asks “You mind me asking how old you are?” to which Papale responds “No I don’t mind. You mind me asking how old you are, coach?” Greg’s smile seals the scene, showing Vermeil likes Papale’s self-respect and willingness to talk back. There are more back-and-forth lines like this in the movie.
At home, the cracks in Vermeil’s confidence show. He stays up late into the night studying his players, and has doubts about his ability to coach in the NFL. Vermeil’s wife Carol (Page Turco) is his rock, assuaging his doubts and boosting his confidence with some very memorable lines. For example, when Vermeil’s expressing doubts about keeping Papale on the team…
Carol: What was it you used to say to your kids at Hillsdale High? That character is tested when you’re up against it?
Dick: Yeah…And that’s not the problem here. He’s got plenty of character.
Carol: Who said I was talking about him?
Classic Carol, inspiring her husband’s self-discovery through questions (I assume). This was a really nice part of the movie, seeing the strength Carol provided her husband.
On that note, Dick & Carol had two kids in 1976 but the kids only enter one scene to get a quick hug from dad. For a Father’s Day movie, Invincible was a bit of a let down. Flash of Genius might have been better suited for the occasion–Bob Kearns may have been a lousy husband but he was a pretty ok dad.
- “Comedy Greg” > “Drama Greg.” But “Drama Greg” was very solid in Invincible
- Coach Kinnear ranks somewhere between McConaughey’s Coach Lengyel and Moranis’s Coach O’Shea in football movie lore.
- The best part of Greg-as-Dick Vermeil were his solid support from his wife, and his great chemistry with Marky Mark.
- Greg’s performance in Invincible was better, if more limited, than in ASLY. I prefer to “black out” the last 1/3 of that movie and his performance therein. The Kinnear Meter reflects that:
- Next up: We’re returning to “Comedy Greg” for Nurse Betty! The moment I discovered this movie, I had to watch it. Nurse Betty looks ridiculous, has a high Rotten Tomatoes score, and Kinnear plays a Soap Opera Doctor. This is the role I never knew I always wanted to see! Get pumped, watch the trailer, see you next time!
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