Del Toro’s acting has a lot of depth

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Saturday afternoon I decided to go see what new movies came out on DVD. I wanted to see an independent film or something that won awards at Sundance, so I went over to Hastings. I found a couple of movies that caught my attention, but the one I recommend stars actor Benicio Del Toro. In my opinion, Del Toro is a great actor with a lot of depth and charisma, plus he has smoldering good looks that make him easy to look at, right ladies? The movie, “Jimmy P.,” is about a Blackfoot Indian who returns from World War II with a head injury. Yes, Del Toro plays a Blackfoot Indian. There wasn’t as much of a hoo-ha over a Puerto Rican actor playing a Native American as there was about Johnny Depp playing Tonto, it seems. Anyway, Del Toro is believable in the role, and all the other Native-American characters are actual Blackfoot tribal members. The character Jimmy P. is based on the true story of Jimmy Picard, a veteran of WWII suffering from such incapacitating headaches that they blind him. Because of this, he lives with his sister, Gayle, played by Michelle Thrush on her family ranch. Naturally, she’s very concerned about her brother and insists he go to the veteran’s hospital. However, the doctors can’t find any physical signs of brain damage or anything that could be the cause of Jimmy’s headaches. So, they send him to a hospital in Topeka, Kan., that specializes in head injuries. Gayle accompanies Jimmy on the long train ride from Montana to Topeka. The quiet, expansive grasslands of Montana contrast sharply with the sterile, 1940’s mental hospital in Kansas. Like the doctors before them, the brain specialists can’t find any physical indications for the headaches either, so they call on the services of Georges Devereux, a French ethno-psychoanalyst. According to the bonus interview with filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin, Devereux was a controversial figure of his time for his unorthodox methods of psycho-analysis. During the years of his education to be a psychoanalysis, Devereux lived with and studied the Mohave Indians. He incorporated anthropology with psychology. Using Jimmy’s dreams, he helps the vet reflect on his childhood experiences to gain some understanding of his behavior. Over the months of scans and psychoanalysis with Devereux, the two men become friends. Both Devereux and Jimmy share a distrust of women stemming from early experiences with their mothers. Jimmy has a daughter with Jane, played by Misty Upham, a woman he never married because of an incident at a dance when he saw her with another man. Jimmy believes the child is not his. It’s not true and the incident was misinterpreted by Jimmy. The child is his, but Jane dies at a young age and they never have the chance to marry. During his therapy with Devereux, Jimmy’s headaches diminish. He corresponds with his daughter who is living with her grandmother, but is isolated and not very happy. Jimmy decides he wants to take responsibility and finish raising her himself. To me, the movie was an interesting page in history that I might never have glimpsed had it not been for the movie. It reminded me of a great story I read about a Cheyenne Indian at the turn of the century and how he adapts to the changes affecting his culture and traditions. The book, “The Heartsong of Charging Elk,” is written by Blackfoot author James Welsh. It’s a haunting story with an uncanny perspective of what it was like for Charging Elk, coming from a lifestyle of freedom on the great plains to working in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and getting stranded in Paris after an injury during the show. Jimmy P. is adapted from the notes, interviews and records kept by Devereux. It is a really good movie, but it’s not blockbuster material. Del Toro’s performance, however, proves that he is very serious about his craft and has considerable skill.


-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.