It is known among my friends that I have a weak spot for the films of Jake Gyllenhaal. I like the sweet and optimistic Jake in October Sky, the teenage angsty Jake in Donnie Darko, the obsessive Jake in the Good Girl, the gay Jake in Brokeback Mountain, and I have just recently got to experience the action-figure Jake in Source Code.
The many Jakes:
Optimistic Jake: October Sky : Based on the autobiography of Homer Hickam, October Sky follows the dreams of a young Homer (Jake) whose life was changed in October 1957 with the launching of Sputnik into space. Although his coal miner father hoped he would follow him into the mines, Homer’s dream of the future was in the sky, not below the ground. Life is not easy for a poor kid from West Virginia but with perseverance and some luck, Homer is able to realize his dream.
Teenage Angst Jake: Donnie Darko: This is one weird, twisty, time-travellin’ film! (And in my top five all time favorites!) It is definitely a cult film that has people arguing over its meaning. What is Frank the bunny really doing in this film?? (A 6 foot bunny that only Donnie can see). Donnie (Jake) is a troubled teen that listens to the whacky things Frank tells him to do. Supporting Jake in this bizarre film are: Maggie Gyllenhaal as his sister; Noah Wylie and Drew Barrymore as his teachers; Mary McDonnell as his mother; Katherine Ross as his shrink and Patrick Swayze as a creepy motivational speaker. Love it or hate it one thing you can’t do is look away. Donnie Darko is the Everest of teenage angst movies!
Obsessive Jake: Good Girl: Jennifer Aniston plays a married woman with a very mundane life who starts an affair with a lost young man (Jake) who thinks he is Holden Caulfield (or at least wishes he were). They meet in the discount chain store where they both work. Boring jobs, boring lives, boring husbands or parents…nothing is very exciting about the lives of these two. And yet, it makes for a very watchable film. The choices that are made and their consequences are what make this good cinema. If you are looking for cheery happy endings, don’t look here. But if you want a film that does a spectacular job as a character study, this is the one to see.
Gay Jake : Brokeback Mountain : Some distill this lovely film down to just “it’s a gay cowboy film”! But if that is all they see, they are missing the real point of this film. It is a human, haunting story of two men born in a time when the must deny the great passion they feel for each other. This is not a gay love story; it is just a love story. Heath Ledger is Ennis and Jake plays Jack, two young ranch hands who take a job watching sheep in Wyoming. This is just the start of their lifelong passion for each other, even though they try to uphold a different façade with wives and children. The nuanced performances and the amazing direction of Ang Lee (winner of the Best Director Oscar) make this satisfying cinema.
Action Figure Jake : Source Code : Although Jake tried out his action figure status with Prince of Persia (Day After Tomorrow doesn’t really count as he was more left behind son than action figure. Also, even when freezing, it is hard for me to watch people burning books!), I think he really got his action figure “jones” going with this film. Jake wakes up in the body of a different man on a Chicago commuter train. As he finds out, he is there for only 8 minutes before he is pulled back to the present. The “present” involves a time traveling experiment to try and stop a terrorist that bombs the commuter train and threatens even worse. Jakes job: find out who the bomber is so he can be stopped. One unfortunate side note: Jake is really dead…..does he succeed in finding the bomber? Is he really dead? Only one way to find out…
Are all Jake Gyllenhaal films wonderful?? To answer that see Love and Other Drugs or Brothers…I don’t think Jake was the bad part of these films….now the writing…that’s another matter! And then, of course, there is Bubble Boy. Also one of my favorites but I think it is also on many people’s worse ever film lists. I look forward to seeing what quirky, action-packed or dramatic roles that will make up the future of Jake!