Everyone loves Jeff Goldblum. It’s a fact of the internet, just as everyone loves Keanu Reeves and Sandra Oh.
“He brings a lot of himself to everything he plays,” says Melbourne International Film Festival programmer Kate Fitzpatrick. “He’s got this odd manner about him. He’s very measured, and he has a very definite way of speaking. And he’s so gangly and eccentric. He’s unusual looking but there’s something attractive about that.”
I tell her I’ll put it in the article that she finds him attractive.
“I’m comfortable with that,” she says.
Last year, MIFF programmed an all-night Cage-a-thon, a red-eyed exploration of Nicolas Cage’s intense and demented appeal. This year, Fitzpatrick has been tasked with putting together an all-night Goldblum-a-thon. With four decades of work under his belt, Goldblum played the romantic lead and the action hero (among other roles), before eventually settling into his current role as “the internet’s daddy” – embraced for his odd sensuality and knowing campness.
Let’s follow the mad trajectory of Goldblum’s career. His earliest roles in films such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) show an idiosyncratic, witty performer in search of the limelight. Around that time he often stole the camera with many a cameo (blink and you’ll miss him in Annie Hall). He finally landed in The Fly (1986), in which he’s given the chance to be every bit the gangly weirdo we know and love. By the ’90s, he was a playfully odd presence in blockbusters like Jurassic Park (1993) and Independence Day (1996). In 2004, Wes Anderson seemed to be the first director to get the joke, casting him in the absurd role of Hennessey in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Within a few years he’d become the celebrated cultural figure he is now.
Fitzpatrick has chosen a broad selection from Goldblum’s long career. She says it’s all about showing the breadth of his performances, and building up a portrait of the man.
“He plays a wide range of characters, but there’s something inherently Jeff Goldblum about all of them,” she says. “I think it becomes something that will permeate the whole marathon.”
There are big hitters, like Independence Day and Thor Ragnarok (2017) (no Jurassic Park, alas), and his breakout The Fly, but also lesser-known films like 1988 sci-fi comedy Earth Girls Are Easy (reuniting him with The Fly’s Geena Davis, and also starring a young Jim Carrey) and 1989 rom-com The Tall Guy, in which he plays the hapless romantic lead.
“The Tall Guy is one I came across on TV when I was a teenager,” says Fitzpatrick. “It’s really silly. I watched it many times when I was about 14 or 15.” The film stars Goldblum as an actor on the London stage who falls in love with a nurse (Emma Thompson). But after years of wearing down a VHS copy, Fitzpatrick came to realise that it’s an overlooked gem, including a winning early performance from Thompson and Rowan Atkinson memorably playing a parody of himself.
And then there’s Vibes (1988), another rarely-seen slice of Goldblum silliness, in which he plays a psychic on an unlikely South American adventure with Cyndi Lauper. With an astonishing 6 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, critics weren’t kind, but Fitzpatrick wants us to reappraise it in light of Goldblum’s acquired goodwill.
It’s a career that’s traversed the sublime to the ridiculous, and back to the sublime. And thanks to the internet, he’s now being celebrated. This article dates the dawn of the Goldblumaissance (which is what I’m calling it) to the early days of internet memes. In 2009, a YouTuber captured Goldblum’s odd laugh in Jurassic Park, which sparked a parade of Jurassic Park-related memes, culminating in last year’s real-life huge inflatable topless Goldblum sculpture on the banks of the Thames.
Don’t miss this chance to spend a night with Jeff Golfblum. And elsewhere in MIFF, catch him in his latest role, as a philandering lobotomist in the surreal and tense The Mountain. There’s more to the man than his meme-ready comic mastery suggests.
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