WHATS TO LIKE?

by evseymour

I was rather looking forward to watching Guy Pearce in Australian ‘after the collapse’ movie, ‘The Rover’, a strange tale about a guy whose car is stolen by a bunch of hoodlums on the run. Hell-bent on getting his vehicle back, Eric (Guy Pearce) tracks down one of the gang, Rey, (played by Robert Pattinson) in a bid to find his motor. What the viewer doesn’t know until several scenes into the film is that the ‘bad guys’ have chosen the wrong man on which to to pick: Eric is a cold-blooded killer.

I’ve never watched the Twilight series of films so I had little idea of Pattinson’s acting talent, but, for me, he was definitely the star of the show.   To be fair, it was a peach of a role. There was nothing essentially wrong with Pearce’s portrayal of a murderer bar the fact that the reversal of role from victim to murdering bastard comes as quite a shock. And there was something else. Despite Rey’s valiant attempt to connect with Eric, Eric remains unreachable. Only towards the end, after the bloodletting and in the final frame, do we get a glimpse of his humanity and glean what he cares most about. Was it enough to sustain interest for 98 minutes?

It’s easy to dismiss characters that aren’t that likeable. Publishing editors talk all the time about ‘we need to empathise with and like the main protagonist’. True, but this doesn’t mean that your main man or woman has to be anodyne. I’ve banged on about this a fair amount but it’s worth repeating because the most interesting characters are those who are flawed, more like you and me, and for that simple reason more true to life.

I often to say to writers I work with that a reader doesn’t have to like a character 100% and all of the time, but we do need to care about them. There’s a subtle difference. And let’s face it; a character’s vulnerabilities, conceits, weaknesses, addictions and passions are what prevent him or her from becoming walking clichés. The skilled writer will always home in on a particular foible because it presents a terrific opportunity to reveal true characterisation. For my money, defects provide fertile creative ground and are there to be exploited.

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