|Billy Bob Thornton as Karl Childers |
in Sling Blade
|Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo |
in TV version of Fargo
Billy Bob Thornton out-Streeped Meryl in playing a character so different from himself in every dimension that his own mother wouldn't recognize him.
Of course, I knew it was Billy Bob Thornton because after seeing him in Fargo I deliberately recorded all of his movies. But when he first appeared on the screen in Sling Blade, I didn't think it was he. My husband kept assuring me it was, but this Karl Childers guy looked, talked and moved nothing like Billy Bob Thornton. When he went up to the frosty stand stand and asked, "Whatcha got in there that's good to eat?" I said, "I think that's Billy Bob," referring to the guy behind the window exasperated by the slow guy who asked for biscuits at a burger joint. "No," insisted my husband, who had already seen this movie and therefore had a distinct advantage in his Billy Bob recognition abilities.
I loved Sling Blade, of course, a movie about which the late film critic Roger Ebert wrote, “If Forrest Gump had been written by William Faulkner, the result might have been something like Sling Blade." It is one of the few movies you would call "sweet" in which three people are deliberately murdered.
Even more, I love that the character of Karl Childers allegedly came to Thornton while making faces as he shaved. His jawline in the movie is set so different from its usual position, it's like he had a face transplant.
The rural south persona may not have been as much of a stretch for Thornton, who reportedly grew up in Arkansas in a shack that lacked both electricity and indoor plumbing. You totally felt the suffocation of that small town throughout the movie -- from the ignorant homophobia to the politically incorrect use of the word "retard."
When Sling Blade first came out, I was mostly likely too busy raising kids to notice, or maybe I thought it was an action flick based on the name. But seeing it now, 18 years after its release, I reckon Sling Blade should be viewed as much a classic American film as Citizen Kane or Gone With the Wind. It is truly one of the most amazing movies I have ever seen; and Thornton's performance, the epitome of acting genius.
All right then. Mm hmm.