Sydney Pollack Blogathon- Absence of Malice
The Sydney Pollack Blogathon on Day 4, looks at one of his more underrated movies, Absence of Malice. Though a commercial success, it was overshadowed by Pollack’s other two 80’s features, Tootsie and Out of Africa. Kevin Olson, as part of his retrospective on Pollack, reviews the movie in his own inimitable style, a police procedural, that banks solely on the charisma of it’s lead star, Paul Newman.
Pollack described how he came to make Absence of Malice as a “screenplay my agents gave me; it’s as simple as that.” This kind of rare, personal detachment from the project is evident throughout the film and makes for one of the most painful viewing experiences of Pollack’s oeuvre. Oh, not because the movie is bad or even boring, there’s just something missing here (I think it’s primarily conviction and energy in its subject matter) that makes it quite the lacking experience when held up to other famous procedural films. But it’s also lacking in the conviction found in almost all of Pollack’s previous films. In Jeremiah Johnson, The Yakuza, and Bobby Deerfield, that personal attachment is evident as Pollack often stated that those films were a labor of love. Here, Pollack may have thought Absence of Malice was a good film – the commercial success of the film makes a case that something worked in the movie – but there’s also a sense that the film was a stopgap for Pollack before he begin production on his two most critically successful films that rounded out the ‘80s, Tootsie and Out of Africa.