Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Rest In Peace, Heath

It's been a week since Heath Ledger unexpectedly passed away, and Hollywood is still reeling. The Screen Actors Guild rushed to add his image to the "In Memoriam" montage at its annual awards show, Entertainment Weekly printed a tribute with him on the cover of the latest issue and entertainment websites are buzzing with articles about what's happening to his remains, how his family is coping and what may have caused this immense talent to pass so young. In short, it's a flurry of attention and speculation that is equal parts heartbreaking, confusing and frustrating.

It would be foolish to act as if the passing of Ledger has affected me (or any of my Arts Staff cronies) in a different way than the rest of the world who didn't personally know him. But his death is a shock, and a reminder that demons are present behind even the most flawless of faces. Upon the news of Ledger's passing, I watched Brokeback Mountain. It made me appreciate Ledger as an actor, which I hadn't done before. He was adorable and charming as Patrick Verona in the classic Ten Things I Hate About You , which I recommend to anyone who hasn't seen it as the smartest of the late '90s/early 2000s teen movie surge. A Knight's Tale had Bowie and jousting, but isn't what I'd call noteworthy. But aside from the obvious political statement made in Brokeback Mountain , Ledger shined. He was able to evoke empathy from a viewer who had no idea what his character was going through, and he tapped into something deeply buried but painfully universal; longing. Ledger really was a great actor in his own right, one of the best in his generation, and he didn't have to die for people to realize that. It's just a shame that it took his death for some of us to catch on.

It's trite and true but Ledger had a lot of good work left in him. More importantly, he left behind a family, including a two-year old daughter (Matilda Rose, whose mother is Ledger's Brokeback Mountain co-star Michelle Williams). My thoughts and prayers are with them right now.

Ledger left plenty of evidence of his talent behind, and the risks he took in his work were a good example to other actors of how to maintain integrity. It would have been easy for him to be just another heartthrob making bonehead blockbusters.

In a land of fifteen minute celebrities, it always seems unfair when people of substance struggle and have their lives cut short, when other stars appear to be so reckless with their decisions. It isn't to say some people are more valuable than others, but some people are definitely more in tune with the fragility of life.

Sometimes that isn't enough.


No comments: