Christian Bale is so superb that it is already eerie and borderline disturbing. As my friend once commented, Mister Bale might be heading for a breakdown. His commitment to complete authenticity, staying true to his character, goes beyond the method. Several friends of mine have formed a “Christian Bale Watch,” a small club dedicated in monitoring Mister Bale, being alert for any minute physical sign that Mister Bale might be going beyond what is expected of a first-rate actor. He elicits in us some wariness that we never felt with Mister Daniel Day Lewis, another dedicated method actor. We are simply concerned. We have forgiven him for The Dark Knight; further atonement is unnecessary.
In The Fighter, Christian Bale accurately embodied the real life Dicky Eklund, from Eklund’s many hand and head gestures, stance, way of walking, and even down to his cheekbones. Not only did Mister Bale look like a has-been former boxing champion, he also gave the most convincing portrayal of a cocaine addict. Not the cinematic over the top film cocaine fiend, not the kind of portrayal that is aching for an Oscar nod, oh no, Mister Bale’s performance was grounded on reality. Proof of his effectiveness as an actor is that we have never really liked him in any of the characters that he portrayed so far, except of course as Batman. He was good in Batman Begins but I suspect that he was just winging it in The Dark Knight, and anyway, who could outshine Heath Ledger as The Joker. For all we know, Mister Bale was actually gunning for the Joker part. But if you’ve seen him in American Psycho, then you’d know that Mister Bale already did the Joker template minus the deceptive make-up. His chiselled look and conventionality as Patrick Bateman hide the visceral demon inside, a more terrifying thought indeed. It is no wonder that Mister Bale has never gotten a single Oscar nomination because his performances were simply beyond the likeable.
In a way, he is somewhere on the far left of Johnny Depp and on the far right of Meryl Streep. Like Depp, Mister Bale is a chameleon but he becomes the lizard. Like Streep, he is able to make his version of the real life character more interesting. But unlike Streep, Mister Bale unapologetically exposes his character’s bad side, and he can actually make us forget there is a real and breathing person behind his portrayal.
To think, this used to be the precocious child I once watched in Steven Spielberg’s vanity project Empire of the Sun. Mister Bale and I are contemporaries. We’re almost the same age, and that’s the scariest part because as Patrick Bateman said, “You’ve better keep your eyes open.” Sob, sob, sob, sob.
--------------- Credits: The phrase "Beyond Method" came from my friend Hech.
3 martini glasses and 1 olive for the film
4 martini glasses for Mr. Bale, and that's enough. We're running out of the good Martini.