Accents in Movies or Why Jude Law Sucks Ass

The whole idea of acting is to be a part of the great conspiracy to suspend the disbelief of the viewer. So, when one can’t act, it chips away at whatever illusion is being created. Sometimes even destroys it.

Picture me, watching the movie, Cold Mountain, starring Nicole Kidman, Rene Zellwegger, Jude Law, and directed by Anthony Minghella. Yes, by myself and on my own volition. No excuses. It was an epicene thing to do, but I did it anyways. Because that’s how I roll.

It was a good movie. It had a dreamy literary romantic feel to it. I enjoyed it. But you have to be in the mood for a slow emotionally ridden movie. After an exhausting two week trial is a good place to start. It’s even better when it’s like 2 in the morning and there’s nothing on television (and I’m including cable) and you messed up your netflix mailing system so now all of your movies are in transit somewhere. And it’s raining.

So I was enjoying this Civil War-era epic/romance, until, of course, that idiot, Jude Law, who plays a Confederate soldier returning from the war (read: southerner), completely ruins a scene and in a way, the movie. Now it was a stretch in the first place to think of Jude Law as a southerner, because I didn’t hear anything remotely southern coming out of him (I grew up in Kentucky, kinda close to North Carolina, but not really, but enough to know). He kept a neutral accent for the most part during the movie. (I mean I suppose if you had Vivien Leigh play Scarlett O’Hara, anything is possible).

The part of the movie where he confronts Union soldiers at Natalie Portman’s (and I mean her character’s) place, he yells out, [I’m paraphrasing here], “GET OUT OF HE-AH!!” IN A FULL BRITISH ACCENT. He might have had added the phrase, “by order of the his majesty, the KING!!!”

[Editor’s Note:  Michelle told me that my paraphrase of the phrase in question as incorrect.  So I watched the relevant scene again — and she is correct.  Jude Law’s character declares (still in a BRITISH ACCENT), “MOVE AH-WAY FROM THE BAH-BEE!!”  And he continues to break accent afterwards.  I stand corrected insofar as my quotation is concerned, but I am still correct in my assertion that Jude Law is an actor without much range, in terms of accents and acting in general.]

I will hold onto irrational things and use it to wage a war of unrequited hate against a person — especially actors. And that’s why I think Jude Law sucks ass. Great acting Jude. Note sarcasm.

Granted, maybe the director should have caught it, but Anthony Minghella’s British, so it probably sounded fine to him. Charles Frazier is silently stabbing his fountain pen into a little Jude Law doll.

So, if he can’t keep an accent, then who can?

1. Gwyneth Paltrow is by far the BEST example of an American actress who has an impeccable British accent. It’s awesome. AWESOME. You just have to watch Sliding Doors to really understand how she has it down. Good movie. In addition, you can see Emma and a movie called Shakespeare in Love (which won for best picture the same year Saving Private Ryan came out and I thought was a missed call by the Academy, but upon having watched it a few times, I can see why Shakespeare in Love really appealed to those appreciate great writing as oppposed to the most pyrotechnic opening sequence in a movie to date).

2. Angelina Jolie. Pretty good. Tomb Raider. She’s also hot (which is why she’s up here at #2). I’m a big fan. Her British accent is pretty good (it broke only once in the sequel to Tomb Raider). But I don’t think it’s been tested in the way Paltrow was tested with three heavy British scripts with lots of dialogue.

3. Kate Winslet. She’s just an all around great actress. Her work speaks for itself. And of course, I mean her American accent (The Titanic, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). And her Australian accent (Holy Smoke!). And her Kiwi accent, Heavenly Creatures (although if I remember correctly, Kate’s character’s family was British, but there was enough of the New Zealander in there to convince me — not that I’m an expert).

4. Cate Blanchett. Her Natasha-from-Rocky-and-Bullwinkle-esque act from the latest Indiana Jones movie notwithstanding, she can apparently do any accent. Queen’s British, American, Katherine Hepburn’s English, etcetera. I didn’t know for years that she was AUSTRALIAN. Wow.

5. Nicole Kidman. Her performance in the above, Cold Mountain, as a southerner was passable (but being next to Jude Law made her seem AWESOME). But generally speaking, I first noticed her in To Die For, where she plays a cunning mid-western weather girl — sounded utterly American.

6. Kenneth Branagh, Mr. ex-Royal Shakespeare Company has a damn good American accent. I won’t tell you to watch Wild, Wild, West, but rather, Dead Again. Great movie (and in happier times with Emma Thompson). We can’t expect Jude Law to be like Kenneth Branagh, but I sure he tried.

And as a side note, everyone’s Korean accent on the TV show “Lost” is utterly horrible, except for the actress who plays Sun. She is played by Yunjin Kim and she apparently had a career here in the States before going back to Korea to do TV and a movie (Shiri, which put her on the map). So, one can expect her Korean accent to be pretty authentic. But she plays someone who speaks semi-broken-English with a Korean accent, and it doesn’t sound like some ridiculous Margaret Cho monlogue. And since her English is pretty flawless (outside of the TV show), that’s a pretty good acting job.

The whole point is that this thing about accents is that it’s really important if you can tell the difference. The majority of English speakers here in the US can’t tell how well or not well Korean is being spoken. A lot of American English speakers can’t tell the difference between an Australian accent, Queen’s English, Cockney, or a Kiwi one. But sometimes, when you can tell or think you can tell, the inability of certain people to covince you of the authenticity of what they’re delivering, is incredibly annoying.

And that means you Jude Law . . .

6 thoughts on “Accents in Movies or Why Jude Law Sucks Ass

Add yours

  1. As far as Brits doing American accents, Hugh Laurie (House) and Kate Beckinsale are pretty damn good as well.

  2. Yes, I agree, esp. in re: Hugh Laurie. I can’ believe this is the same guy who played the buffoon Bertie Wooster in the “Jeeves” series on PBS.

    What about Michelle Ryan? Even though the Bionic Woman sucked ass, her American accent was pretty good. She sounds great in her normal British voice though — best enjoyed in the BBC’s “Hyde” — check it out.

  3. I disagree with Kate Winslet. Great actress, but her American accent is too stiff & flat. I realize she is going for “generic, news anchor American”, but even that is not so flat as she speaks. It’s not distractingly bad though, and she can otherwise act.

    I also think Cate Blanchett’s Katherine Hepburn accent was too exaggerated. It was like a caricature of her accent (and I realize her accent was like a caricature to begin with….but this was like a caricature of a caricature).

    Other bad American accents from non-American actors:

    Jude Law in I Heart Huckabees. Epically bad, like Dick Van Dyke’s cockney level bad. It sounds like he’s not even trying at times. He should be banned from playing Americans.

    Sienna Miller (Alfie) – maybe she learned her American from Jude Law

    Catherine Zeta-Jones – High Fidelity & other movies….is she TRYING to sound like Elmer Fudd?

    Ewan McGregor – Velvet Goldmine & other movies. More than a few words give him away as Scottish. At best, you can tell he is non-American, but can’t place his native accent. Like Winslet, not terribly distracting, and he’s an otherwise good actor.

    Anthony Hopkins – another good actor who can’t quite nail an American accent

  4. So Jude Law was the first Briti who got jammed into too many movies. Now the British Invasion has ruined a ton of movie franchises. Henry Cavill is a horrible actor and has been in the worst DC and MI movie(s). While GOT was a good show, the new actors like Emelia Clarke and Sophie Turner have produced some awful movie flops in the Terminator and X-Men franchise.

    1. But in television, the truly great British actors really shine. And the best is when after you watch the show, you find out that they were BRITISH the whole entire time!!!! Matthew Macfadyen (from HBO’s Succession) comes to mind immediately. Half of the cast in HBO’s Band of Brothers. I think Tom Holland is the only one I can think of right now in terms of British actors who has done extremely well in a major Hollywood tentpole movie (again, was surprised he was British) — I’m sure there are many others who are just lurking around where we presume that they are American. And I agree, it’s unfortunate that the cast of GoT really haven’t found success in main stream movies.

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