23 July 2004 | swisener
It's next to impossible not to like Paul Newman on screen, so it's a tremendous active achievement when he plays an unsympathetic character. Sully, his greatest role since "Hud," depicts Newman at his worst and thus at his best. Tom Hanks was remarkable in "Forrest Gump," but Newman deserved the 1994 Best Actor Oscar for "Nobody's Fool." The movie's greatness lies in the relationships between Newman and two other characters. Jessica Tandy is closer to Newman than her own son, played by Josef Sommer (who it's revealed is a white-collar crook and thus a bigger scoundrel than Sully, whom he despises). Likewise, Newman connects easier with co-worker Rub than with his own son, who can't see beyond his father's betrayal during a wayward youth. The reconciliation between Sully and Rub on a back porch may be the greatest of Newman's career ("Peter's my son. You're my best friend," Sully says in terms that even the slow-thinking Rub can grasp instantly). Robert Benton, who also directed the heartwarming "Places in the Heart," gives us an equally personal, but more disciplined work. He assembles A-list performers (Bruce Willis and Melanie Griffith are magnetic on screen), gives them marvelous dialogue ("You're a man among men," Griffith tells Newman twice in the movie but with different meanings) and melts our hearts. But acting honors go to Newman, whose complex Sully becomes if not loving, then at least a responsible, functioning, vital member of the human race. And, in the end, nobody's fool.