I think about a world to come where the books were found by the golden ones, written in pain, written in awe by a puzzled man who questioned, "What are we here for?" All the strangers came today and it looks as though they're here to stay.

-David Bowie "Oh! You Pretty Things"

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Justin/Jeff Project: California Split (1974)

In the spirit of the Julie/Julia project in which writer Julie Powell chronicles cooking all of the recipes in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, 524 recipes in 365 days, I bring you the Jeff/Justin project. The Justin/Jeff project chronicles my descent into the filmography of Jeff Goldblum and will take as much time as it takes.

While Jeff Goldblum's character in Death Wish was a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad kid, at least he played a noticeable character, integral to the plot, and got a decent amount of screen time. In California Split, featuring George Segal and Elliott Gould, he gets only the quickest of cameos, enough time to show his dorky face and then fade away. What do I remember of Jeff Goldblum's performance as Lloyd Harris in California Split? I remember him coming out of an office, talking to one of the main characters, smiling (maybe), and then I remember waiting for him to show up again. This was especially difficult in a movie that didn't seem too concerned with plot.

In all of the descriptions of Jeff Goldblum's appearance in California Split you'll read how Robert Altman really liked Jeff Goldblum. Altman found him performing in the comic review El Grande de Coca Cola and he just had to have Goldblum in his films. So, Goldblum pops out of an office and then he disappears. He is only noticeable years later when fans, like me, skim through his filmography trying to gain some kind of sacred knowledge from seeing every single Goldblum performance. This isn't even the Altman film that will help Goldblum's career. That will come in 1975 with his performance in the Academy Award nominated Robert Altman film Nashville.

What do we know of Jeff Goldblum's character Lloyd Harris in California Split? He's not really much of a character. He could be anyone. He could moonlight as Batman, or he could zip out of the office here and there as Superman. He could be the same character from Death Wish, only grown up, with a job, and a penchant for violating kind citizens. He could be the american psycho for all we know. But if we are to paint a picture more akin to the clues Robert Altman has given us, it seems pretty clear that Lloyd Harris is just a dweeby co-worker who probably doesn't have much of a life.

Thank goodness Jeff Goldblum went on to bigger and better things, because Lloyd Harris is not exactly the kind of character who sells an actor. Lloyd Harris is the kind of character you want to keep behind closed doors.

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