Hollywood's Most Promising #2: Haley Joel Osment
Now.. I know Mr. Osment hasn't been on the scene for a couple of years now. But that begs the question: why? I got thinking after seeing Haley playing for the USA in the All-Star Cup, a celebrity Ryder Cup-esque golf tournament. I know it's for charity but you have to wonder why he isn't off shooting a film somewhere. Sure, he does have a project called Home of the Giants, scheduled to begin filming in the near future, but this is by directorial debutant Rusty Gorman, and Haley is the only part of the cast as of yet. Can't Osment do better? Especially seen as he was built up to be the greatest child actor ever, receiving an Oscar nomination at the age of 11 for his wonderful turn in The Sixth Sense. Maybe the "curse of the child star" is manifesting itself once again, but Osment seems pretty grounded to me, and has produced no less than three Oscar-worthy performances in my opinion.
I've mentioned his brilliance in The Sixth Sense and so will move on to the vastly underrated Pay It Forward, released in 2000. First I want to say that when looking if a film is manipulative, you have to decide whether the event in question alters your perception of the concept of the film as a whole. I don't believe that the tragic finale in Pay it Forward bears any manipulative qualities bar a tear or too. Its singular concept is monumentally powerful, and serves solely as an eye-opener through the eyes of the incredibly naive, damaged genius of Trevor, played by Osment. It bothers me how so many people can ignore the 110 minutes before its painful conclusion.
As for Osment's best performance, well, this comes in Artificial Intelligence, where he plays a robot searching for a family, a home. Now I'm not all that keen on the last twenty minutes of this film, which is over-sentimental melodramatic trash (ok, got that out the way), but there's no denying that Osment owns the film and the character. I can't imagine how difficult it is to communicate feelings, while remaining essentially static and artificial. Osment may be playing a robot, but it's a robot that has human qualities, led by the desire to love and feel. Nobody in past or present could have done a better job.
To quote Nicole Kidman in Cold Mountain (and what is possibly one of the most powerful lines in film): "[Haley Joel], if you are walking stop walking, if you are marching (down the 11th tee) stop marching, come back, come back is my request"