It's hard to make solid movies about cultural icons. So much of what they are exists in imagination and rumor. This is just one of the reasons why Ed Harris' directorial debut, Pollock, is as good as it is. Harris casts Pollock in an amazingly even light, given all the cultural and emotional baggage that Jackson Pollock still carries. This is not to say it is a mediocre performance; on the contrary, Harris tackles his role with gusto, whether he's in an booze-fueled rage or immersed in painting a masterpiece of Abstract Expressionism. Furthermore, his physical likeness to the artist is remarkable.
Pollock is famous for his “drip-style” works, large paintings filled with frenetic swirls of color delivered by a fast-moving brush that never even touched the canvas. The style was unmistakable, revolutionary, and with the help of his wife Lee Krasner (Marcia Gay Harden) and wealthy art-shark Peggy Guggenheim (Amy Madigan), Pollock soon rose to worldwide fame. International success couldn't change the facts however: Pollock was a troubled alcoholic, a badly tempered man with a taste for women, booze, and a veneer of macho superiority.
Harris refrains from glamorization, giving a stubbornly human performance that, in other Harris roles, is often channeled into the All-American-Guy. The script goes so far as to suggest that the car accident in which Pollock and his mistress died may have been suicide. Harden's role is important to the film, and Pollock is stronger for it. Although it begins near the end of his tragic life, the film covers the artist from his beginnings in a decidedly grittier Greenwich Village than the one tromped by internet yuppies and tourists today.