Friday, April 23, 2010
CRUSHWORTHY: Jason Ritter from "Parenthood"
Jason started out slow with small roles in the rom-com Mumford and on the soap "Days of Our Lives," before appearing in the supporting cast of the 2002 teen thriller Swimfan. The following year he scored a series regular role on CBS's supernatural/religious drama "Joan of Arcadia" playing the handicap older brother of the title character. During the two years the series was on the air, he filmed the horror fluff Freddy vs. Jason, the inspiring teen romantic drama Raise Your Voice, and the dramatic indies Happy Endings, Our Very Own, and Lenexa, 1 Mile.
I first noticed him when he headlined his very own sitcom, the short-lived CBS comedy "The Class." Unfortunately, it premiered during the we-must-replace-"Friends" era and critics were skewering it with comparisons. I thought it was pretty funny and that it had potential. As the resident Ross/Chandler, Jason played the straight man, who tied the cast together. It was canceled after 19 episodes.
The next time Jason popped up on my radar was this year when I spotted him in a promo for NBC's "Parenthood." (It's like ABC's "Brothers & Sisters," minus the over-the-top scandals.) He plays a young English teacher who sweeps Lauren Graham's character off her cougar feet, using prose and an irresistible smile. I noticed that somewhere between the failure of two shows and this character arc, Jason grew more confident in front of the camera. He now commands your attention.
I think the turning point had to be when he starred opposite Jesse Eisenberg in The Education of Charlie Banks. In it, he plays a temperamental, macho, sadistic thug—a beast wrapped in human flesh—a character that Ritter succeeds in making endearing. The critics agreed. The New York Times called his performance sincere, and EW's Owen Gleiberman said, "Ritter, who's like the young Ethan Hawke on a bender of violence, is an actor to watch."
After being thoroughly impressed by his performance, I decided to watch the other Netflix Instant Watch film that he stars in, the nonlinear romantic drama Peter & Vandy. It wasn't as impressive as other nonlinear indies (500 Days of Summer and Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind), but I agree with New York Observer's Rex Reed when he says that it showcases two actors who are "real comers on their way to bigger things." Together, these two roles proved Jason could easily switch from timid and awkward to abrasive and antagonistic. He wasn't your average boy-next-door for cookie cutter sweet roles. He's like Joseph Gordon Levitt mixed with Tom Cruise—a con man with a charismatic smile.