Brolin flexes macho muscles again

Brolin flexes macho muscles again

In Tinseltown, "manly" men flash guns around, wearing lumberjack shirts while strutting through wood cabins - or so archetypal roles such as Llewelyn Moss in No Country For Old Men (2007) and Tom Chaney in True Grit (2010) will have you believe.

"When you grow up looking like I do, you can't help it," explains the actor Josh Brolin, who took on the above roles, with more than a hint of sarcasm to a group of reporters in a London hotel room.

"When you look at my brow, it's pretty primitive," he adds, faking a Neanderthal's grunt.

The 45-year-old beefcake appears in his latest outing in yet another hypermasculine role - a muscled convict on the run who is not afraid of woodwork - in Jason Reitman's broody drama Labor Day, opposite Kate Winslet.

The film, set in rural New Hampshire, tracks the developing and improbable holiday romance between Brolin's character (Frank) and depressed mother Adele (Winslet) as seen through the eyes of 13-year-old Henry (Gattlin Griffith).

But if you are waiting for some Sylvester Stallone-inspired wrecking of furniture, look elsewhere. As Brolin himself tells, this new kind of "real man embraces his sensitive and vulnerable qualities".

"He has the cosmetics of a manly man: Someone who's been in prison, who had a lot of menace in his life, who had to learn to be a certain type for 19 years in order to survive.

"But if you look at the flashbacks, he was just a guy who wanted to be in love and have a family."

Indeed, thanks to superior and sensitive acting from both him and Winslet, the movie rises beyond its Stockholm-syndrome plot to become an absorbing - if over-lingering - take on fear of the unknown and conformist social mores.

For Brolin, it was about "softening up in front of Adele or Kate - not that they are the same person", he says.

In the film, Frank is shown cooking hearty meals and feeding a tied-up Adele some gooey stodge, spoonful by spoonful, when not repairing her car. There is even a pie co-making scene worthy of Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore's pottery turn in the 1990 cult romance, Ghost.

Brolin says: "With everything shot in the house, it was a bit claustrophobic, Jason not allowing myself to move, not allowing me to do this or do that. It made me uncomfortable. But I'm always uncomfortable and I'm okay with it now. When things are comfortable, they aren't always good. You need sparks for a movie.

"I just have to remember I'm into professional humiliation for a living." Everyone laughs, if slightly nervously.

The son of actors James Brolin and wildlife campaigner Jane Agee, Brolin junior grew up in the lap of fame, watched closely as the offspring of 1970s film star and, later, the stepchild of diva Barbra Streisand. His early years, he confesses, were spent drifting from one TV job to another bit part - "blue-collar acting", he calls it.

More about

movie review
Purchase this article for republication.
Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.