Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Justin Timberlake - Best of a Generation?

Every once in a while, I will hear an argument about who is the best of a generation of actors. Recently, while reading Dawn's most recent post, I came to her description of Southland Tales, a film starring Justin Timberlake. In it, Dawn wrote: "I don’t know if Justin Timberlake has ever been in a good movie, but… no, correction: Justin Timberlake has never been in a good movie and Southland Tales is no exception."


Timberlake has been in a slew of solid films and over that time has proven himself to me to be if not the best actor of his generation today, at least in consideration for that lofty title.

I shared this thought with Dawn, to which she offered some alternative bests of the generation: Zack Efron (I kid you not), Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp.

First, let me clear up the issue of what constitutes a generation. Depp and Downey were born in the mid-1960s. Timberlake was born in 1981. Therefore, it is safe to say that they do not share a generation. This is good, because I agree with Dawn that Downey and Depp are better actors than Timberlake.

Efron was born in 1987. For the sake of simplicity, let's assume a generation constitutes a decade of breadth, in this case, from 1980 to 1990. In that case, Efron and Timberlake share a generation. In reality though, one could argue that a generation, particularly with actors, is much shorter, closer to 5 years. I leave that distinction up to the reader. Regardless, it is safe to use 10 years as the maximum for a generation.

Here is a quick filmography for Timberlake, focusing on the highlights with some commentary:
  • Alpha Dog (2006) - Timberlake played a rich Hollywood kid who gets involved in the escalating disaster involving the kidnap of a minor to collect a drug debt. Timberlake does a solid job of filling the role with the right bravado but also insecurity.
  • Southland Tales (2006) - Admittedly, this is an odd movie, but Timberlake shines as a former soldier returning from war.
  • Black Snake Moan (2006) - Timberlake once again plays a soldier returning home, but this time in the bayou, where his girlfriend is whoring it around town. Timberlake gets extra credit from me for his portrayal of his character's PTSD, especially when he reveals that it first reared its head before he saw any action.
  • The Social Network (2010) - Timberlake plays the founder of Napster, who acts as both role model and adviser to the founder of Facebook. He plays this role well, adding a sense of experience and aged resilience, followed by self-destruction, even though he is still a young guy.
Granted, these are only four roles, three of which were released in the same year. But Timberlake has demonstrated on SNL that he also has a knack for comedy. This is no surprise, since he started acting at a young age on the Mickey Mouse Club.

So, here is where I ask for audience participation. Can you think of other actors who are more deserving to be dubbed the best in Timberlake's generation? I have a couple of possibilities, ironically mostly from the cast of Alpha Dog. However, what do you think?

And the greater question: Who is a better actor: Efron or Timberlake?


Dawn Summers said...

Efron, hands down NO QUESTION. Orson and me, 17 Again, ANY High school musical ---okay, except maybe the third one, however, even the third one beats ANY MOVIE Timberlake has ever been in.

Even during his SNL appearances, Timberlake is one flubbed line away from cracking up. HE SUCKS!!!

Alceste said...

I'm guessing when talking about actors from the 80's, names like Gyllenhaal, joshua gordon-levit, the cuklins and elijah wood are going to come up well before timberlake and efron.

I've only seen two movies with either timberlake (black snake moan) and efron (17 again). Best part of timberlake's performance as I recall was that you really could not tell it was him. As for efron, I kind of found 17 again to be watchable, but isn't efron the absolute worst part of that movie? He's playing smug zac efron the whole time.

Alceste said...

Jordan's post made me look up at the case of alpha dog. I hadn't realized emile hirsch was as young as he is.

BWoP said...

Timberlake > Efron AINEC

Astin said...

Joseph Gordon-Levitt easily trumps them both. Not even a contest.

Timberlake has great comedic timing, but has yet to do a comedic role. He was pretty damned amusing in Southland Tales though (a movie I liked BTW).

Efron has potential, but he needs to do something completely out of his comfort zone. Right now his acting feels like "I'm trying to not be Zac Efron".

Dawn Summers said...

No way! Justin Timberlake's acting is always "I'm not Justin Timberlake" Zac Efron is Zac Efron, i.e. awesomesauceness. And I agree the Third Rock kid is better than both of them; I'm not saying that Zac Efron is the greatest actor of his generation, I'm saying he's way way way way better than Justin Timberlake.

Dawn Summers said...

Incidentally, I can't believe so many people saw (or liked) Southland Tales. I had never heard of it before and I planned never to speak of it again.

BLAARGH! said...

We're taking the same guy who wrote a glowing review of MacGruber seriously? SERIOUSLY???? Justin Timberlake?

Jake Gyllenhaal, Elijah Woods... hell I'd give Seth Rogen, Jason Schwartzman, Gordon-Levit and Michael Cera the nod before Timberlake or Effron... Jordan's obviously having a laugh at our expense, right?

Julius_Goat said...

As I said on Twitter when this came up, arguing over whether or not Justin Timberlake or Zac F. Ron is the better actor is like asking "who is the greatest heavyweight boxer, Muhammad Ali, or an Elmo doll full of wet sand?"

BLAARGH! said...

More like an elmo doll vs a barney doll... neither of these guys can be compared to ali...

Julius_Goat said...

I don't know why I mentioned Ali. I tweeted "Stephen Hawking" in the first place.

Stephen Hawking vs. Elmo

FSQ_EQ said...

My vote (for more deserving) goes to Joseph Gordon-Levitt too. He's shown great promise thus far.
If I had to choose between a rock and a hard place, Timberlake would be it.

BLAARGH! said...

Can't we just do Ali vs. Hawking? I'd actually like to see that one...