I started August off so organised that I was scheduling blog posts instead of publishing them straight away, and even started compiling my ‘What I Watched’ monthly round-up post as the days went by, and yet here I am on the night that Hidden Gems is meant to be posted furiously putting my post together having only just watched my third pick. Can’t will them all, eh? If you aren’t familiar with Hidden Gems, it’s a challenge created by Mettel Ray, where you pick an actor or actress for each month of the year, pick 3 movies of theirs you haven’t seen yet and give them a watch in the hopes of finding a gem. If you haven’t guessed already, my August choice was Jake Gyllenhaal!
Why Jake Gyllenhaal?
He was my first love. You may laugh, but I’m serious! Back when I was a sulky, young teenager, I watched The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and ended up with a bit of a crush on Jake Gyllenhaal. At the time, I wasn’t hugely into movies but this was the beginning of my hobby blossoming. I’d also discovered online retail (remember when Amazon and eBay were new?) and got myself copies of Donnie Darko (2001), Bubble Boy (2001) and The Good Girl (2002) on VHS just to watch more of him. The former is still one of my favourite movies of all time, and is the reason I love dark, twisty movies the most! So clearly, Jake had to be a part of this challenge for me.
I was using Letterboxd for these statistics until now but it’s so tough weeding out all the unreleased movies, shorts and other anomalies that I think doing a manual count on IMDB is going to be easier. So, IMDB has 39 feature movies listed under his name. Of those, I’ve seen 21, which is a pretty decent figure if I may say so myself. Some of my favourites include Donnie Darko, Prisoners, Enemy and Nightcrawler.
I’ve also seen Spider-Man: Far From Home, Zodiac, Brokeback Mountain, Nocturnal Animals, Okja, Velvet Buzzsaw, Source Code, Life, The Day After Tomorrow, End of Watch, Everest, Jarhead, Demolition, Brothers, Bubble Boy, The Good Girl and Moonlight Mile.
I’ve had one Jake Gyllenhaal movie in my watchlist forever so only had to pick another two this time round thankfully. My three choices ended up being Wildlife (2018), Love & Other Drugs (2010) and Stronger (2017).
This is the movie that’s been on my watchlist since it was released. Something stopped me from seeing it as soon as it came out, and over time I guess I’ve forgotten what it was even about. One thing I didn’t know at all until now is that Wildlife is Paul Dano’s directional debut! Which makes me happy because he’s so talented. Anyway, this stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan as parents of a teenaged boy. Gyllenhaal’s character loses his job and his sense of purpose, and leaves his family temporarily to go and fight a raging forest fire.
The best word I can use to describe Wildlife is devastating. It wasn’t the movie I thought it was at all. It’s not a bad movie at all, quite the opposite, but it will weigh heavily on your mind for quite some time. Watching this family lose faith and seeing the effect that has is just so upsetting. I can applaud the technical aspects of everything to do with the movie but I didn’t enjoy it enough to call it a gem.
Love & Other Drugs (2010)
Look, I’m as surprised as you are that there’s a Jake Gyllenhaal romcom that I haven’t seen yet! This one was an odd experience to say the least due to the subject matter. Gyllenhaal plays Jamie, a salesman struggling with his numbers but not for charm. He lands himself a job as a sales rep for the medical company Pfizer (heard of them?!) and starts a relationship with Maggie (Anne Hathaway), a woman with a lot of health issues but a wit even sharper than Jamie’s.
Oh, 15-year-old me would have eaten this movie up for breakfast and then watched it every weekend until she knew the words by heart. 32-year-old me has a guilty appreciation for the sheer amount of nudity on display, but can accept that this movie is total garbage.
I’ve found myself watching a lot of sad movies for this challenge so far. Am I unconsciously avoiding them when casually watching movies or do I need to take more time when making my selections for the challenge each month? Who knows. Stronger is based on the real-life story of Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal), a man who lost both of his legs in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.
What an inspiring story, about an inspiring man. He went through so much, and did all he could to stay positive through it all, too. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like to have been in that situation. This would have been a decent, interesting movie with any cast, but Jake Gyllenhaal acts his absolute heart out here and just raises the bar of the whole thing. Without a doubt, Stronger is a hidden gem, I just wish I watched it sooner and didn’t have to rush at the end of the month.
It feels so good to have found a gem this month, I was starting to lose faith a little bit! It’s clear to me however that not only have I seen a lot of Jake Gyllenhaal’s movies, I’ve seen the majority of the great ones. He’s an actor who I’ll always be excited to see, no matter what kind of movie he happens to star in next. September is Octavia Spencer’s month and I’d love to hear some recommendations from you if you have any?