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Mark Duplass is one of the Most Honest Actors Currently Working

June 18, 2012

By John C.

With roles in the three excellent films Safety Not Guaranteed, Your Sister’s Sister and People Like Us all opening this month, Mark Duplass continues to prove himself one of the busiest and most honest actors currently working.  Despite the fact that many mainstream moviegoers might not know his name, the Louisiana-born actor and filmmaker is an independent star who shows no signs of being overexposed or burning out.

Earning rave reviews at Sundance in January, the excellent Safety Not Guaranteed opened in limited release this past Friday.  Aubrey Plaza, Karan Soni and Jake M. Johnson play three magazine employees tracking down the author of an offbeat classified ad placed by a man looking for a companion to go back in time.  They discover Kenneth (Mark Duplass), a man living alone who believes that he has the ability to change his past.  “The mission has to do with regret,” he says, and what’s brilliant about the way that Mark Duplass portrays the character is that the need for him to travel through time becomes moving and instantly relatable.

I’ve been praising the wonderful dramedy Your Sister’s Sister since I first discovered it at last September’s Toronto International Film Festival, and the naturalistic study of the relationship between two sisters (Emily Blunt and Rosmarie DeWitt) and their platonic friend (Mark Duplass) finally opens this Friday.  The three actors all play so well off each other, as the thoroughly entertaining and always believable scenes of dialogue reveal more and more about the characters and where they are in their lives.  It’s also the second film that Mark Duplass has made with director Lynn Shelton.  Their first collaboration was the hilarious Humpday back in 2009, which worked as an intimate study of extreme male bonding between two straight guys who decide to make a porn film together.

The role that Mark Duplass plays in People Like Us might be small compared to the excellent leading work of Elizabeth Banks and Chris Pine, but his few scenes in the upcoming drama are as believably entertaining as we have come to expect.  His work behind the camera is just as strong.  Along with his brother and frequent collaborator Jay, the Duplass Brothers literally redefined the independent film scene in 2005 with The Puffy Chair, an ultra low budget gem that starred Mark Duplass alongside his wife Katie Aselton in his first big screen role.  Jay and Mark Duplass followed it up with the low budget thriller Baghead in 2008, and the excellent 2010 film Cyrus.  Their latest collaboration is the small masterpiece Jeff, Who Lives at Home, which comes on Blu-ray tomorrow.

Mark Duplass might not be a name that brings mainstream audiences into movie theatres, but he is an actor and filmmaker who we can count on to deliver films that consistently feel real.  His performances are natural with a recognition that most humour comes from a very genuine place, and he is able to believably portray the close bonds shared between friends and family.  The films he directs with his brother Jay are all made on a small budget, but they capture the honest emotions of human connection.  Both brothers are just as gracious in real life, with Mark’s advice to aspiring filmmakers being “to keep making movies, even if you have to make twenty shorts before you make a good one.”

With his excellent performances in Safety Not Guaranteed and Your Sister’s Sister, as well as his small supporting role in People Like Us and his work behind the camera on Jeff, Who Lives at Home, Mark Duplass had a hand in some of the most believable and heartfelt films of the last few months.  Whether he is collaborating with his brother or working as an actor, the evolution of his career continues to be one worth watching.

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