Surrealist autofiction showcases Dafoe/Ferrara pairing

Is there such a thing as too much Willem Dafoe? The distinctive-looking, immensely talented actor is often a bewildering screen presence. He’s made some 100 films over the last 39-plus years, garnering four Oscar nominations, while somehow avoiding taking home golden hardware.

One would say that the 64-year-old master thespian’s recognition is long overdue.

In “Tommaso,” we get loads and loads of Dafoe. And for a moment or two, I thought, it might be too much of the guy. But writer/director Abel Ferrara (“Bad Lieutenant,” “Ms. 45”), an equally perplexing and challenging filmmaker, never makes a boring movie, especially when he gets to torture Dafoe, his frequent collaborator.

And here, Ferrara seems to have written a title character perfectly suited for Dafoe’s unique qualities. Tommaso is an American ex-pat in Rome with his young wife, Nikki (Cristina Chiriac), and 3-year-old daughter, Deedee (Anna Ferrara). By day, he takes classes in Italian and teaches young acting students.

Tommaso is an actor, writer, and filmmaker in the waning years of his career. He’s also an addict and alcoholic. To maintain his sobriety, which he’s kept for six years, he attends AA meetings and does a lot of meditation. But his reliance on Buddhism, which ironically fosters random thoughts about the passion of the Christ, has abused his sense of reality.

Read the rest of Jonathan’s review online and in print in the Times-Herald:

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