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5 of Michael Caine’s Most Unique Indie Film Roles

5 of Michael Caine's Most Unique Indie Film Roles


Editor’s Note: This post is presented in partnership with 
Time Warner Cable Movies On Demand in support of Indie Film Month. Today’s pick, Youth, is available now On Demand. Need help finding a movie to watch? Let TWC find the best fit for your mood here.

READ MORE: ‘Youth’ Filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino Explains Why He Sees Himself in Michael Caine’s Character

“Quills”

Philip Kaufman’s loosely-based-in reality 2000 feature may have been mostly concerned with the transgressions committed by Geoffrey Rush’s Marquis de Sade in pursuit of pleasure and restraint, but Caine’s take on the politically toxic Dr. Royer-Collard is just as intriguing and fraught. As Emperor Napoleon’s man on the scene, Royer-Collard is the true villain of a film full of twisted desires and shifting allegiances, a tough enough role for anyway to pull off, but one which Caine does with equal parts menace and style. The film was a Telluride Film Festival premiere that was distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures for a cash-rich limited release. It was nominated for three Oscars (though Caine was shut out) and eventually named the best film of the year by the National Board of Reivew. Not too shabby, you naughty little film. 

“Youth”

Paolo Sorrentino’s latest has divided audiences since its 2015 debut at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was reportedly met with copious boos and walkouts, which didn’t seem to do much in the way of staving off its distribution chances, with Fox Searchlight picking it up and happily taking it to TIFF before releasing it in December of last year. The film sees Caine as aging composer Fred Ballinger, who spends his twilight time reflecting on everything he did (and did not) accomplish during his earlier years. It’s a tricky role to pull off because Sorrentino eschews artifice and refuses to let Fred come across as some kindly old man with a few regrets under his belt. Instead, he and Caine paint a complex portrait of a man still chasing youth, even if he doesn’t seem to have learned much from his own earlier experiences. Maturation isn’t initially on the menu, but Caine eventually grows Fred into a sympathetic, though still not always likable, character whose issues are both believable and relatable. 

“Is Anybody There?”

John Crowley’s 2009 dramedy gives Caine a seemingly familiar-sounding role — a charming ex-magician who befriends a kicky kid — and infuses it with his trademark emotion and honesty. Crowley’s films (like his Oscar-nominated “Brooklyn”) often contain the structure and ideas of otherwise trope-laden features, but the director cuts to the bone with his work, turning been-there-done-that stories into truly unique experiences. “Is Anybody There?” does just that, with Caine walking the line between doddering elderly person and sage mentor, all gussied up with some heartfelt humor. The film was barely seen in the U.S., despite premiering at TIFF in 2008, and it remains a hidden gem in both Caine and Crowley’s resumes.

“Little Voice”

Mark Herman’s 1998 comedy musical earned Caine a Golden Globe for his work as roguish music manager with an ear for talent and an eye for, well, basically just tossing all his good fortune out the window. The film follows Laura, the so-called Little Voice, who is uniquely able to mimic famous singers, though she struggles to find her own voice (literal and metaphorical) to craft her own work. When Caine’s down on his luck music manager Ray Say discovers her, the pair hit it off instantly, and the resulting success changes both of them forever. The film isn’t talked about too often these days, but it’s a dead funny feature with some sage things to say about the entertainment industry, and Caine is a pure delight in it.

“Shiner”

Caine has long been able to mix his smooth and suave roles with tougher fare (hello, “Harry Brown”), and the 2000 drama “Shiner” is a prime example of just how bad Caine can be when he wants to. The Shakespearean-esque tale stars Caine as a knockabout boxing promoter whose biggest star (who just so happens to be his own son) is killed on the night of his biggest fight. Caine’s Billy “Shiner” Simpson falls down the revenge rabbit hole while attempting to identify (and punish) the perpetrators, and the result is a dark and twisted film that sticks with you long after the last punch is thrown.

READ MORE: How Age Affects the Movie Stars We Love

Indiewire has partnered with Time Warner Cable Movies On Demand for February’s Indie Film Month. Enjoy exceptionally creative and uniquely entertaining new Indie releases (“Grandma,” “Youth,” “Room” and more) all month long on Time Warner Cable Movies On Demand. Go HERE daily for movie reviews, interviews, and exclusive footage of the suggested TWC movie of the day and catch the best Indie titles on TWC Movies On Demand.

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