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Posted at 10:55 AM ET, 04/27/2012

‘The Raven’ reactions: John Cusack’s Poe gets mixed reviews


John Cusack portrays Edgar Allan Poe in "The Raven." (AP/Relativity Media, Larry Horricks)
John Cusack’s “The Raven” will hit theaters today with a plunk: On the site Rotten Tomatoes, the historical thriller has just a 26 percent fresh rating among top critics.

Based on some reviews, it seems the actor was not suited to play this version of Edgar Allan Poe — one that investigates a serial killer imitating his works.

John DeFore, writing for The Washington Post, certainly thought so:

“See the right promotional photo of John Cusack playing Edgar Allan Poe in “The Raven,” and it briefly looks like a good idea: The high forehead, the shadowed eyes — even with Poe’s moustache transformed into a more 2012-fashionable goatee, there’s enough of a resemblance to tantalize. . . . But then Edgar Allan Poe walks into a bar and starts talking, and we immediately understand why Cusack is not known for playing men who lived before 1984.”

Of course, not every critic felt this way about Cusack’s performance. Below we present arguments for and against Cusack’s portrayal of Poe.

The anti-Cusack critics

Richard Corliss for Time : “The role should be perfect for Cusack . . . But the actor depends too much on the declamatory-hysteric mode for which he is poorly suited; he’s better at withering, whispered barbs, often directed inward.”

Roger Ebert for the Chicago Sun-Times : “When I heard that John Cusack had been cast for this film, it sounded like good news: I could imagine him as Poe, tortured and brilliant, lashing out at a cruel world. But that isn’t the historical Poe the movie has in mind. It is a melodramatic Poe, calling for the gifts of Nicolas Cage.”

David Germain for the Associated Press : “John Cusack makes a terrible Poe, the somber role as one of literature’s great tortured souls spotlighting his limitations as an actor. . . . With his little goatee and his black cape, Cusack vaguely looks the part, but he’s a lightweight — voice too whiny, mannerisms too exaggerated, cadence too reedy to bring alive the movie’s frequent passages of Poe’s lyrical writing.”

And the pro-Cusack critics

Claudia Puig for USA Today : “It’s a moderately entertaining yarn that conjures up the era effectively through vivid period costumes and, mostly, Cusack’s able rendering of the mercurial writer, a social pariah in his day.”

Roger Moore for McClatchy-Tribune News Service : “Cusack, in the most dashing, least introverted role of his career, is a delight, manic one moment, overwhelmed by regret in the next.”

Stephen Whitty for the New Jersey Star-Ledger : “John Cusack makes a realistic, nicely sardonic and properly pasty-looking, Poe. He holds a gun precisely twice during the film; once he drops it, and the second time he fires and misses. Repeatedly. (Perhaps this is the true reason the man was drummed out of West Point.) Unfortunately, the characterization is far more accurate than the rest of the movie.”

Do you plan on seeing “The Raven” this weekend? Tell us in the comments.

By  |  10:55 AM ET, 04/27/2012

Categories:  Movies | Tags:  The Raven

 
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