Two hours of abstract art, alcoholism and angst helmed by a Hollywood star in pet project mode. Most will avoid Pollock, but they'll be missing out because Ed Harris' directorial debut unflinchingly shows us its subject as both creative powerhouse and downright pain in the ass.
The story begins in New York during World War Two. Jackson Pollock (Harris), excused military service on account of being a primary colour short of the full palette, is eking out a living in obscurity. Enter fellow artist Lee Krasner (Marcia Gay Harden, winner of the 2001 Best Supporting Actress Oscar).
A free spirit who won't even make Pollock a cup of coffee because, hey, that's what cafés are for, Krasner becomes confidante, wife and mother figure to a man whose idea of etiquette is pissing in the fireplace of his wealthy patron, Peggy Guggenheim (Amy Madigan).
But Barbara Turner and Susan Emshwiller's script is too smart to show Krasner as a victim: after all, she nudges Pollock towards leaving the city and quitting drinking long enough to create the paint-splattered canvasses that made his reputation. It's through Krasner that we discover the complex, taciturn and oddly unsophisticated Pollock. Yet if Harden's performance conveys the guts and heart of the drama, it's Harris who tells us about the art - - portraying Pollock as a self-absorbed maverick whose best work is an attempt to convey inner turmoil.
Add in a strong supporting cast - - including Jennifer Connelly as Pollock's lover, Ruth Klingman - - and, by the time Pollock's liquor-sodden existence has deteriorated into farce, then tragedy, you'll be drained, enthralled and maybe even a little inspired.