Roy “Tin Cup'”McAvoy (played by Kevin Costner): “Okay, so how do I do it? Therapy, I mean, I mean, wh—how do I start doing it?”
Dr. Molly Griswold (played by Rene Russo): “Ooo-kay, Roy. Well, in parlance you might understand, just kick back and let the big dog eat.”
Roy: “Suppose there's this guy, and he's standing on the shore of a big wide river, and the... river's full of all manner of disaster, you know, piranhas, alligators, eddies, currents, shit like that... nobody'll even go down there to dip a toe. And on the other side of the river's a million bucks, and on this side of the river... is a rowboat.”
Roy: “I guess my question's this: What would possess the guy standing on the shore to swim for it?”
Molly: “He is an idiot.”
Roy: “No, see, he's a helluva swimmer. His problem's more like why does he always have to... rise to the challenge?”
Molly: “He is a juvenile idiot.”
Roy: “You don't understand what I mean by the river.”
Molly: “Roy, we're talking about you, and what you like to call your inner demons—that human frailty you like to blather about—not some mythopoetic metaphor you come up with in a... feeble and transparent effort to do yourself credit.”
Roy: “You mean you're going to make me feel lousy?”
Roy: “I came here to feel better. I mean, what kind of therapy is...”
Molly: “Roy, Roy, Roy, you don't have any inner demons. What you have is inner crapola, inner debris... garbage... loose wires, a few...[laughs] horseshit in staggering amounts!”— Tin Cup (1996), screenplay by John Norville and Ron Shelton, directed by Ron Shelton
Boys gave her the cold shoulder in school. Too tall, it seems, and, for a long time, burdened by a full-torso brace to deal with scoliosis, with the whole experience adding up to such misery that she dropped out of high school. That didn’t stop a modeling agency from signing her when she was seen at a Rolling Stones concert. When modeling petered out, she took up theater—not to mention intensely studying literature and even Christian theology—before becoming a more striking presence in her new profession: actress.
Rene Russo celebrates her 60th birthday today. Her work at the height of her career, from roughly Major League to the millennium, has been a cause of celebration for cinephiles, and her subsequent dimming status something to lament.
Maybe Russo’s height (5 ft. 8 inches), while a handicap with insecure boys, worked to her advantage on the big screen. It took someone of her stature to stand up to—to turn around, really—the strong-willed but often wayward men played by her male co-stars: not just Costner, but also Tom Berenger, Mel Gibson, Clint Eastwood, John Travolta, and Pierce Brosnan.
“Pretty girl…ugly swing,” marvels one of Roy’s baffled friends as Russo’s Molly, much against her better judgment, takes her first lessons from the golfer with “horseshit in staggering amounts.” No matter: if Roy can put up with her awkwardness on the links, she can see past his self-defeating instinct to go for broke, in golf and in love.
In the studio system of the Thirties and Forties, Russo, with writer-director Ron Shelton as her Preston Sturges, could have taken her place beside Rosalind Russell, Katharine Hepburn, Irene Dunne, Jean Arthur, and other bent goddesses of the screwball comedy. In her two most recent efforts, the Thor movies, her luminous presence was incidental to the struggles of its muscled mythic Nimrod. So much the worse for Hollywood in the 21st century. Pleasure is all the more golden for being so fleeting—even the joy in watching Russo work.