I still have mixed feelings about ABC's "American Crime" ... but not about its star; Tim Hutton is subtly superb. You can particularly savor that in the show's second episode, at 10 p.m. Thursday (March 12); you can also catch a rerun of the opener, a day earlier. Here's the story I sent to papers:
the dark depths of ABC's “American Crime,” there are few things
people can agree on.
may be this: Timothy Hutton is extraordinary. He should finally be
ready for his second major award ... some 34 years after his first
was 20 when he was named best supporting actor for “Ordinary
People,” making him the youngest male ever to win an acting Oscar.
Since then, his performances and his roles have drawn raves; the late
Ted Demme, who directed him in the 1996 “Beautiful Girls,” called
him “the greatest actor of his generation.” But these were subtle
roles in small, subtle, un-nominated films.
Hutton is in a series filled with wrenching emotions and long, tight
close-ups. John Ridley said his “Crime” scripts require “a cast
that can hold the frame, beginning to end .... It's essential to be
able to sit with these characters, to be able to feel what they're
feeling, to not look away.”
something Hutton can handle, with a subject – the complications of
parenthood – he knows well.
few years ago, we asked him what it was like to see his second son
born in Paris, on the day (Sept. 11, 2001) when the world changed.
was a garden at the hospital,” he said. “You could stand there
and look up into the rooms ….
all the rooms, you could see different people gathered around. In the
center of every room was someone holding a baby in a blanket. It all
seemed to show there could be moments of incredible joy, at the same
time that terrible things had happened.”
sort of balance fills “American Crime” and its troubled parents.
Benito Martinez, for instance, plays a dad whose tough-love code
came back to bite him sometimes,” Martinez said. “That made the
journey difficult, interesting, real, profound .... There are other
parents in the piece as well that have been kicked in the guts.”
Hutton's character, who bounced back from years of absent fatherhood
to care deeply ... and then to wonder if he really knew his slain
son. “You understand that the layers and layers of the person's
past are going to be pushed foward,” he said.
a surface level, this role seems to fit Hutton's life. His parents
divorced when he was 3; for nine years, he was a continent away from
his dad. He became close to him, only to see him die young Later,
Hutton and his first wife (Debra Winger) divorced when their son was
2; he and his second wife divorced when their son was 7.
he has resisted any easy attempts to compare real life to the
troubled people he's played. Hutton has talked warmly of
relationships with his sons and his dad. “My parents got along so
well that Dad would stay in the house when he visited,” he told
People magazine in 1982.
Hutton was a popular actor in Los Angeles. His ex-wife moved their
two children to academic places – Cambridge, Mass. (where she got a
Master's degree), Connecticut (where she was a librarian) and
Berkeley. Timothy was 12 then, used to artistic places; his first
school play was by Euripides.
was 15 when his dad suggested he visit for the summer; that went so
well that he stayed. “The timing was perfect,” he told Rolling
Stone in '82. “We were friends on an equal level. There was a
tremendous amout of respect for each other.”
dad coached him for the school musical (“Guys and Dolls”) and did
summer-stock theater (“Harvey”) with him. After getting his high
school equivalency degree, Timothy landed some TV roles ... then was
stunned when his dad died at 45, eight weeks after being diagnosed
short time later, Timothy started work
in Robert Redford's “Ordinary
People.” Hu won an Oscar and a Golden Globe. He
had two Globe nominations (for “Taps” and the TV movie “A Long
Way Home”) the next year --
and then lots of praise
and no nominations ... until, maybe, now.
“American Crime,” 10 p.m. Thursdays, ABC; first
episode reruns at 10 p.m. Wednesday, March 11