Acting

Movie Monologue Monday – Jon Hamm in Mad Men

the-wheel

Mad Men is returning soon! For this week’s Movie Monologue Monday I’d love to share this brilliant turn from the Season One ender.

You don’t need to be a fan of the show to appreciate this clip. All you really need to know before watching is that Jon Hamm is Don Draper, an executive advertising creative. You also need to know that his marriage is in flux at this point in the show. He is pitching a campaign to Kodak executives for “The Wheel,” a new slide projector product.

I think everything is right about this piece – it’s a perfect marriage of acting, writing, and direction.

Hamm’s performance is commanding and subtle. He is both manipulating with the images and being manipulated by them. Note his purposeful use of pauses as well as his subtle transformation as the images flash across the screen.

From a writing/directing perspective, I adore the choice to show the slides in backwards chronological order ending with a white screen. So brilliant.

Class Exercise

Watch the video and discuss these questions. Don’t worry about whether or not everyone is familiar with the show. Fill in the missing details using what you see, hear, and imagine.

  • Discuss the movement of the actors in the scene. Who stays still? Who moves? When do they move?
  • Don Draper’s speaking voice gets quieter and quieter during the monologue. The music gets louder and louder. Why?
  • How do the filmmakers incorporate the motif of the circle (carousel) in the scene? Here are some that I noticed when watching. Some may be purposeful, some may be accidental. Which ones do you think were on purpose?
    • The camera moves in an arc at the beginning of the piece.
    • There is a round lens flare when the projector is turned on.
    • To me, the music feels like it’s turning rather than driving forward.
    • They are sitting on swivel chairs.
    • A door knob is prominently shown between the two executives.
    • There are round plates on the table.
  • Is Don Draper genuinely affected by his story or is he manipulating his emotions to sell the ad campaign to the executives?

About the author

Craig Mason