Save the Tiger

Synopsis: All He Wanted Was A Second Chance

Jack Lemmon won an Oscar® for this dramatic performance, considered by many to be his finest. Lemmon plays Harry Stoner, a man caught in violent collision with his past and present life. He believes there is nothing significant in his life except survival, and that instinct pushes him beyond moral conduct. He’ll juggle the books, supply women for clients…and even set fire to his own dress manufacturing factory. Meanwhile, he longs for the days when life not only had values and heroes, but it all seemed much simpler – yet satisfying and worth living. But Harry is frightened to break away from the emptiness of his successful life.
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Save the Tiger 8.0

This is the performance that won Jack Lemmon his Academy Award for “Best Actor in a Leading Role” (he had one won for Best Supporting Actor in ‘Mr. Roberts’ and had been nominated a gazillion times before). While I think he’s exceptional here, I thought that he was better in ‘Missing’ (for which he was nominated but didn’t win) and in ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ (although, admittedly, it’s been years since I’ve since it).

Nonetheless, his take on an ex-military man who, while struggling to keep his business afloat, has been making cut-throat decisions that are straining his relationships and his own well-being, is a moving one. He’s not a likeable character by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s difficult to not empathize with a man who’s lost his way, and doesn’t know of any alternatives that could possibly provide him with peace of mind; his pain is easy to grasp even if one can’t relate.

Lemmon’s characterization is intensely business-like, unsentimental, for the most part, and that’s when he’s at his best. When his character starts to fragment, however, Lemmon’s usual ticks as a comedian come to the surface a little bit and soften those moments. Thankfully, these are rare instances, and the rest of the his performance hits all the right notes skilfully.

Lemmon was the master at playing the “every man”, and this ability comes through in spades here. If not for his affecting performance, this film would probably have been one of many to gather dust somewhere in the annals of film history. Thanks to Lemmon, ‘Save the Tiger’ is a captivating look at a man caught in a trap of his own making.

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