If you’re watching HBO’s excellent “The Plot Against America,” which just aired the third of six episodes, then this item might be obvious to you. But, among the strong performances in the miniseries, which is adapted from Philip Roth’s 2004 novel, I’ve particularly enjoyed John Turturro’s turn as Rabbi Lionel Bengelsdorf.
I sometimes forget just how good Turturro can be, perhaps because he has been around for a long time — “Barton Fink” and “Jungle Fever” were released in 1991, nearly 30 years ago. Or perhaps I forget because he’s so consistently good, I just don’t notice. But three of his turns in recent years have been outstanding.
In “Plot,” he’s a rabbi with a heavy Southern accent who has been coopted by Charles Lindbergh’s fascist, anti-Semitic government (the drama is an alternate history set in 1940). He thinks he’s serving as a kind of Jewish ambassador who’ll make pro-Jewish suggestions to Lindbergh — but we suspect he’s being used.
In HBO’s “The Night Of,” he was humane as down-and-out attorney Jack Stone, who is tormented by eczema and wears sandals to court. The role, originally planned for James Gandolfini, is filled with pathos, but movingly — and occasionally comically — so, as Stone tries to pull his life together.
And in the underrated “Gloria Bell,” a feature film about middle-aged romance starring Julianne Moore at her best, Turturro is well cast as the romantic lead, a man Moore’s divorcee dates who may or may not be exactly perfect for her. It’s a quietly absorbing movie, and certainly worth a gander.