Wednesday, August 18, 2010
If you thought Salt was a star vehicle, wait till you get a hold of this weekend’s triple threat. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (about which more anon; brilliant) dispatched my Michael Cera fatigue with what I assume was some secret mortal kombo (left, right, X?) despite Cera playing another version of himself, which is to say his persona since I don’t really know the guy. Pilgrim’s another awkward, horny (Youth in Revolt, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Superbad) lovesick adolescent (Juno, Paper Heart) on Cera’s path to unaffected hipsterdom (or perhaps, and I think this is more likely, hipsteresque unaffectedness). Scott Pilgrim is so much more than a star vehicle, though, so let’s leave it here and dive into the mud with the groundlings.
I’m not the first guy in town to observe that Eat Pray Love is in the Julia Roberts business rather than vice versa. The film is clearly an exercise in spendy narcissism, not that we shouldn’t all indulge every now and then. The most interesting thing about the film, though, is how carefully its actors seem to have been chosen. Our guide is one-time It-Girl, later Real Actress, later low-key Julia Roberts, the modern queen of calibrated charm. The story follows her well-financed quest for spiritual and emotional enlightenment post-nasty divorce.
Who plays the miscreant who causes her such grief? Billy Crudup, whom I know first and foremost as the lead singer of Stillwater but whom I’m well aware most of my (female) friends know first and foremost as that guy who dumped his pregnant wife for Claire Danes. See the connection? The other major character is romance novel love interest Javier Bardem. I think we can all agree that Bardem’s persona (from interviews, red carpets, his well-known romance with Penelope Cruz which not coincidentally just entered fairy tale with a tropical wedding) is less Chigurh and more that lothario from Vicky Cristina Barcelona, yes?
Do we even need to address The Expendables? I try to tune out the bandwagon screaming for Hollywood to return to the time of the macho man, and I have less than no nostalgia (they have nostalgia for me?) for Sylvester Stallone and company (Bruce Willis maybe; Mickey Rourke in arthouse fare; Schwarzenegger as long as it keeps him politically distracted). No but. I just wanted to say how little I care about a bunch of overdeveloped men indulging in their glory days fantasies. (Long live the new flesh, er, Salt!)
Which is really what this is, or at least what I gather from their personae, though you gotta admit Stallone’s been keen to regain his artsy cred lately. Still, the man is first and foremost a fighter, as are Dolph Lundgren, the wrestlers, and the martial artists. It’s only right that they’d happily create the fighting version of Disaster Movie.
Personally, I hope the trend takes, but I’m all about the postmodern. Salt really crystallized Angelina Jolie’s superstardom, so a director can do great things with persona. Someone should really cast Paul Rudd as a mensch in something.