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|Written by April Yorke|
|Sunday, 01 June 2008 19:00|
We’ve all been there: you’re at the movies, you see someone grace the screen and you go, “Mmrrrow.” And your viewing partner goes, “That guy?”
Crap. (At least you won’t have to share.)
If your friend won’t agree and won’t let it go, it would be nice if you could at least make them understand where you are coming from, right? Well, if your crush made this list, you just might be able to give your friends something to go on.
That guy: Joaquin Phoenix
The appeal: Lost little boy. It’s a Nightingale thing.
With apologies to Mr. Phoenix, as he’s likely a nice, well-adjusted person in real life, in the movies, well, there’s a reason Nathan Rabin referred to him as having “soulful eyes of bottomless pain.” His videography is a laundry list of birds with broken wings, all in need of a healing touch. He’s rarely played anyone loud or brash, mostly a collection of quiet and thoughtful men, a few smooth talkers, and one supremely scary Caesar. In his review of the superb We Own the Night, David Edelstein says this of his acting: “Phoenix homes in on the truth of this person. It’s the paradox of the greatest acting: By depicting a man’s struggle to close himself down, he opens himself up wider than any of us would dare.” That is it, in a nutshell. Phoenix has a tendency to play characters that are, for whatever reason, at odds with themselves. It is his ability to play this internal struggle that draws us in. When you add the dark mass of unruly hair, the delicate scar about the upper lip, and that whisper, some of us are done for. We see someone lost, and we want to help him find his way. If we can do that via making out, so much the better.
That gal: Tilda Swinton
The appeal: Androgyny.
Girly men have long held a fascination. Why not manly girls? Swinton played the title role in Orlando, based on Virginia Woolf’s novel. In it, a young nobleman lives forever, doesn’t age a day, and becomes a woman. If anyone could convincingly play a man/woman/immortal, it’s Swinton (followed shortly by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). There’s a patrician edge to her striking face, and her long, lithe body suggests an adolescent boy more than it does a woman nearing fifty. It doesn’t hurt that she’s also fiercely talented. She would never make her characters easy or easily accessible, so why would she bother swiping lipstick on her thin lips to help us out? She’s about the acting, and, if the proportions of her body open her up to more roles, she’s going to take them. We’ll just have to sit back and like it.
That guy: Robert Downey Jr.
The appeal: Dude’s batty crackers.
In a recent conversation with a friend, it was decided that Downey Jr. was out there somewhere doing yoga, drinking smoothies and nattering endlessly about the political situation in Russia. It’s distinctly possible that none of these things is true (although I have it on good authority that he does yoga: his wife told James Lipton so, and you don’t lie to Lipton), but we don’t care. Those of us who love him love the possibility that he’s out of his mind. He can’t be typecast, he’s incapable of playing a scene straight (why have one emotion on your face when you can hit three or four simultaneously?), and his voice and delivery are unparalleled (he’s like Walken in that respect). If you think about it, you don’t know anyone quite like Downey Jr, which is just how his fans like it. You can’t pin him down, so he ends up coming across as a thoroughly spontaneous mover and shaker that lives to defy your expectations. Really, how can you resist?
That gal: Judy Greer
The appeal: Depends on the day. Sometimes she’s a bitch, others she’s a wallflower.
Greer has been hard for casting directors to peg over the years, which is a shame because she’s ripe with big screen potential. She’s often the bitchy sidekick, or the encouraging sidekick, or the back-stabbing sidekick... sometimes she’s all three. The role of Kitty Sanchez, George Bluth’s (Jeffrey Tambor) assistant and mistress over three seasons of Arrested Development, was probably the best use of her talents as a crazy, sexy, comedic delight prone to flashing poor Michael (Jason Bateman). Her face is angular, and, in the wrong lighting, can best be described as gaunt, but there’s something about her. She’s got an off kilter presence and warmth that translates well into barbs and emotional support. For some, there’s nothing better than a woman that can build you up and take you down with a few well-placed words.
That guy: Adrien Brody
The appeal: He’s beautiful.
The appeal makes him an obvious choice for Hollywood heartthrob, but he’s not. He’s too skinny, which makes him seem much taller than he is, but it also makes his head seem gargantuan in comparison. When you stick that beak on there, it’s kind of a mess. He doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to his post-Oscar role choices, and he has a tendency to wear the most ridiculous clothes out in public. But he’s so beautiful. There’s a bonus to having an angular face: when the right light hits, you’re transformed, illuminated in ways those with softer features can never be (they just end up as glowing orbs). Suddenly the angles are made delicate, and any harshness you may have read into those features washes away. They seemed carved out of the light, like a Caravaggio. As such, they slip past us into an eternity, at least for a moment. Can you blame us if we want to slip through, too?
There were loads of other actors that could have been included on this list (Jason Schwartzman, Ioan Gruffudd, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Cillian Murphy and Liev Schreiber, to name a few), and others that you are yet hiding in the recesses of your mind for fear of what your friends would say. Don’t worry. For every, “That guy?” you’ve got, there’s one that your friend is keeping from you. And if not, if they only follow the mainstream and fall down at the thought of Brad and Angelina, well, you’re better off; like either of them would ever go out with one of your friends.
© 2008 April Yorke; licensee (Cult)ure Magazine.