Friday, September 16, 2011

Hollywood and the Conundrum of Pretty People in Ordinary Situations

Film is a visual medium. People like looking at pretty people. Therefore, most actors and actresses are exceedingly attractive. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out, right?

But I have a pet peeve. And it has to do with those actors and actresses who are empirically gorgeous, the ones that seem to have come from a different stratosphere. What happens when they play ordinary people who don't get by on their looks one way or another?

The perfect example of this is Angelina Jolie in Changeling. In this Clint Eastwood movie, she plays a 1920s-era single mother whose son disappears. The movie is actually very good. The cinematography is gorgeous. The acting and directing are great. The clothes and art direction are lovely. But watching the movie, I just felt uneasy. Angelina Jolie, all dolled up 1920s-style, plays a single woman working as a telephone operator. Throughout the movie, she has detectives and bosses and tons of other men interacting with her. Not once do any of them acknowledge her beauty. No one mildly flirts; no one does a double-take; no one treats her like anything but an ordinary working mom.

This takes me out of the story because I just can't believe that someone who looks like Angelina Jolie wouldn't be an actress or a model or, at the very least, highly acknowledged for her looks. I can totally buy her as a spy in Salt or in a stylized action movie like Wanted. Even in Girl, Interrupted, it worked because a) they tried to make her a little less obviously attractive and b) she was in a mental hospital, one example of a situation that superseded her physical allure. But in a straightforward drama like Changeling, it killed my suspension of disbelief, even though her performance was pretty phenomenal.

That's why I think Charlize Theron had to destroy her looks to convincingly be in Monster. Same with Jude Law in Road to Perdition.

What do you think? Has there ever been an actor that has been too attractive for their own good in a specific role?


  1. Because of your John Barrowman-related post below, I reluctantly have Tom Cruise on the brain, so I'll say the "Mission: Impossible" films, especially the first one. You can't be covert and under the radar on a mission when everyone on your team is ridiculously attractive; you'd draw too much attention. Spies need to blend in. :)

    (By the way, my husband was convinced Tom Cruise and John Barrowman were the same person during the competition show "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" Every time I had it on, he would say, "Why is Tom Cruise a judge on this show??")

  2. "You can't be covert and under the radar on a mission when everyone on your team is ridiculously attractive." <-- Ha!! So true, Sarah.