Coming to Terms with Disappointing Reality of Who'd Actually Play You in the Movie Of Your Life
When I asked Jennifer what movie star should play her in the story of her life and she said that the celebrity she thought she most resembled was Penelope Cruz, I snorted.
I didn’t mean to, but I did. It came out spontaneously, like a cough. Jennifer’s posture grew rigid and she shot me a sour look, “more than a few people have told me that, you know!” She spit these words at me, her offense radiating through the room, and I thought, “Oh man, this is going to be my worst Ashley Madison date ever.”
Instead of responding to her words I just nodded.
Jennifer looked at me, her arms crossed over her flat chest.
“That’s what people have said,” she insisted.
“Really? Penelope Cruz? Don’t you think that’s setting the bar maybe a little bit high?”
“Look, you asked me the stupid question, okay? It’s not my fault if I remind people of Penelope Cruz!”
I nodded again, trying now to think of a way to repair the damage I had done.
“Well, you’ve probably both never had sex with Tom Cruise, so that makes you kind of alike!”
Jennifer signaled for the bill.
I continued to speak.
“He’s gay and they had a showbiz marriage of convenience. That’s why what I said was funny.”
“No, no, what you said wasn’t funny, it was just kind of creepy.”
“You know, if you were actually like Penelope Cruz you would have said that with some real Latin zest—you would have broken a plate or done something sexy! You would have made it pop, you would have owned those words, but you just whined them, like you were asking me to look for your car keys because you were too lazy to do it yourself.” And then I paused, all thoughtful, ” Just because you have black hair and weird lips it doesn’t mean you’re Penelope Cruz.”
“This affair is over, fuck-face.”
And then she was gone.
Personally, I think that Ewan McGregor would be the perfect me in the movie of my life. He exudes the same boyish charm that I have, but he doesn’t overwhelm you with his looks. They’re there, all right, but they don’t clobber you over the head like some moron movie stars.
However, not everybody agrees with this assessment, and when I asked Rachelle—my lady—whom she thought would be best suited to play me, she said Stuart Little, the mouse voiced by Michael J. Fox.
Typically, when somebody tells me I remind them of an actor, it ends up being a guy who wears glasses. It’s never the hero, but always the friend of the hero—the quirky one with the glasses whose ineptitude always highlights the heroic qualities of the lead. You know, the guy who usually dies in the first act, or in the best case scenario, unexpectedly finds love with a fat girl at the end.
Last week after Paul Giamatti won a Golden Globe for his performance in Barney’s Version (which I have not yet seen), a bitter and single acquaintance of mine thought to email me, “I just watched the Golden Globes, and OMG, you really look like Paul Giamatti! You’re like his thin, little brother, the one who didn’t get enough oxygen at birth!”
Ha-Ha. What a wit.
Obviously deranged, she was trying to tell me that I looked like the man who played Limbo— the orangutan that trades in humans as pets and slaves— in the disastrous Planet of the Apes remake.
No matter, you can never truly know what motivates a cutter’s behavior, so I didn’t worry too much about what she had to say, and the truth is that like most people, I think Paul Giamatti is the aces. He has cool written all over him.
His father was A. Bartlett Giamatti, a professor at Yale who later became president of the university and commissioner of Major League Baseball! Paul Giamatti got a Master’s of Fine Arts at Yale and was elected to, and then dropped out of, the elite secret society Skull and Bones. Married, he now lives in Brooklyn and makes an excellent living working as an actor.
I mean, who wouldn’t want to be him?
If any of us were to meet him on the street, we’d probably think he was the most charismatic and interesting guy we’d ever met. He’d be a star and we’d immediately try to “friend” him on Facebook.
It’s only in the utterly perverted taxonomy of Hollywood that such a man would be relegated to a kind of “loser” niche. It was the astonishing 2003 film American Splendor that launched Giamatti from the status of forgettable schlep to unforgettable schlep. It was an inventive and bracingly honest work of cinema, and Giamatti, as the misanthropic Harvey Pekar, was brilliant. However, I’ve always thought that the intelligence and perception Giamatti used to penetrate Pekar and so admirably represent him on screen was mistaken for the actor’s natural disposition.
In subsequent films Giamatti was obliged to grind-out portraits of middle-aged self-loathing, issuing forth an exaggerated sense of self-conscious anxiety and irritability that always seemed to unfairly subordinate his potential. I waited for Hollywood to see him as the person he was always meant to be and not the person they wanted him to be, and to finally find some roles where he would cast off the hunched and defeated shoulders that marked so many of his roles.
As improbable as this sounds in hindsight, I believed that this role was to come in the 2006 M. Night Shyamalan movie, Lady in the Water. Somebody I trusted but didn’t know very well, said that it was an excellent film, and one that happened to “capture the feeling” of the relationship that Rachelle and I were just beginning. I was excited, happy that somebody had made a movie about my blossoming love, and was sure that Giamatti was to be cast as the romantic hero I knew lived within him.
Jesus, was I wrong.
I watched the movie with increasing horror and confusion. The film itself was so strange and infantile, that I actually wanted to give the director some sort of credit for experimentalism, but watching I knew that something essential was being revealed, and that Shymalan was in fact a horrible, self-intoxicated hack. But worse, much worse was that this woman who recommended I see the film viewed me as a broken-down and defeated maintenance man whose only shot at salvation came in the form of, well, Rachelle.
“This is a stupid movie!” I hissed at Rachelle through the dark of the theatre.
“You have some popcorn in your eyebrow, honey. It’s lodged there, right between your glasses and your forehead. Do you want me to pick it out for you?”
And then in a fury of humiliation and frustration I began to paw at my face in an attempt to dislodge the alleged piece of popcorn. I spilled my coke and opened up a small, but surprisingly bloody cut near the bridge of my nose, and had to ask an usher for some napkins.
I didn’t feel like a Paul Giamatti character at all, but started to see a psychiatrist the next day all the same.
Just felt like time, was all.
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