Subject: Bradley Cooper, 35-year-old American actor
Date of Assessment: June 11, 2010
Positive Buzzwords: Handsome, passable, hangover
Negative Buzzwords: Forgettable, skeevetastic, blank slate
The Case: Generally speaking, I’ve found that writing assessments is a rather enjoyable endeavor, but this week’s subject spawns from the most dreaded and lifeless variety. This guy is certainly a challenge to discuss while still attempting to semi-entertain the masses, but it didn’t have to be this way. To many, Bradley Cooper seemingly arrived on the Hollywood scene with last year’s sleeper hit, The Hangover, but he’s been lurking behind the scene (mostly in television shows like “Alias,” “Kitchen Confidential,” and “Nip/Tuck” as well as some little-known movies and small roles in blockbusters like Wedding Crashers and Failure to Launch) for the past decade.
Yet, one could almost be forgiven for assuming that Cooper miraculously materialized with The Hangover because it was such a phenomenal success at the box office. No one ever expected a $35 million budget to somehow turn a $467 million worldwide gross, but the comedy’s success can (at least partially) be attributed to very low expectations. Since nobody expected the movie to be any good, The Hangover came as a pleasant surprise, and word-of-mouth quickly spread about the outrageous antics, fairly sharp script, and the disparaging void of anything else worth watching in theaters. Certainly, The Hangover 2 will attempt to continue the trend and duplicate the success of the first movie, but audiences have formed justifiably unrealistic expectations, and it’s just damn difficult to recapture the magic of catching audiences unaware (can’t exactly pull off another tiger in the bathroom). In addition to this seemingly “out of nowhere” factor, Bradley Cooper — who holds a “schmucky,” self-assured look about himself — comes off as the least funny dude of the ensemble even though he received top billing for his role (which seems unfair). Then, Cooper used his Hangover success to volley into romcom hell. So — unless you’re one of the swooning women (or gay men) who thinks Bradley Cooper is a total dreamboat — there’s a pretty good chance that you either can’t stand the guy or, even worse, you’re completely ambivalent to his existence.
Personally, I characterize Cooper an utter void or, if you will, the Sam Worthington of romcom actors. Sure, he’s got a semi-respectable resumé and was likeable enough in “Alias,” but his current body of work leaves much to be desired, and The A-Team reboot will probably be yet another forgettable entry. In the wake of The Hangover, Cooper’s largely become known for his participation in overrated romantic comedies like Valentine’s Day as well as the overly trite nonsense like He’s Just Not That Into You, Yes Man, and All About Steve. Now, he’s a mere space filler and has relegated himself to flavor-of-the-month romcom status while barely exuding enough charisma to function as the object of desire in such roles. Bradley Cooper is — to borrow a phrase from Vera Farmiga’s Up in the Air character — “a parenthesis” among Hollywood leading men.
Another troubling aspect of the post-Hangover phrase is that Cooper’s transformed himself into a tabloid darling in respect to his (alleged) romantic dalliances. Last year, People Magazine (which doesn’t print anything that’s not publicist approved) published a suspicious and flattering profile of Cooper as Jennifer Aniston’s new man. Then, Cooper was photographed while not-so-discreetly enjoying a romantic dinner with Renée “Still Grasping At Relevancy” Zellweger — whose image, along with Cooper’s, is managed by the CAA agency — before US magazine (another popular tool of publicists) penned an overwrought analysis of the Zellweger-Cooper-Aniston romantic triangle. Now that the The A-Team is arriving in theaters, the big news is that dude might be getting married. How convenient. Of course, it’s impossible to place all of this blame on either the tabloids, the paparazzi, or their respective targets, but it’s a well-known fact that some celebrities (and their publicists) do have photographic agencies on speed dial. So, if actors wish to be snapped in a particular setting, it will happen without question. And if they need to drum up some publicity for a movie release, well, they can do that too. It’s such an underhanded, skeevy way to conduct an acting career.
Still, there is a faint glimmer of hope for Bradley Cooper. He’s got a starring role in The Dark Fields that will give him a chance to play up the paranoid aspects of a desperate novelist, who finds himself ensnared within some super-secret drug conspiracy. Unfortunately, by the time this movie arrives in 2011, audiences may already have forgotten that Cooper still exists other than a tabloid fixture. After all, that old expression — “familiarity breeds contempt” — exists for a damn good reason.
Prognosis: Bradley Cooper is passable enough in the current Hollywood incarnation, but he’d better mix things up, careerwise, or risk getting lost in the shuffle of romcom actors. It could be interesting to see him play a really fantastic villain (better than he did in Midnight Meat Train, which no one watched) at some point in the near future. Otherwise and if Cooper fails to diversify his skill set, he will only have his looks to rely upon for acting jobs. And, once the pretty is gone, he’ll be out the Hollywood door like a vapor trail.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.