Tom Cruise is not a particularly likable celebrity, and most people have their different reasons for not liking him. Many cite Scientology, while others offer his relationship to Katie Holmes. No one dislikes Tom Cruise because he may be gay, but many fault him for not admitting as much, or allowing himself to be repressed by his religious beliefs. I don’t really care about any of that.
I don’t particularly like Tom Cruise as a person, either, but as an actor, he’s probably the best blank slate in the business. He’s a vessel through which others add words and direct his movements. He has no particular style, no flash or substance, but he is a supremely competent cypher. Add that to the fact that he also chooses projects better than most, and you’ve got a guy that ends up being a very serviceable placeholder in better than average movies.
But here’s what bugs me about Tom Cruise. It’s not his religion or his personal life: It’s his lack of self-awareness. He’s soulless, a studio suit trapped inside a leading man’s body. He’s the male version of Anne Hathaway, a guy that desperately wants to be liked, but doesn’t understand how to be liked. He’s the kind of actor who wants badly to be in on a joke, but he can’t be in on something he doesn’t seem to understand. He’s like a toothy robot that laughs because someone else is laughing, even though he has no idea what they’re laughing about. He’s missing something upstairs, and I think it might be empathy.
Here’s a perfect example of what I’m trying to illustrate. Last week, he was on Jimmy Fallon’s show, where they played a game, Egg Roulette, involving smashing eggs on their heads.
The entire clip makes me uncomfortable. Cruise holds his over-exaggerated laughter a beat too long. He’s too eager, but he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to be eager about. He has a certain Michael Scott quality, a guy who would rattle off Internet acronyms without any knowledge of what they meant.
Look, Tom: You’re 50. For better or worse, you’re a goddamn screen legend. Act like it. Don’t try to win the kids over with a bit that’s better suited to Timberlake. Is Robert Downey, Jr. smashing eggs on his forehead? Are Brad Pitt or George Clooney making lame viral videos? Is Matt Damon trying to be something he isn’t? No. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong the Fallon’s gag, I’m saying that Cruise should stop acting like a college kid showing up to a high-school prom. Try and remember you’re the guy with twenty $100 million movies, and not the oblivious dad in a teen comedy trying to explain the birds and the bees to the teenage kid that’s already lost his virginity.