Sunday, January 12, 2014
The abrupt womanhood of Gaby Hoffmann
Gaby Hoffmann was a mainstay of Hollywood movies as an early teenager, and then poof! She was gone.
In fact, she did nada -- zilch, zero, nothing -- from 2001 to 2007.
During those years, she metamorphosed from a girl into a woman. And I mean like a 40- to 45-year-old woman, even though she's only 32 today.
I first noticed this when I saw her show up on an episode of Louie. She looked vaguely familiar, so I IMDB'd her later on. And I was all "Huh? That was the girl in Field of Dreams, Uncle Buck and Sleepless in Seattle?"
It was. And the reason it was so shocking is that she turned, suddenly, from a little girl to someone who looked ten years older than she actually is.
She showed up again in Crystal Fairy (or Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus or Crystal Fairy & the Magical Cactus and 2012), which I just watched on Netflix, at which point I got to marvel again at the strange phenomenon that is her.
I'm a little afraid of exploring why Hoffmann is so strange to me, because it says not great things about the world we live in.
I think the reason she stands out as an actress is because she's ... how to put this delicately ... ugly. She has thick eyebrows and unflatteringly sharp facial features, and no longer radiates the pluckiness that got her cast way back when. To put it bluntly (although I guess less bluntly than I put it in the first sentence of this paragraph), if she were trying to become famous for the first time today, it just wouldn't happen. Not attractive enough.
Just so you understand what I'm talking about:
Okay, she wouldn't make you run screaming from a haunted house, but the years have not been particularly kind to her.
Yet having been an actress, someone who had evident talent, has given Hoffmann a second life in Hollywood, a Hollywood that would never now give her a first one. (Not that Crystal Fairy is a Hollywood movie, but you get what I mean.)
It's not like Hoffmann is getting cast in roles requiring a quote-unquote "pretty girl." Louis C.K. prizes casting romantic interests for himself on his show who are real, not model beauties, which is likely why he cast Hoffmann at all. However, she is getting a lot of work, and some of it's got genuine name recognition, such as the upcoming crowd-sourced Veronica Mars movie.
It may seem like I am rooting for an opposite outcome by calling her "ugly," a term I hate to even use in the first place because it implies that physical beauty is the only attribute that should get an actress a shot in Hollywood. It's more that years of receiving what Hollywood is delivering me has made me accustomed to seeing a certain type of actress thrive. So when you see something opposite that, it strikes you as a disconnect.
It was also just really weird to see her and to realize that this was the same person. Actors and actresses don't generally go away and come back ... they wane in and out of popularity, and they may be in hibernation for a while (someone like Jason Bateman). But when Bateman, for example, does come back, you aren't struck by how different he looks. You're struck by how much the same, and reminded how much you once loved him (in his first life, on Silver Spoons etc.)
Hoffmann, of course, could only play a precocious child for so long, so she had to come back in a different form altogether. And she did. It's like she entirely skipped the young adult section of her career and materialized as a 30-year-old who could play ten or even 20 years older.
I should say that part of this feeling that she can play older has to do with the fact that she was a romantic partner for C.K. on his show. His other romantic partners on the show have been people like Parker Posey (45) and Pamela Adlon (47). Then again, I guess he did also have a brief and weird romantic interlude with Chloe Sevigny, though even she at least is 39. Hoffmann, on the other hand, is only 32, and was only 30 when she appeared on Louie.
All this said, we should note that Hoffmann does play a hippie in Crystal Fairy -- and not even an aging hippie. In fact, she's supposed to be about age appropriate for Michael Cera, who is only 25. So I guess we shouldn't push Gaby Hoffmann into middle age just yet.
She also has two different scenes of total nudity, which also tends to accentuate an actress' youth.
I just tried not to remind myself that this was the little girl in Uncle Buck.