Tuesday, November 15, 2016

And now, a rant about Aubrey Plaza


Aubrey Plaza is the worst.

I'll just say it. She's terrible. She drives me crazy. And not in a good way.

This was not always the case. In fact, those who have not been paying much attention to Plaza and her recent awful choices might recoil from such a proclamation. But it's true. Find out for yourself, if you dare.

(And don't worry, that's just suncreen in the photo I've chosen.)

Plaza came on the scene as a comedy nerd darling when Parks and Recreation debuted back in December of 2009. If you saw Funny People in the theaters about three months before that -- which I did not -- you were introduced to her then, in a similar comedy nerd darling role. She was instantly pegged as a breakout star, though to be fair, nearly the whole cast of Parks and Recreation ended up breaking out. In fact, it's kind of astonishing how much that show was a wellspring for upcoming talent.

Something about her persona was a breath of fresh air. She was acerbic and ironic, irreverent and indifferent. She was like the waify indie version of the gruff man who could never reveal that he cared about or loved anything (a role actually played by Nick Offerman on the show). But of course, by the end of each episode, she would prove that she really did have a heart.

Unfortunately, that shtick kind of got old. April Ludgate's vascillations between false nihilism and false sentimentality eventually began to ring false themselves and become repetitive. Everyone knew she was really a softie, so all her anarchic bluster started to feel tired. You just wanted her to grow up and stop being snarky.

But both the small-screen version of Plaza and the big-screen version of Plaza remained charming for at least a few years. Smart movie choices followed the big splash she made in 2009, in the likes of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Damsels in Distress, 10 Years and Safety Not Guaranteed. I didn't particularly like Safety Not Guaranteed, but it was the right kind of role for her to take, and she was hardly that movie's biggest problem.

At some point, though, Plaza started making dumb choices. The first of these would have been A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III in 2012, though I only saw this a few months ago so her participation in it was not at that time a factor in my growing wariness toward her. Still, it was a movie directed by a guy with a certain vision (Roman Coppola), and Bill Murray was also in it, so I could see her looking past Charlie Sheen's involvement and giving it a go.

But the choices become less defensible as she moves forward. Twenty thirteen marked her big plunge into the crass, an impulse that has guided her since then. In that year she made The To Do List, which seemed promising at the time but was hated by a few people I respect. I missed this one until earlier this year as well, so this is also a bit of a retroactive analysis in where she started to go wrong, but the timing of that viewing helps put into perspective the rest of the awful experiences I've had with her in 2016. And boy was The To Do List awful -- gross and immature and utterly devoid of charm. (And before we get to 2016, I'll also mention that she swung and missed with Life After Beth in 2014, a comedy in which she played a zombie and was partly responsible for the film's uneven tone.)

I missed a couple smaller movies she did in 2015 -- had not even heard of them, in fact -- but she has come fill shit storm in 2016. The picture above is from Dirty Grandpa, which came out in January but which I only just saw this past weekend. And then in July there was Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.

What to say about these movies. They both also star Zac Efron. They both are slapstick, lowest common denominator movies. They both waste one really charming female romantic lead (Zoey Deutch and Anna Kendrick). They are both wretched, miserable experiences.

And they both feature Plaza as a rude, uncouth, brassy chick who drinks heavily and drops bawdy sexual innuendos.

In other words, she goes big and she goes sloppy.

This is the opposite of the Plaza who originally greeted us back in 2009. It was hard to say whether she would be sweet (Funny People, if memory serves) or sour (Parks and Recreation), but she could in fact be accurately described as a "comedy nerd darling," the phrase I employed twice earlier in this piece. She operated within a sphere of intelligence, a sphere of feminism and self-possession. If you watched her, you were proud that she had carved out a niche in which her particular brand of comedy would be rewarded.

Now?

She has decided that she needs to play Spring Break Girl, someone who has a drink in one hand and a dick in the other -- or at least, metaphorically a dick. In Dirty Grandpa, she decides she wants to fuck Robert De Niro. Plaza is 32. De Niro is 73. And in this movie, an incredible asshole.

But Plaza might be a bigger asshole. She's taken on the obnoxious female sidekick role with relish, playing basically the same character as Lenore in Grandpa and Tatiana in Wedding Dates. If, in an attempt to defend Plaza, you want to talk about having to take what Hollywood gives you upon reaching a certain age, just remember -- she's only 32. It's not like they are putting her out to pasture. In fact, in both movies she is regularly seen in a bikini, as if flautning that she is now castable as some kind of sexual object.

That instinct was totally anathema to the insticts she had five years ago. She was shy, closed off, protective of self in a good way -- she was as likely to tell you to fuck off as to fuck me.

And I don't know if she can ever get that back. For me, Aubrey Plaza has been ruined. I mean, I wasn't a gigantic fan of her in the first place, since her April Ludgate shtick wore on me quickly as well. But at least April Ludgate respected herself and was a fierce advocate for her own will. Lenore and Tatiana, on the other hand, are only fierce advocates for Jell-O shots and outrageous unprotected sex.

At least Plaza is leaving Daytona Beach behind in 2017. She'll play the title character in a movie called Ingrid Goes West, a mentally disturbed woman obsessed with a social media star. And The Little Hours, another comedy, finds her at a convent full of emotionally unstable nuns in the Middle Ages. Um, yes, I think you read that correctly.

Will this get her back in good with the comedy nerds?

Or will her emotionally unstable nun have a proclivity for fucking priests and drinking five times more mead than anyone else?

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