Saturday, February 5, 2011

A disappointing awareness of people

I'm getting older. There's no two ways about it.

However, the teenagers they get to star in bad horror/thrillers tend to stay about the same age. (In other words, not actually teenagers, but people who think they can play teenagers.)

Which means there are times when all the people in a certain movie are people you're aware of for stupid reasons.

Take The Roommate, the blatant Single White Female rip-off (some would say "modern update") coming out today. I am familiar with all the names on the movie poster, but not for reasons I think are good ones.

I know who "Leighton Meester" is because she's on Gossip Girl, a show I don't watch, but a show that regularly creeps into the zeitgeist. (I also think she has a "snobby rich girl" name if ever I've heard one.)

I know who "Minka Kelly" is because she's dating Derek Jeter. (My wife also tells me she was on Friday Night Lights.)

And I know who "Cam Gigandet" is (though not how to pronounce his last name) because he was in Twilight. (Jee-gone-day?)

Of course, this is not the first time there's been a movie made with lots of young people I don't really know. What caught my attention about The Roommate was that the names of the three principles all appear on the poster. Usually, you only put actors' names on the poster if they're instantly recognizable to your target audience. In fact, if the opposite is true -- if your audience doesn't recognize the names -- listing them is more likely to hurt the movie than help it. "Let's not see that -- it stars a bunch of nobodies." Whereas if you don't list the names, people won't realize it stars a bunch of nobodies until after they've bought their ticket.

So apparently, "Leighton Meester," "Minka Kelly" and "Cam Gigandet" are all well-enough known people to get star billing on the poster.

I am sure they are all fine people. In fact, I am pretty sure that Meester and Kelly are twin sisters. At the very least, the casting director has done a good job casting this movie, if his/her sole intention were to cast virtual doppelgangers in the central roles. Only just a few minutes ago did I actually confirm which one was the "good one" (Kelly) and which one was the "bad one" (Meester). (Whereas in Single White Female, Bridget Fonda and Jennifer Jason Leigh were in the same neighborhood, appearance-wise, but not twins. This made Leigh's transformation into Fonda's doppelganger a bit more startling and effective.)

But there's something about these three people that's just so ... teenager-oriented. I can't think of a better way to say it, nor a way that doesn't make me sound like an old fart.

And let me be clear: It's not their age alone that makes me say that. Just because an actor is young, it doesn't mean he/she appeals only to teens. For example, one of my favorite women to watch these days is 22-year-old Emma Stone. Not just because she's attractive -- all women in Hollywood are attractive. It's because she's got spunk, she's got personality, she's got excellent comic timing. And one of my favorite men to watch these days is 24-year-old Shia LaBeouf. Not just because he's (I'll admit it) pretty cute -- all men in Hollywood are pretty cute. (Okay, not all, but I'm trying to go for a parallel structure here.) It's because he's got spunk, he's got personality, he's got excellent coming timing.

Meester (24) and Kelly (30) are super bland. They're attractive in generic, spokesmodel-type ways that make them perfectly suited to star in a teen soap opera. They could both be cast as "the bitch" in a movie starring Emma Stone. They were born to play the "frenemy."

Meanwhile, Gigandet (28) is in that category of handsome heartthrob who can best be described as "the cutest rat you've ever seen." He's got those squinty eyes that are just waiting to become dewy with angst. And even though he played a "bad" vampire in Twilight, couldn't this guy have been cast as either Edward or Jacob? He looks like a mash-up of the two of them.

So yeah, I guess I'm a little disappointed that these three people have such traction with today's young audiences.

But I should also realize my own hypocrisy. I say I don't like Leighton Meester because she was in Gossip Girl, yet I think fellow gossiper Blake Lively is luminous and charming. I say I don't like Cam Gigandet because he was in Twilight, yet the terrific Anna Kendrick was also in Twilight. And I say I don't like Minka Kelly because she dated Derek Jeter, but Jeter also dated Jordana Brewster and Jessica Biel, both of whom I think are pretty cool. And each of these actors has also appeared in a movie I find very credible: Meester in Date Night, Gigandet in Easy A and Kelly in (500) Days of Summer.

So maybe what I really object to is the likely suckitude of The Roommate. Such an insipid retread, entirely devoid of inspiration, reflects negatively on all those involved.

What should we expect from a director named Christian E. Christiansen? Now I'm disappointed that I'm aware of him.


Mark said...

I'm with you brother. Talk about exhausting.

Derek Armstrong said...

True dat.

Simon said...

To be fair, Meester and Kelly's roles in those movies were collective five minutes, tops. Kelly a bit more, but anyway,

Derek Armstrong said...

Simon - It's true. I was trying to give them the benefit of the doubt. So I didn't sound so, you know, negative. Hey, who knows if I've got some big Leighton Meester fans in my audience.

Thaddeus said...

I think in some cases, that Top Billing is less about "these kids are such big stars," and more about "we're trying to make these kids big stars." It's like MTV's constant blitz to "make people..."

Presumably, these three actors get enough regular "press" that their names are out there. I'm in the same place as you, save I haven't seen anything with any of them in it.

Derek Armstrong said...

Yeah Thaddeus, it's true -- appearing on the poster definitely confers star quality, or at least has the potential to. The "glass is half full" way to look at it is not that prospective audiences would be turned off by them if they didn't recognize the names, but rather, that these are people I *should* be aware of, so better look 'em up!

Fletch said...

Very funny, Vance. I thought the same things about this movie - I've heard the names, and kinda know why some of them are famous, but I couldn't have picked them out of a lineup. And I feel the same way about Kendrick and Lively. I guess it's just because they've been featured in "adult fare," or at least adult fare that I've seen, whereas these people are unknown. I feel the same way about Rachel Bilson, though I can pick her out of a lineup, at least.

I just figure I'm getting old, though.

Derek Armstrong said...

Thanks, Fletch. Indeed, age is an undeniable factor in who we recognize and who we don't. I remember thinking, when Taylor Lautner got famous, "Damn ... I have to be aware of THIS guy now?" The funny thing is how our perspective changes on the fact that we're growing old. When I was younger, I thought there would be nothing worse than seeming like I was "out of it," like I didn't know about the things the kids know about. Now, I almost view it as a badge of honor.

I actually have a little more fondness for the abilities of Rachel Bilson than you do. Though yeah, there's a nagging part of me that thinks "This person is famous because of some dumb show called The OC."