There’s an old, old joke (referenced 34 years ago by N.Y. Times columnist Russell Baker) about the difference between above-the-credit-block and below it. “When Ronald Reagan-for-President talk first started,” Baker wrote, “Jack Warner, one of Mr. Reagan’s Warner Bros. employers, is said to have replied, ‘No, Jimmy Stewart for President — Ronald Reagan for his best friend.'”
Jason Sudekis, Alison Brie doing Sundance publicity for Sleeping with Other People.
There are some people, Warner meant, that just don’t have that marquee quality. And I am telling you that according to my Jack Warner-like standards, Alison Brie, the costar of Sleeping With Other People (IFC Films, 9.11), is best friend material. Which is not a bad thing. It’s fine. But it is what it is.
Brie is Rhoda, not Mary Tyler Moore. If you were to ask Junior Soprano he would say “she’s definitely not Angie Dickinson.” She has an agreeably perky vibe and is pleasantly attractive as far as it goes, but she’s “indie.” When I was watching the film, which by the way is a better-than-decent Manhattan romcom, I kept wanting someone hotter to be playing her part. Something in her eyes just dials it down for me.
Yeah, I know — who am I to talk because I’m older and not the fetching guy with the .400 batting average that I was back in the day? But some people have that “you can’t fuck me because I’m too hot for you” quality and some don’t.
And you know what? I just put my neck in a noose for saying that. Put me on the rack and throw me in jail. Because anyone with eyes knows that Alison Brie, best known for her Annie Edison role on NBC’s Community, is a vision of Venus and absolute thermometer-busting hotness second to none.
But she really is, arguably, a “best friend“, and the ranks of best friend types in movies are dwindling as we speak. Because nobody wants to be anyone’s “second” in any context.
The new notion (which goes hand to hand with the schlumpie & dumpie aesthetic) is that we’re all kings and queens of our realms, and almost everyone is smokin’ hot to at least a sizable sector of the public, and that it’s an insult to suggest that someone may be more of a B or a C-plus than an A-plus or a AA. How dare you? Anyone who is even marginally attractive deserves to be called beautiful…and why not? Why categorize anyone?
In the Hollywood of yore (and I mean back in the ’90s and before) Brie’s Sleeping With Other People costar Jason Sudekis (who was just described in a N.Y. Times profile as having shifted over to “heartthrob territory”) would have been a best friend and nothing else. But today he’s the new smokin’ guy, or so says the Times‘ Kathryn Shattuck.
In terms of culturally-approved sexual-appeal criteria we are clearly moving more and more in an egalitarian direction. There are no dumpies, no “best friends”, no nice guys who don’t get to sleep with the hot girl because they aren’t hot or slick enough. Everyone gets a shot if they have good spiritual qualities. Anyone can be a great lover. If the young Chris Farley was back with us today and just starting his career, he would probably get to play a romantic lead. Ditto John Candy. Ditto Jack Oakie, Frank McHugh and Fatty Arbuckle. Because it’s what inside that counts, man. Stop being so damn shallow.