This morning I flew through a deliciously written N.Y. Times Magazine profile of War Dogs star Jonah Hill (“Jonah Hill Is No Joke“). I’ve met Hill three or four times and regard him as one of “HE’s own,” and it’s my humble opinion that Young, a 20something, has captured him well and fairly. Young is obviously sharp and attuned and knows how to sculpt sentences like a samurai.
(l.) War Dogs star and N.Y. Times Magazine object-of-scrutiny Jonah Hill (r.) Times profiler Molly Young.
I’ve pasted some excerpts but first consider Young’s assessment of War Dogs (Warner Bros., 8.19), which opens in two weeks and which no one I know has seen yet:
“Nobody has bulletproof judgment,” Young begins — that in itself tells you everything. Then she says that Hill’s portrayal of real-life arms dealer Efraim Diveroli “could be seen as a terrific character in an otherwise okay movie. It’s not that War Dogs isn’t funny; and it’s not as if [director] Todd Phillips has made a buddy-cop comedy about Ferguson, but it is an Iraq War movie made by the director of The Hangover. There are strippers and an underwritten supportive-girlfriend role and Bradley Cooper.”
If Hill had been profiled by Vanity Fair, no way would they have allowed their writer to describe War Dogs as “okay,” let alone damn with faint praise with the Ferguson analogy. No way. This is the difference between a serious writer filing for a publication with a semblance of integrity and a once-respected, kiss-ass monthly.
Young/Hill excerpt #1: “The hilarious-sidekick roles make up a numerically small but neon-bright portion of Hill’s career, and no number of contrasting performances — in indie comedies directed by the Duplass brothers, in Oscar-nominated dramas like Moneyball — can seem to override the public impression of him as a man who might, at any moment, start humping the furniture.”
Young/Hill excerpt #2: “If Superbad cemented Hill’s status as an entertaining accent piece, Moneyball suggested that pegging him as a novelty actor was an error. His character in that movie, an economics geek named Peter Brand, is an introvert who walks the earth as if he’s about to be pantsed. He underplays the part so deftly that Brand’s emotional climax — when he sees that his methods actually work — is conveyed by no more than a few euphoric seconds of rapid blinking and a half-smile.”
Young/Hill excerpt #3: “Vulnerability is a counterproductive trait for a famous person to have, but Hill is funniest on-screen when he plays characters thumping up against their feeble natures, and he is most affecting in dramatic roles doing the same. It makes you wonder whether the kind of person most suited to being an actor — sensitive, expressive, slightly weird — is the kind of person least suited to being a celebrity.”
Young/Hill excerpt #4: “Today’s Jonah Hill, rallying at a ping-pong table, seems like someone who might do yoga, or drink green tea, or practice Transcendental Meditation. Maybe it is just the residue of his youth in California. Maybe ‘centeredness’ is just Los Angeles leaving the body. Whatever it is, he comes off as mellow and polite, keeping his phone out of sight during interactions and asking if I have any dietary restrictions. He behaves in a way that would assure his mother that she did a good job. He says that the trait he values most in others is being nice.”
Favorite sentence in the whole piece: “Most famous people have a thin oleaginous layer of social grace that tops a bottomless well of impatience to get their press duties over with, but Hill seemed to be in no particular hurry to do anything, except lose at ping-pong.”