I forgot to mention in yesterday’s Red Sparrow review that there’s an awful lot of smoking going on, which is more than a little weird in this day and age. Jennifer Lawrence‘s character, an ex-Bolshoi ballerina, smokes in three or four scenes, and Jeremy Irons‘ Russian intelligence character is always puffing away, which is odd for a guy in his late ’60s. A couple of other characters (including the devious “uncle” played by Matthias Schoenaerts?) also smoke. The question is why when almost no one smokes these days except for contrarians, teenagers, party people and life’s chronic losers — riffraff, low-lifes, bums, scuzzballs. A half-century ago smoking was semi-cool but today it’s either a sign of weakness or malevolence. Which is why Paolo Sorrentino had Jude Law‘s pontiff smoke in The Young Pope.

Posted almost 11 years ago:

“Smoking can look marginally cool depending on how skilled or preternaturally cool the actor is, but it becomes extremely tedious and off-putting when done to excess. Cigarette smoking used to be extremely cool but no longer, and that goes for actors in movies especially.

“The point is that negative associations always kick in when sometime lights up in a film, and it’s gotten so that I don’t want to watch characters in movies smoke at all. Unless it’s a period film or unless they look extremely cool doing it (a la Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past or Jean Paul Belmondo in Breathless), but very few actors have that ability.

“I smoked for years and years but I don’t any more, and I don’t like the way cigarettes smell unless I’m in Europe. (It’s different over there). Smoking isn’t exactly outright suicide but it’s the next thing to it, and every time someone lights up in a movie it half-pisses me off and makes me think negatively about the film in general, especially if this or that actor smokes all through the movie and looks and acts like a lowlife.

“Criminals in movies are always smoking, but I think it’s way too easy for an actor to use smoking as a piece of business. It’s tedious and repellent. It makes me want to see the actor get shot or at least beaten up.

“I think the sun has really set on the sexiness of smoking in movies, and I’m starting to think that actors who light up all the time in front of the camera are second-raters.

“People should be free to do anything they want of a self-destructive nature — cigarettes, booze, compulsive eating, coke, heroin — as long as they don’t hurt anyone else doing it. And actors should be free to do anything they want that will make a performance connect. But smoking has lost its coolness, and actors who lean on it repeatedly or compulsively are boring, and I’m starting to say ‘the hell with them’ when they pull one out and strike a match.

“Deep down I guess I’m acknowledging that I wouldn’t be surprised if I live a slightly shorter life because of my smoking in the ’70s and ’80s, and I’m kind of angry about that possibility.”