Here's Looking at Your
Gelman-Waxner, Libby, Newsweek
LIBBY GELMAN-WAXNER is, as she will tell you, America's most beloved and irresponsible film critic. Her columns for Premiere magazine are collected in a book, "If You Ask Me."
BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE: Forget acting, forget angst. The reason we go to the movies is to gaze with envy and adoration at the sublime genetic accidents up there on the screen.
GORGEOUS MOVIE STARS PROVE THAT THERE is no justice, and that this is a fabulous thing. That's why I really don't care for all those gritty, independent films about ordinary people. featuring handheld camera work and normal-looking actors. Excuse me, but if I want reality, I'll just leave the movie theater. The planet is not experiencing a shortage of average human beings; what we need are more breathtaking icons like Julia Roberts or Matt Damon, performers whose crooked half-smiles can influence the stock market. I don't want depth and torment; let's hear it for blissful genetic accidents.
True movie stars can also be gifted actors, but it isn't really necessary. Robert Mitchum, Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer are all terrific performers, but they're Oscar-worthy even as still photographs. Movie stars are like models perfected: they're interactive Vogue layouts. They're the opposite of role models, because they're the people that the rest of us can never possibly become, so we shouldn't even try. When I watch Brad Pitt's perfectly bleached and trimmed bangs flopping rakishly over his brow in "Seven Years in Tibet," even though he's supposed to be in a mousse-free POW camp, I don't get angry, I get giddy- Brad's hair transcends history. When I watch Tom Cruise grin, or Ava Gardner flash her eyes, or Audrey Hepburn wear oversize sunglasses, I know that there is a God, and that he's jealous.
My favorite moments in most Hollywood films are when the plot vanishes and the camera takes over, focusing on the stars as a way of proclaiming. "Oh, who cares about the characters' emotional arcs or the international drug cartel, let's all just take a good long look at, say, the platoon of bronzed fighter-pilots playing a shirtless game of volleyball In Top Gun'." This is one of those scenes where moviemaking almost achieves the glory of a truly memorable aftershave ad. Other beauty peaks include the long final close-up of Garbo, sailing into exile in "Queen Christina," a sequence that could be subtitled, "Find a Flaw, I Dare You." Amazing red gowns are also ideal substitutes for sparkling dialogue or moral complexity: Julia Roberts appearing in her Lillian Russell velvet in "Pretty Woman," Vivien Leigh in her Scarlett sequins and Audrey Hepburn descending the steps of the Louvre in billowing chiffon in "Funny Face all leave Ingmar Bergman in the dust. And when a star combines the face of a Gary Grant with the dash of a Cary Grant, well, let's Just forget about saving the human race from some approaching as teroid and spend our resources to protect a few prints of "Bringing Up Baby" and "The Philadelphia Story."
Movie beauty is probably the most rare form of physical appeal. The casts of daytime soaps and the "Melrose Place"/"90210" axis remind me of a plastic surgeon's cat-featuring idealized which can be ordered from an 800 number. …