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Great Acting + Great Looks = ?

January 24th 2012, by Celik Kayalar

In the recent hit comedy “Young Adult“, the highly talented, Oscar-winning Charlize Theron plays a contemporary single woman who, after some fleeting success as a ghost-writer, decides to leave the big city and go back to her small, sleepy hometown, in order to rekindle a romance with her ex-boyfriend. The problem is, he is now happily married and just had a baby. Yet these facts, already well known to her, doesn’t bother her in the least bit. She seems to be aware of some of her problems like her alcoholism but is totally oblivious to her stalker-like psychopathic behavior as she relentlessly pursues this happily-married “average Joe”.

Ms.Theron does a superb job acting this potentially interesting character, in a comedic context, yet is unfortunately wrongly cast for the part: she is simply too gorgeous to be believable as this delusional, psychopathic character she’s trying to portray. Not that traffic-stopping-gorgeous people in real life can not be delusional and/or exhibit psychopathic behavior, but without an honest attempt to explore and explain why this is happening to Ms.Theron’s character, the movie  becomes too implausible to work.

In summary, a potentially interesting story, clever and humorous dialogue, great acting and exceptionally good looks on the lead-actor’s part unfortunately all end up in a rather shallow and disappointing movie.

Many factors influence the casting decisions in a movie, and a perfect fit between the character and the looks of the actor who’s cast to portray that character can take a back seat, as I think it did here. So, “Who would have been a better fit?” I asked myself. Among many other possibilities that came to my mind, Kristen Wiig stood out, the co-writer and lead-actor of “Bridesmaids“, another hit comedy from earlier this year. Her comedic acting-skills are excellent (she has also been consistently hilarious in her SNL skids, for years), although they’re no match for Charlize Theron’s, across genres (very few actors’ acting-skills are). Yet, in the eyes of this beholder, Ms.Wiig’s looks are just about right (good but not traffic-stopping-gorgeous) that would have made her quite believable in this particular role, and therefore might have allowed the whole movie to work too. Well, may be they’ll cast her in the sequel…

Now, if you want to see another superb performance in a recent movie, but this time with a perfect fit between the character and the actor’s looks, please try “My Week with Marilyn“. The Golden Globe winner Michelle Williams makes us completely believe that we are watching Marilyn Monroe on the screen, with all her legendary beauty and vulnerability, and then some. A delightful performance by Kenneth Branagh (in a supporting-role as Laurence Olivier) doesn’t hurt this simple but well-made movie either. I suspect there’ll be no sequel to this one.

10 responses to “Great Acting + Great Looks = ?”

  • 1
    Kalina says:

    I have been meaning to see both of these films. Simply through the previews, I had the suspicion Charlize Theron was cast incorrectly for exactly the reason you point out here. While a very talented actress, her beauty can handicap her. She was appropriately cast in “The Burning Plain”, in which she plays a very damaged soul and this role fits quite well. While clearly a gorgeous creature, her appearance in this film is more haunting than unfitting. Her allure was dampened in her role in “Monster”, which was the right choice. Having not seen “Young Adult”, I cannot imagine who might fit well in the role. Kristen Wiig could be a wise choice, perhaps Kristina Applegate?
    I was hesitant to see “My Week with Marilyn” as I was concerned Michelle Williams was not enough a likeness and it would be distracting, however, based on your comments here and the fact that she won the Golden Globe I am eager to see it.
    All the best ~ Kalina

  • 2
    Celik Kayalar says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. “My Week with Marilyn” is definitely worth seeing. “Young Adult” only so for aficionados who also enjoy learning from various flaws in well-intended films. I agree, Kristina Applegate would have been a good fit too. Perhaps a lesson for all actors here, especially for an Oscar-winning major star like Charlize Theron is that, it is sometimes better not to be cast than cast incorrectly, the missed paycheck not withstanding.

    Hope you enjoy Michelle Williams’ performance in “My Week with Marilyn” and let us know about it.
    All the best.

  • 3
    Rachel Cheng says:

    Hi Celik, thanks for the movie recommendation.
    I have yet to see “My week with Marilyn” with the same reason as kalina. I am afraid that Michelle would not be able to capture Marilyn in every aspect of her character other than look-alike in appearance. Now that worries are gone, I shall see this movies ASAP. :) However, I may not want to watch “Young adult” for its non-convincible role choice.

  • 4
    Celik Kayalar says:

    Hi Rachel,
    I think you will enjoy and appreciate Michelle Williams’s performance. No wonder she won at the Golden Globes for this role. Lots of strong performances by women this year, Oscar results will be interesting. I plan to watch and take notes.

  • 5
    Mick McGuinness says:

    Every so often a brilliant film is released, ignored, and forgotten until almost posthumously it’s value is re-discovered. From what I have learned none other than Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane” received tepid and befuddled reviews upon its undistinguished release . I would venture to say that such a film is in release as I write this. It is called “Pina”, and it was conceived and directed by the great German filmmaker Wim Wenders. It isn’t “Citizen Kane”, but like that film, it is an individual masterpiece.

    “Pina” is a documentary and serves as an homage to the late but brilliant choreographer Pina Bausch who for most of her life was the visionary force behind the world famous ‘Tanztheatre Wuppertal’ modern dance company.
    It is currently in release on the big screen in 3D! When was the last time you saw a documentary in 3D? I could go on and on about this film. But in keeping with minimalist spirit of the piece I will only say that is a film created by an Artist making art with a camera depicting other artists making art with their bodies inside of his art. “Pina” is one of those rare films in which a viewer is immersed in a separate world – and not in a CGI sort of way. One is immersed in our known world with all of its familiarity, yet somehow that world is transformed. And it is also, to say the least, utterly ‘precise’ in a very German sort of way. Run, don’t walk for it will be gone soon – did I mention 3D?

  • 6
    Celik Kayalar says:

    Hi Mick,
    Thanks for bringing “Pina” to our attention. I’ll make an effort to see it. Goes to show how many great films are probably out there that most of us don’t get to see, or even hear about, till its pointed out to us by someone like yourself.

  • 7
    jessica spears says:

    My sentiments exactly about Charlize Theron in “Young Adult”. Will be seeing “My Week With Marilyn” soon, everybody seems to be liking Michelle Williams’s work in it.

  • 8
    Kamil A. says:

    In “Young Adult” Charlize Theron walks into a small town bar, looking like a goddess and no men takes notice, let alone swarming around her like flies in a heartbeat. Please….
    Dr.Kayalar, thank you for pointing out the logical flaw in the movie, the wrong casting of Ms.Theron for this particular role. It is obvious that you do casting yourself and are very good at it too. Watched “Moonlight Sonata” on video last year and loved everything about it, including the excellent casting. May I inquire, what will your next movie be?

  • 9
    Beatrice Kayes says:

    Loved Michelle Williams in “My Week with Marilyn”. Will be rooting for her at the Oscars.
    As to Charlize Theron, it is impossible to feel sorry for somebody so gorgeous (Celik Kayalar calls it traffic-stopping-gorgeous…I like it!). No wonder “Young Adult” didn’t work as a believable movie, and Theron got left out of the Oscar nominations – I think, rightfully so.

  • 10
    Alex says:

    Thanks for pointing out the importance of proper casting, now I understand its not just the acting ability but also the physical fit between the actor and the character. By the way, always enjoyed Kristen Wiig’s comedy, hope we see her in more films in significant roles.

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