OPINION // Lest We Forget
Biographical movies do more harm than good when it comes to immortalizing the inspiration.
This week has been big for biopics. News about Michelle William’s turn as Marilyn Monroe has been slowly filtering in over the past few months. It started with her hair being dyed platinum, was followed by this Monroe-inspired glamour-shoot in US Vogue and has this week been cemented by the release of the first trailer for the film: My Week with Marilyn. Following the sad news that Apple founder and revolutionary calligrapher Steve Jobs had passed away at the premature age of 56, Sony – in a typically tactless business move – jumped on the film rights to Walter Isaacson’s biography on Jobs for a reported seven figure sum. The media furore over both these films suggest the movie-going public are partial to an inspirational true-story, but I suggest this has little to do with the story-at-hand. Rather, films about past celebrities create a microcosm of everything newsworthy and controversial about films: celebrities! Celebrity feuds! Our biased opinion about celebrities! Relative acting talent of celebrities! Artistic license with the truth! And all of this ultimately removes value from the true story of these [sometimes] deserving characters.
The discussions regarding who will play the lead in a biopic is always more significant – and salubrious – than the story of the person being played. I’m not sure if you are aware, but something appalling is occurring on a soundstage somewhere in Hollywood right now. Jeff Buckley, the musician who penned only one heartbreaking record – Grace – before his untimely death-by-drowning is being played by…Penn Bagdley. The shaggy-haired southern-soul who provided us with the most frequently employed funeral-slash-wedding song – ‘Hallelujah’ – is being portrayed by a two-dimensional piece of meat who fails to make an entitled and whinging borough-dwelling American believable, a role he should nail considering he IS A WHINGING BOROUGH-DWELLING AMERICAN. Seriously, Buckley’s better work:
And one of Bagdleys more daring turns:
If Penn Bagdley performs ‘Hallelujah’ in a small, candlelit dive-bar as the film’s centrepiece – which he is guaranteed to do – I may vomit.
Poor casting decisions not only make me physically ill, they also negatively affect my opinion of the person they are playing. Apparently Robert Pattinson and James Franco were also tipped for Buckley, and to be honest none were preferable, particularly considering Franco’s turn as Ginsberg in Howl. While his performance was exceptional – particularly the rendition of the title poem – the fact that he has become the Most Annoying Celebrity Alive has left my opinion towards the Beat Poet he played sullied by a series of ‘art’ pieces, novels and degrees from the overachieving, armless brunette. If I had any opinion on adventure sportspeople I’m sure Franco would have destroyed that Danny Boyle-directed adaptation of Between a Rock and a Hard Place for me too.
Finally, isn’t it problematic to allow the living industry to represent the deceased for financial gain without their approval? Imagine Carl Jung – a person revered for unravelling the nuances of the human mind – being O.K with a burgeoning superstar banging Keira Knightley for two-and-a-half hours as representative of his life’s work. For the common man Michael Fassbender would probably suffice by for Jung? A godfather of psychology!
Michelle Williams: please don’t screw this up. Both you and Marilyn’s reputations are on the line.
- Courtney Sanders