One thing I love about John is, like a good boyfriend, you can count on him. That despite the character he is portraying –whatever character it may be– there’s always an essence of that comfortingly familiar Cusack angst. Sure, that can be considered a bad quality for an actor, but not for John. And in actuality, he’s like a great surfer, who you don’t think is as good as he is, because he’s so casual about it -it comes so natural- that he makes even the most difficult maneuvers seem easy.
That still doesn’t explain away his sex appeal. Cusack is our generation’s anti-hero, anti-celeb, anti-sex-god. And unlike other actors that reasonably or not are considered for the role -Clooney, Pitt, Penn- he doesn’t need to advertise it. I went out to dinner last night, and even the guys in our party (all straight) concurred. Frankly, I was surprised; to what extent men are equally a sucker for Cusack’s charms. When I threw it out there that if you dissect him, piece by piece (his kinda thin, strangely shaped lips, his new wave eyebrows, his grungy lanky stance), that John Cusack is not a very attractive man, well, I was met with fierce opposition. One guy actually seemed to be offended by my comment, challenging me with his response of “He’s attractive. What are you talking about? Come’on, you know he’s good looking!” Okay, okay, yes, he’s cute – I mean, I’m bringing up the topic in the first place. I’m just not certain why! Why is Cusack still such a hottie?!?
In his new movie, 1408, co-staring Samuel L. Jackson (whom you might hesitate to trust as incentive to potentially wasting two hours on a horror flick), Cusack displays his lasez-fair brilliance, practically without you noticing. The whole movie lies foremostly in his lap. In actuality, a movie like this could have easily gone the way of a plane full of snakes. Not everyone knows how to interpret King’s masterful play with suspense, and not every director gets King’s humor; as easily 1408 is perfection it could just as easily have gone cliché. And a scary movie that gets blessed with a leading actor who can convince the audience to be realistically horrified by an unrealistic scenario is gold. In the scene when John is holding his dead daughter, reassuring her he will not let go, that they will be together forever, just before she turns into a pile of rocky ash, you have to pretend you’re rubbing your eyes because you’re tired, not because John Cusack is actually making you cry. He’s a cynic like you’re a cynic, he’s a punk like you’re a punk, he’s always a little bit at odds with the world in a non-conformist way that isn’t too proud or self-righteous. Just like you, he doesn’t want to believe, and you seem to bond with him in that regard, from his very first moment on screen…in every movie he is in. (And note, I saw the movie with my mom, and though she couldn’t relate so much with the horror flick, she sure did feel the same way as I did about John!).
“It’s the idea that hell is a state of mind filled with the demons and conflicts you bring with you from your past,” Cusack says. “It’s not like a slasher film, where you’re running away from something or you have to face some monster. Room 1408 is some version of purgatory, where all your problems are waiting right there for you.”
Instead of the promise of hope found in a repeating day, á la Groundhog’s Day, 50 First Dates, even the new (torturous yet decently accomplished TV show) Day Break, where the idea of being able to correct one’s mistakes and take advantage of second chances exists, 1408 showcases the potential nightmare of repeating one’s most horrible day -compounded by reliving the feelings of the worst events of one’s life- over and over again. The weight of the idea of it is enough – thank god. There are a few of those M. Shyamalan twists, though even the most unchallenged minds in the audience are used to those by now, come to expect them, and enjoy trying to guess what they might be.
Even when appearing in shitty movies, at least we get to watch him; John Cusack can make virtually any film character likable or enjoyable. At 41 –as of a few days ago (happy birthday)– Cusack had appeared in over 50 movies. (My only point of contention, and I’m a stickler when it comes to this, is that I wish he never appeared in a Woody Allen film post-Soon Yi; but that’s another matter for another moment.) He’s had a self-conscious touch of jaded as of day one, a sort of anarchistic sneer that keeps the best of us from conforming to the lowest common denominator. His private life has not been sold out in exchange for false-idol self-worship. His comment that “celebrity is the worst thing that can happen to an actor” is easy to make from the outside looking in, but impossible for most tabloid-driven love-hungry ego’s to see. On marriage (and while deterring notions of his unmarried-self possibly being gay because his name appeared on the cover of the SF Chronicle’s “Pink Pages” – sorry boys, he was supporting “Gay Pride” not being gay!) Cusack responded in The Guardian,
Would he like to get married? Put it another way. In his fantasy, is he married? ‘I’m not as interested in being married as in coming to some sort of clarity about the whole thing.’ Which sounds a bit constipated, but then, as he says, it’s not an easy subject. Complicated, in fact. ‘Don’t you think?’ Is he one of those men who falls in love all the time. ‘Not at all. I’ve been in love maybe two or three times in my life.’ A leaver? ‘No, so far they have been mutual leavings.’ Kids? ‘Yeah. That’d be good. But I’d want to be with someone I could stay with long enough for the kids to grow up.’ Maybe you’ve got to stop thinking so much, I say. ‘Yes,’ he says. ‘But that’s complicated, too, isn’t it?’
Yes John, it is complicated. But maybe we can help….
p.s. Please note the El Porto surf scenes where the -kinda retarded- surf accident that initiated the set-up of events into the dark side takes place. Does John surf?
Yeah, I’ve actually done a little bit, but I’m not a big surfer. Water’s kinda scary, especially those big waves. I actually have friends who do it, and I go out with them. I’m not a big surfer.
Again John, (forget Laird, forget Minnie) maybe we can help… xo