In Defense of Tom Cruise

November 19, 2007 at 5:04 pm 1 comment

Tom CruiseTom Cruise might be one of the most unlikeable actors in Hollywood, and yet he remains one of the biggest box office draws in the world. This is a conundrum, and one I’ve spent an inordinate amount of my life trying to figure out. My personal distaste for Cruise stretches way back, despite how easy it is for us all to cite the couch-jumping incident as the breaking point. Sure, the guy has revealed himself to be a loony and a Scientology stooge, but when was the last time you genuinely recall liking him as a movie star? Was it The Last Samurai, Minority Report, or maybe even the incredibly silly Mission: Impossible II? No, I suspect the answer is more like mine: Jerry Maguire, precisely eleven years ago. This is the last time I personally liked Cruise as a “movie star” (which is different than being a good actor, since folks like Cruise, Charlton Heston, and Harrison Ford are actually movie stars who occasionally act). I’m not arguing that Cruise hasn’t had a few good roles after Maguire, like the slimy Frank T.J. Mackey in Magnolia and the hit man in Collateral, but these two characters are superbly drawn douche bags and Cruise has always, revealingly enough, excelled at playing arrogant douche bags.

If you look further back, past Maguire, you’ll also realize Cruise was never really likeable as a young movie star either. His characters in A Few Good Men, Far and Away, Days of Thunder, Rain Man, Cocktail, The Color of Money, and Top Gun were all douches even then, played to a tee by the actor who somehow embodied their self-centered cockiness. In fact, if you bought a ticket to a Tom Cruise movie in this era, you knew one thing for certain: Cruise was going to play an asshole, stuck on himself and his own greatness, who would then be humbled and probably walk away a better man. This series of roles culminated with Maguire, in which he yet again played a cocky douche with a lot to learn about life and love.

Since Maguire, Cruise has released blunder, one after another, with only Magnolia, Collateral, and the box office success of the Mission: Impossible sequels to brag about – certainly not Lions for Lambs, which was released last weekend. The past few years have instead been marred by the public revelation that what we all kind of knew about Cruise was true: he’s a weird, gratingly annoying man who is convinced the world loves him and, in turn, he has the power to save the world. Cruise, like the crazy Jehovah’s Witnesses who knock on your doors, thinks he can save your soul.

And this is why, I think, we still buy tickets to Tom Cruise movies. He’s us. Tom Hanks might seem like the true everyman, the befuddled average guy it’s easy to relate to, but Cruise is the real deal – the cinematic expression of what’s inside all of us. He’s blindly arrogant and self-centered, convinced there’s something messianic about him. In other words, he’s flawed in the most human way, and yet he constantly quests to better himself, to become a more complete human being (without the help of Nicole Kidman).

This is Cruise’s persona, in fact. He is us, trying to get it right no matter how many times it takes. When he reaches outside this persona, that’s when we squirm. Cruise is not the daring hero, no matter how successful the Mission: Impossible movies have made him. He’s just another screwed up guy, and it’s hard not to root for ourselves.



Entry filed under: News. Tags: , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. me oh my  |  November 23, 2007 at 10:39 am

    you’re a deush. He’s a great actor and you’re just jealous.


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