University of Sussex Students' Newspaper

Should We Be Doing ‘The Things We Do’ For Our Favourite Actors?

Atreyo Palit

ByAtreyo Palit

May 13, 2024

“The things I do for Timothée Chalamet”, I say with a sigh after the credits start rolling and I realise that A Rainy Day in New York is directed by Woody Allen, whose films I don’t watch on principle. The lack of real substance in the film and the use of a dreamy colour grading to create a sense of nostalgia for the present which isn’t yet lost suddenly makes more sense. Frustration has built up through the viewing experience due to the lack of chemistry between the leads and the one-dimensional dialogue that betrays a lack of characterisation, especially of the female protagonist. I sit there for a few minutes pondering over my commitment to watching every film that my celebrity crush is in. Chalamet wouldn’t have known and I would have avoided watching a stale Woody Allen film. The saddest part is his performance isn’t even good.

“I should have just rewatched Miss Stevens or Beautiful Boy.” As I grumble to myself, I realise this isn’t the first time I’ve had this realisation. Watching Pitch Perfect 3 because I loved Hailee Steinfeld in Bumblebee, True Grit, and Dickinson was a questionable choice too. As was watching Woman in the Window for Amy Adams and Julianne Moore. Unless you’re as obsessed with someone’s appearance, body language, and ability to act as I am with Chalamet, actor-specific viewing decisions will quite often prove impossible unless you have infinite patience for films you don’t like. Even actors who are known to be very specific about their choices, like Joaquin Phoenix, will appear in the occasional Napoleon.

There will never be an exhaustive list of factors that make a viewing experience enjoyable, but it is perhaps telling that as often as we say “Must a movie be good? Is it not enough that Angelina Jolie is in it?” (I wouldn’t recommend Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, but she’s very cool in it), we’re more commonly lamenting about “The things I do for Jessie Buckley.” (I have nothing else to say about Men, which, unlike the claims it makes, addresses the trauma of sexual harassment as much as Spider-Man addresses the technical difficulties of making a spider which passes on web-making abilities instead of poisoning you). Sometimes, it’s not even just that the film is not your thing. My journey to A Rainy Day in New York, of course, involved a regrettable stop at Call Me By Your Name. I will never know why my favourite actor would choose to be in a film that presents paedophilia as the central romance, but I watched the whole thing because I was committed, and I wish I hadn’t.

When I watched Dune a few years ago, I enjoyed it because Chalamet got enough screen time even though the film lacks substance since it’s busy setting things up. People who watched it for Zendaya can’t say the same thing, though. She barely even has any dialogue. The ideal way to decide what to watch for your favourite performers is to consider how many negative factors you could endure for their presence. The lack of coherence in the later seasons of Peaky Blinders didn’t bother me, but I won’t watch Breakfast on Pluto (it’s most likely transphobic) for Cillian Murphy even if he’s one of my favourite actors.I am in support of going blindly into movies, but you should at least see reviews for films you’re choosing to see just because your favourite actor is in them, and do a pre-watch vibe check. It’s helpful except for the risk of missing out on hidden gems like Personal Shopper and Speak because Kristen Stewart is largely considered a bad actress even though she was supposed to be insufferable (it’s Stephanie Meyer’s fault, not Stewart’s!) as Bella in Twilight. If you value your time more than I do though, I wouldn’t recommend making film choices based on actors unless you’re choosing to watch Terminal for Margot Robbie because she makes everything she’s in more than tolerable. Not Suicide Squad though. Any Jared Leto cameo is undesirable, but his jumpscare appearance in Suicide Squad can scar you for life, so be careful.

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