The Boyfriend of the Week

April 15, 2003

For a really long time now, a friend of mine has been prodding me to feature her favorite actor of all time, Adrien Brody. I knew who he was -- had seen him in such films as "Liberty Heights" and "Summer of Sam," but though I have always been a fan, I've never really felt all that smitten by him. When I see an Adrien Brody movie on the shelf, I pick it up. But I don't get that little flip in my stomach that I get when I pick up, say, a movie starring Paul Gross (by the way, seen "Men With Brooms," yet? S'wunnerful.)

A few weeks ago, though, I decided to rent a few of his most recent films, just to catch up. With really, no intention at all of considering it to be "Boyfriend research." Making him a Boyfriend just wasn't really up there on my list of priorities. But the moment I finished the first one in my stack, I knew I was a goner. Brody on the brain for good. Blinding Brody on the brain, even. Why do you think this write-up took me so damn long?

Oddly enough, that movie, the one that did me in, was "Harrison's Flowers," which isn't actually all that great of a film. And it's certainly not his greatest film ever, either. Not even close. But there were aspects of this movie that really affected me in a way I'm finding hard to explain. It's primary plot, which focuses on a woman (Andie MacDowell) who finds out her war photographer husband is MIA in Yugoslavia and decides to fly over there and single-handedly rescue him, is a bit on the ridiculous side, for a number of reasons I won't get into here. But the rest of the movie, particularly once she actually gets to Yugoslavia, is extremely well-done. She eventually ends up hooking up with another group of war photographers, one of whom is Adrien Brody's character, and the group of them set out to help her find her husband, thus taking us on a whirlwind tour of the Bosnian conflict, in all its horrific glory. There are scenes in this movie that I will never really shake. Not only because of how graphic they were, and how truly cruel, but because I know it's TRUE. The Bosnians really DID do that to each other. PEOPLE really did that to other PEOPLE. And without a moment's pause. Without mercy. I remember reading about some of the things they show us in the film, back when that was the war discussed every week in Time magazine, but there's just something quite different about actually seeing what those things look like in living color. It takes you right to it, in a way a news article, even a photograph, can't really do.

Anybody feeling distanced from the horrors of war in Iraq might want to give this movie a rental. Put yourself back in touch with how totally, remarkably INSANE it is to kill, be killed, or even just see those things happen to others around you. We get a sanitary picture of war from CNN, despite their feeble attempts to convince us that embedded reporters standing in the middle of sand storms yelling about how much tastier MREs are now than they were 30 years ago really brings the war home. We don't see the real pictures -- the pictures of death. The looks on faces. The tears or the anguish or the fear. And pretty soon, we start hearing something like "400 Iraqi civilians killed" and we think, "Oh, only 400? That's not so bad. . ." And that's when you know it's finally happened. When a statement like that elicits an automatic "Only 400?" from you, that's when you know it's time to stop watching CNN and start actually paying attention.

And trust me, I catch myself thinking "Only?" too. I just did it earlier today, in fact. And it never ceases to startle and horrify me. It's what they want us to think, of course. That it's not so bad, really. Except I think, or maybe I just hope, that deep down we all know, somewhere, that 400 is actually very very bad indeed. Yes, it is better than 400,000. But you know what? It's nowhere near as good as zero.

But anyway, "Harrison's Flowers" will make those numbers people again for you. Which may or may not convince you to rent it, depending on where you are with yourself these days. Actually, I'll give Hollywood credit for more than just that one film, too. Hollywood has produced a number of mighty fine war movies that can really bring it all home for you, and they continue to do so -- they're almost the last bastion of the free press we have in America, if you think about it (my husband is going to kill me when he sees I just said that out loud). But really, they still say pretty much whatever they want in Hollywood. Even though it's sometimes not the greatest move in terms of marketing. But anyway, case in point: "The Pianist," Adrien's latest movie, which I still haven't seen. I actually started my research on Adrien long before this war in Iraq got started -- so I can't use that as my excuse, as others are doing (just in article in the New York Times about this very thing) -- but "Harrison's Flowers" was so hard on me I literally had to put a self-imposed ban on all war movies and I haven't started back up with them yet (despite the fact I desperately need to rent "Platoon" soon for research on the next Boyfriend).

But I did read the book "The Pianist" was based on, and you can read what I thought of it in the Books section (easiest way: use the "Search for a Book" link). The book I knew I could handle -- I just focused on the words and turned off that part of my brain that translates books into mini motion pictures. Excellent excellent amazing excellent excellent book. When I do finally see the movie, I know already it will have a profound effect on me. Which is probably why it's going to be a really long time before I plop that one into the DVD player. May Adrien forgive me for the delay.

Hey, though, before anybody takes this little war tangent the wrong way, or even the right way, let me state for the record that I do not have black and white opinions about what's going on in Iraq. Which means that no matter what YOUR position is, attempting to engage me in an argument about it is just going to frustrate you. I actually try very hard to keep politics out of this page, for the most part. It's not fun. Politics, I mean. We don't all come here to read about my thoughts on Middle Eastern policy. We come here to laugh, drool, laugh some more and then chat with each other about guys, books, and movies we've seen and adored.

So, despite this brief tiptoe over my own line in the sand, I do not really want Red Rover Red Rover to send the war right on over. "Harrison's Flowers," a movie starring this week's Boyfriend, made it impossible for me to avoid talking about war for a moment here -- it had an impact on me, and I wanted to tell you about it. But now I'm done with that part. Moment come. Moment gone. So, let's get back to what's truly important -- Adrien Brody's nose.

Okay, actually, let's talk schnoz later. Because I'm sure what you really want to know is what made me go from appreciative fan to Girl with Gargantuan Crush. Was it his character's compassion in "Harrison's Flowers"? His character's courage? Strength of will? Creativity and brilliance?

Hah. Would that I were so high up on that horse of "inner beauty." Porque, no. It wasn't his character's character that sucker punched my chest (whomp). It was really Adrien's scruffy beard, messy "I'm in a war-torn country and do not have access to shampoo" hair, and just the general truth (for me, anyway) that all photographers are damn sexy by nature.

Did you know I had a thing for photographers? It's killer. Kind of goes hand-in-hand with my deadly "thing" for reporters, you see? Journalists and photographers tend to have this whole "truth or bust" philosophy (well, okay, not over at Fox News they don't, but most other places) that often gets them into all sorts of crazy trouble. And if there's one thing I truly love, it's trouble.

Trouble! That starts with T, that rhymes with B, and that spells BRODY! (And you thought I never watched musicals!)

Combine the messy hair with the camera and you'll begin to understand why by the time the final credits of "Harrison's Flowers" was rolling, I was grabbing my keys and racing back to the video store, where I promptly rented everything they had with Adrien Brody in it. It sounds like a lot, but you're forgetting this was Blockbuster -- it really only amounted to about 6 movies. Instead of telling you about all six, though, in the interest of getting this write-up up before you invade my country and overthrow my government (Operation Enduring Boyfriends!), let me just say a quick word about three that stood out.

1. Liberty Heights -- This is one of the first Adrien Brody movies I ever saw and it remains my hands-down favorite. It's about a family with two teenage boys, growing up Jewish in 1950's Baltimore. It's very sweet and funny. A really delightful combination. If you rent only one, rent this one.

2. If you rent two, it's okay to go ahead and make Oxygen your second one. I was sure it would be a total dog (it's about a killer, Brody, who buries his victims alive), but it's actually not half bad. Adrien is very convincingly freaky, and only managed to spare himself the fate of Christian Bale (who I will never be able to look at as Boyfriend material again after seeing "American Psycho") because my focus was split between him and Terry Kinney (from "Oz"), who I also really like a lot. Don't watch it when you're home alone for a weekend, though. Is my recommendation.

3. Yes, I should've known better than to rent Jailbreakers when I saw it costarred Shannon Doherty. No, apparently I will never learn. Yes, I do find her crooked eye disconcerting. No, I know it's not her fault she's freaky and also a really bad actress. Yes, I do feel badly for saying that about her eye. No, not badly enough to want to sit through this crappy movie ever again. Yes, it's true I didn't actually sit through it this time to begin with. No, I will never be that stupid again. Okay, yes. I will. But whaddaya gonna do?

The best scene from all of the movies I rented, by the way, is the kissing scene in "Liberty Heights." And this quite neatly brings us back to the place we almost went to earlier. That place south of his hair and north of his incredibly seductive voice.

Yes, that's right. It brings us back to . . . the NOSE.

I think a lot of people would say that Adrien Brody's nose is his one handicap. It's so large it makes it hard to concentrate on anything else when you look at him. Like the rest of his face. Or the way he can make a character go from paper to person with no visible effort whatsoever. His nose probably reminds a lot of people of Steve Martin in "Roxanne," actually ("Laugh and the world laughs with you. Sneeze, and it's Good-bye, Seattle!").

But I have to be honest. When Adrien Brody kisses or kind of nuzzles a woman's cheek, his nose sort of bends. Folds over a little bit. (By the way, for the best evidence of the nuzzle effect, see Tori Amos's video with Adrien in it (which you can get to from one of the fan links below). The video itself is extremely freaky, if you ask me, but the nuzzling is nice.) (Oh, and by the way, for the record, I am NOT a Tori Amos fan. I turned the sound off.). Anyway, though I can't explain this, that fold-over is just the most damnably sexy thing I have ever seen.

Yes, I am a freak. Thanks for askin'! I don't know what it is about it that gets to me. But I can't stop looking at it when it happens. He kisses someone and all I can see is HIS NOSE. And pretty soon I'm offering God a million dollars, my left arm, AND all the tea in China if he'd just make me Halle Barry on Oscar night for ONE MINUTE. Okay, two minutes -- it was a long kiss, after all ("Bet you didn't know THAT was in the gift bag!"). But man oh man, I cannot have been the only woman in America who almost fell out of her chair when he dipped Halle and planted one on her. My jaw is still dropped. I may never fully recover.

Wish I had it on video.

But anyway, there you have it. After ALL THIS, it all comes down to a bend in Brody's nose. An explanation that defies explanation. Two-plus weeks of waiting for this?! Wading through all that war-is-hell crap for THIS?! FOR A NOSE?!

Feel cheated? Yeah, I hear ya. Just wait until next week when I confess I'm in love with a Boy just because his feet look so cute in Birkenstocks! (Okay, that's actually a joke. Though I know you can't really tell fact from fiction anymore at this point. Sorry about that.)

Time for a quick bio and then I'll send you on your way (to the video store for Adrien Brody movies featuring bendy noses and messy hair): Adrien was born and raised in New York City, which you probably guessed for yourself the first time you saw him or heard him speak. He got his first taste of acting at age 12, when he regularly performed at children's parties as a magician. With the encouragement of his mother, a photographer (see? SEXY genes!), he enrolled in acting classes during his teenage years, studying drama seriously at the High School for the Performing Arts ("FAME! I'm gonna live forever. . ."). He had no problem finding work in off-Broadway productions and soon was cast in a television movie (PBS) called "Home at Last."

After that debut, and some more minor TV stuff, he went back to school and attended a year of college before being cast in Steven Soderbergh's 1993 drama "King of the Hill." The film was a critical success, presenting Brody with a wide variety of options for his film career. It wasn't until "Summer of Sam," however (a Spike Lee film about the Son of Sam killer), that Brody really began to be recognized by film critics as having a considerable talent. Must've been the hair (this is a joke only people who have seen the movie will get). And several years later, he finally got the highest critical compliment an actor can receive -- he beat out 4 Academy favorites to take the 2003 Oscar for Best Actor.

As if that weren't all sexy enough, I'll end this by telling you that Brody actually taught himself to play Chopin to prepare for his role in "The Pianist." Those of you who know my love of the piano, and of Chopin in particular, should've seen my downfall coming from a mile away once that little tidbit was released to the media. If I ever meet Adrien Brody, I hope he's wearing a 35mm camera, hasn't washed his hair in two days, and is sitting in a piano bar tinkering with a rickety old upright and sipping on a vodka-tonic. Because then I truly will have died and gone to heaven.

MacGyver Factor Score: 99.78% This picture of Brody looks to me like it was taken during the shooting of "Harrison's Flowers," even though it probably wasn't (and, in fact, someone just emailed me to say it was taken at Sundance). But anyway, that's the hair (facial and otherwise) that did me in. Only, of course, it was a lot more war-torn in the movie. Rent it sometime and you'll see what I mean. Just fast-forward through the early Andie MacDowell scenes -- otherwise you'll be rolling your eyes so much you'll miss his grand entrance at the awards dinner, wearing a sassy black tee-shirt. Love a cute guy in a black tee-shirt. Don't I, Simon?

Boyfriend-Related Links
Another Adrien fan site
Adrien's IMDb page
The Official Pianist site

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