The Boyfriend of the Week

April 17, 2000

If you're like me, you probably forgot all about this week's Boyfriend, even though you thought he was incredibly sweet and cute and nice the first (and last) time you saw him. There's a reason for that. The reason is this: after Ben Chaplin made his first major motion picture in America, "The Truth About Cats and Dogs," he pretty much disappeared. Vanished. Poof. Thin air.

In fact, I'm not entirely sure what prompted me to start thinking about him again. Until this week, I hadn't seen Ben since "Truth" first came out on video, about, what, four years ago?

However, something must've been whispering "Ben! Ben! Ben!" in my ears because I looked him up last week. And, oddly enough, I discovered his only major film since "Truth" was Terrence Malick's "The Thin Red Line," a movie I'd been wanting to see for awhile but had also kind of forgotten about.

Is that weird or what?

So, anyway, I rented "Thin" this weekend and, just as I predicted, Ben Chaplin was terrific. I will admit, however, that it was pretty hard to go from cutie-pie-with-dog-on-roller-skates Ben to still-cute-but-now-fully-armed Ben. Not because he wasn't totally and completely believable as a soldier (he was), but because, you know, like, well, I sort of kept wishing Janeane would show up. And whisk Ben away to a cleaner and much safer place. Like my house.

But let's get back on track here. As I'm sure you know (but may have forgotten), Ben was the incredibly sweet sweetie in "The Truth About Cats and Dogs," a kind of Cyrano de Bergerac tale with the sexes reversed. Janeane Garofalo played Cyrano (only with her own nose) and her sexy but rather dim counter-part was played by Uma Thurman. Now, I really should have rented that this weekend too, but I just wasn't thinking. I honestly can't remember very much about the movie, except that Ben was in it and he was VERY tall, dark, and handsome. I remember falling in crush with him while watching it, but am not really sure what happened after that. How could I have forgotten Ben Chaplin?? I just don't understand!

Anyway, after "Truth," Ben was on the verge of a major American movie-world breakthrough, after toiling for many years in British television and theater. Oh, and remember that bit part in "The Remains of the Day"? Yeah, I didn't think you did. Ben was the swarthy footman who was lusting after the maid (I think it was the maid, anyway) in the background (foreground: Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson). Something must've happened after "Truth," however, and for all my web searching, I was unable to find out what. Maybe he had something better to do?

Fortunately, (luckily), someone had the brains to cast him in one of the lead parts of "The Thin Red Line." Now, I was initially very wary of this movie, to be honest. Nothing to do with Ben, of course, but I am a big fan of the book the film was based on and movies based on favorite books almost always disappoint. However, as near as I could tell, the movie was based on a totally different book that had the same title and a few of the same character names. Cuz there the similarities ended, which was actually a good thing because it meant I could enjoy it and not worry about them screwing something up.

Ben plays a soldier named Jack who spends most of his time thinking about his wife back home. He had been an officer-in-training when they first met and he quit so he could be with her (aw, shucks). This quite upset his superiors at the time, and they vowed they'd get revenge by drafting him into the infantry some day -- a threat they carried through with. Dang. But Ben/Jack manages okay. In times of danger or panic, he switches into dream mode, thinking about his wife and wishing he could be with her. Very nice how dedicated he was to her, how totally and completely in love with her he was. Too bad she totally does not deserve that affection and, in fact, deserves to be drafted into the infantry herself. (I will try not to give the plot away, though).

The film is very good, though it is not to be compared to "Saving Private Ryan," despite the fact everyone keeps doing that. SPR was an emotionally manipulative movie to the extreme (meaning, you were not only having your emotions manipulated, you were also very conscious of having your emotions manipulated, which is bad film-making). SPR had a message and it was focused on ramming that message down your throat. (Before you all start hurling hate-mail at me, I am NOT saying SPR sucked, and yes, I do think Matt Damon is cute). But TRL, to me, had a totally different focus. It was more like art than reality. No excessive gore, no mass destruction, etc. However, the artistic presentation of war was far more effective, for me, in conveying the horror of war than was SPR's stark realism. I could list a dozen scenes to support this, but I sense from your yawns that I am on the verge of losing your interest. So, back to Ben.

He's got really great eyebrows, don't you think? And that hair -- yeesh! It kills me! Aside from his radiant good looks, he's also the perfect age for me (i.e. MY age). Yup, he too was born in 1973, only his mom was in Windsor, England at the time (and mine was not). He made his first acting debut at 16 and soon after received formal training at a reputable Brit drama school. Ben made quite a name for himself quickly in his home country, even earning an Olivier Award nomination for a role in "The Glass Menagerie" (the Olivier is like the Tony in America).

But you already knew he was amazing, didn't you. Yes, you did. Because you, too, rewound every single kissing scene in "Truth." Don't even try to deny it because I won't believe you. I mean, puh-lease! Who are you trying to kid? You're just as lame as I am and you know it!

Alas, digress again, I do. (I'm starting to sound like Yoda now; it must be time to wrap this up).

You'll be glad to hear that "Thin" seems to have knocked Ben free from whatever was holding him back. When I checked on Ben at the IMDB, it listed not one, not three, but TWO upcoming films. One is a horror/thriller with Winona Ryder called "Lost Souls." The other is a romantic comedy (yay!) titled "Birthday Girl" and is about a bank clerk and his Russian mail-order bride. No, I am NOT kidding. And besides, do we really care about the plots? Uh-uh. We just want another opportunity to see Ben with no shirt on.

Man, we are getting sooooo predictable.

Anyway, kids, Ben is back, so get ready to hit the theaters. I'll keep my eyes open and alert you as soon as I hear any release dates. I'm actually thinking it might be time to start a new page here that updates everyone on various ex-Boyfriend activities. This idea occurred to me last week when I watched Harrison Ford (the old shoe, remember?) win this year's American Film Institute award. Would you be interested in reading stuff like that? You'll have to let me know.

MacGyver Factor Score: 95.7%. Two movies isn't a lot to go on, so I shouldn't rate Ben too high. Still, what I've seen is pretty darn good (I love his cheekbones) so I'm giving him 0.7 over the median. Likely to increase after I rent "Truth" again later this week.

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