The Boyfriend of the Week

February 1, 2007

Okay, it's time to just come right out and announce this, because as weird as it may seem to some of you, I cannot hold back any longer. I AM MADLY IN LOVE WITH BILL NIGHY.

He's 937 years old (well, okay, actually, he's only 58, which totally blew my mind because I honestly thought he had to be in his early 70's by now. This assumption explains why, in my last write-up, I said this one would be about a man old enough to be my grandfather. As it turns out, he's only barely old enough to be my father, which is a fact I find absolutely astonishing).

He's skinny.

He's gangly.

He's losing his hair.

He's dour to the extreme.

And he's also utterly frakin' irresistible.

Yes, it's true. It is so very, very true. I am completely BONKERS about Bill Nighy. How bonkers? Allow me to count the ways.

1. Because he does shy, quiet, gentle, and sweet so VERY well in. . .

The Girl in the Café (2005) -- This Emmy-award-winning film is not without flaws (T-minus-three-paragraphs until I start ranting incoherently -- you've been warned). That said, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. It's about an older man, Lawrence (Nighy), who works in finances in the British government. One day, he's on a tea break when he goes into a café and finds the only available seat is at a table with a young woman named Gina (the always-wonderful Kelly Macdonald). The two end up talking, in a shy, quiet, gentle, and sweet manner, and when he gets up to leave, Lawrence asks Gina if she'd meet him for lunch in a few weeks. After a few more awkward but ridiculously adorable dates, Lawrence tells Gina he's heading off to Iceland for a week to attend the G-8 conference, and asks if she'd like to join him. A bit startled at first, she figures, "Why not?" and packs her suitcase.

Once they get to Reykjavik, they're horrified to discover they have to share a hotel room -- their relationship has been mostly platonic up to that point. But as the conference progresses and Lawrence talks more and more about what it is he does for a living, Gina is so moved by his passion that she ends up falling for him.

This part of the story, I absolutely adored. These two characters are simply wonderful and I could've listened to their witty and affectionate bantering all day long.

The part I liked significantly less, however (please skip ahead to the next section, I beg of you! You don't need to be exposed to this rant!), were the scenes that were so excessively transparent an attempt to educate the viewer on the effects of extreme poverty on the world. (See? Tried to warn you! This is ridiculousness at its worst! It's not too late to just skip to the next section!) There's nothing wrong with educating the viewer about this -- in fact, I'm all for it. However, Gina begins by having no idea what the G-8 even IS, and yet, after a few conversations with Lawrence, she takes it upon herself to publicly scold, on more than one occasion, the Prime Minister of England about his casual dismissal of the conference items regarding poverty in Africa and other Third World nations.

Now, do I agree with her? Yep. Was I cheering her on when she gave the PM the what-for? Yep. Do I wish more people had the cajones to talk to their world leaders like that? You betcha. Did it at all fit in with the rest of the film and Gina's character in general? Nope. Did it violate the number one rule of fiction, which is not to force into your story your own harangues on life, policy, and the pursuit of justice for all unless you can actually make those harangues feel like they're coming from the characters and not from you, the writer (hello, Jane Eyre!)? Yep. Was I at all surprised to find a video about the "One" campaign against poverty in the DVD's special features section? Nope. (It's still not too late to get out of this rant, my friends. Just walk away, people! Walk away!)

I can't explain why this bothers me so much, and I've spent the last several day trying to hash it out and still haven't come up with anything that makes any sense. (Warning: it's approaching the time where it will be too late to get out of this rant. Save yourselves! I talk about a really funny and cute movie in the next section! Skip ahead! Just do it!) I had this same almost-bitter reaction to the ER storylines set in Africa a year or two ago too, much to the astonishment of everyone I know, who know ME to be someone who speaks frequently to others about the ways in which we Westerners have let that entire continent down for decades. I suppose that one of the things that bothers me is the fact so many people in the world have to see an episode of ER before they realize what the hell is going on around them, a statement that I know makes me sound like a superior snothead, which I swear I really am not. (Oh crap, now you've done it. Well, hell, you went this far, you might as well finish now. Just don't blame me -- I tried to talk you out of reading this section, but you simply REFUSED to listen!) That said, it also bothers me that people see those episodes of ER, talk about them for two days around the water cooler with their coworkers, and then promptly forget all about what they saw as soon as the story turns to Abby and Carter's break up and a helicopter falling on Romano's cranky, bald little head (something that, I will admit, has endeared me to helicopters for life).

So, for Gina to not even know what the G-8 was one minute and to turn into a staunch supporter of the Millennium Development Goals five minutes later -- well, it struck me as forced and odd, and I hate forced and odd, regardless of the cause it happens to be supporting. And it also made me wonder how many people saw this movie, heard her speeches, thought to themselves, "You go, girlfriend!" and then went back to their daily lives without giving it a second thought. I bet that was the response of most people, and it's not a response I necessarily condemn, because I understand it, I really do, and I do it myself all the time. But let's stop pretending we think this is a great film simply because it had the guts to tell it like it is, because the problem, as I see it anyway, is that we're surrounded by things that tell it like it is all the time -- and none of that telling seems to be getting us anywhere closer to an intelligent solution to the problems. We're all empathy and no action, and it just frustrates me to no end.

That said, it's not like I am doing much about the problems of global poverty myself, besides talking, reading, and ranting (three things that seem relatively useless in practical terms, though I wouldn't argue that they are necessarily without merit), so what right do I have to criticize?

THAT said, since I'm already making an ass out of myself, I might as well also confess here that I hate (HATE!) those stupid "One" campaign bracelets. "I donated a whole DOLLAR to my favorite cause!" is what those bracelets say to me, and honestly, that just seems like such a strange thing to advertise on your arm. At least if they were 80's slap-bracelets, you could say that every time you put your "One" bracelet on with a stinging smack, it was a daily reminder of the suffering of others. Actually, come to think of it, that might be the most brilliant idea I've ever had.

Did I really just say that out loud?

ANYWAY, despite the fact it clearly made me feel inexplicably cranky, which in turn has led me to express some things in a public forum that I no doubt sound like an absolute jerk for expressing, I loved this movie, I truly did, and I loved Bill Nighy in it, and I loved Bill Nighy out of it all the more for having been in it in the first place. When Gina isn't suddenly bursting into metaphoric song about extreme poverty, this is a wonderful movie about two awkward, somewhat lost people who have collided into each other and finally found a place that seems to fit. I wanted Gina and Lawrence to be together forever, which I confess may be another reason I was wishing she would just shut the hell up by the end. Down with extreme poverty in Africa and everywhere else! Up with May-December romances involving Bill Nighy! I will shut up on this one now. (Everybody in unison now: THANK GOD.)

2. Because he does hilarious, dorky, uncouth, and bastard so VERY well in. . .

Love, Actually (2003) -- Okay, onwards and upwards, my peeps. Ladies and gents, if you STILL haven't seen this movie, despite the fact I've told you to go rent it at least 86 gazillion times already, then there's just something really wrong with you and you should go get that checked out before it turns into an epidemic and we have to get the Gates Foundation in on the whole thing. Because this movie is simply delightful, and why, WHY, do you continue to refuse to believe me on this?

Love, Actually stars just about everybody you can think of, as well as a whole host of others, and is about love in all its various shapes and forms: platonic, unrequited, brotherly, passionate, young, painful, fulfilling, long-lasting, fizzling, and renewed. It tells a multitude of stories: a widower whose young son has his first crush, a young woman who has given up every hope of love for herself to care for her developmentally-disabled brother, two striving-actor stand-ins who start out naked and end up in love (yay, Martin Freeman!), a wife who discovers her husband is having an affair, and a man who has fallen in love with his best friend's wife.

Oh, and let's not forget the hilarious washed-up rock star (Nighy, of course! In utterly awful tight rocker pants!) trying to jumpstart his career with his new (bad!) Christmas song. His love is the platonic kind, directed towards his overweight, under-charming manager, who has stuck with him through thick, thin, and a myriad of extremely rude insults. This is a wonderfully-told, smart, funny, and delightful film -- I could watch it every day for the rest of my life and never get tired of it. Seriously. And the only other movie I have ever said that about is Jaws, so this is not an honor I bestow lightly.

Or maybe it is, depending on how you feel about shark movies.

Please, if you rent one movie I've recommended to you, rent this one! I promise you will enjoy it! And if you don't, I promise not to hold it against you. For long.

3. Because he does bumbling, confused, eccentric, and bizarre so VERY well in. . .

I Capture the Castle (2003) -- This movie is based on one of my favorite novels (by Dodie Smith, who also wrote 101 Dalmatians) and though I was nervous about seeing it turned into a film, I ended up loving it from start to finish. Not as much as I love the book, mind you -- but close enough to pass for genuine affection in dim lighting after a few beers. In this one, Nighy plays a bumbling, confused, eccentric, and bizarre father who wrote a famous novel decades ago and has been struggling to repeat his performance ever since. His two daughters have very different personalities -- Rose is the stereotypical self-focused teenager who has recently fallen in love with a handsome American named Simon, and Cassandra is her feisty, sarcastic, precocious younger sister who essentially steals the show. Though Henry Thomas (Simon) and Marc Blucas (his friend Neil) are pretty ho-hum in this, Cassandra (Romola Garai) is fantastic, and Bill Nighy is, well, as completely adorable as ever. Though I may be slightly biased on that last bit, as I am, I believe I may have mentioned, UTTERLY INFATUATED.

4. Because he does intelligent, world-weary, oddly-named, and slightly nuts so VERY well in. . ..

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) -- When I was a teenager, I was an enormous fan of Douglas Adams's "trilogy" (of five), the Hitchhiker series. I was such a huge fan that one of the biggest thrills of my life to this day was when I got to see Adams speak at my college and afterwards, got his autograph in the front of my leather-bound H2G2 volume ("Dear Meg: Don't Panic! Love, Douglas Adams"). I was also a huge fan of the original BBC radio show version of Hitchhiker's and after decades of listening to it over and over, I confess when I heard they were making the book into a new movie, I wasn't sure I'd be able to tolerate it. The sound of different voices as those characters I knew so well? I couldn't imagine that ever being effective for me. Not ever. Never.

But, of course, I had to see it, and see it I did (in the theaters, no less)! And guess what? I LOVED IT. Every actor chosen for every part seemed utterly perfect to me -- Martin Freeman as Arthur Dent? Awesome! Mos Def as Ford? An odd choice that turned out to be totally right-on! Stephen Fry, Kelly Macdonald (woo!), John Malkovich, Helen Mirren as Deep Thought, the list goes on and on. And ends, quite aptly, with the absolutely inspired selection of Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast, master creator of all things fjord. He was so completely perfect for the role that I might even go so far as to say he was born to play it. Slartibartfast IS Bill Nighy, and vice versa -- old, wise, dour, and unintentionally funny as all get-out (Slart: "You must come with me or you'll be late." Arthur: "Late for what?" Slart: "Well, um, what's your name, Earthman?" Arthur: "Dent. Arthur Dent." Slart: "Well, late as in 'the late' Dentarthurdent. . .It's sort of a threat, you see?").

Even if you hated this movie, and many true Adams fans did, you can't deny Bill was perfect for that part. I have since rented this movie at least six times, and every time, I fast-forward to the Slartibartfast scenes first, and then rewind to start the movie from the beginning -- that's how much I love him in that role. It's also evidence of how stupid I am, as I just realized I've spent close to $20 renting and rerenting this movie, when I probably could've bought a copy of it from for about $5. That's a difference of $15 I could've used to develop my "One" campaign slap-bracelets, people! Brain of a Vogon sometimes, I swear to god. Crikey. I'm hopeless.

5. Because he wasn't afraid to be extremely hokey, overly dramatic, and VERY silly in. . ..

Underworld (2003) and Underworld: Evolution (2006) -- I described these two movies to my husband the other day as being about "werewolves and vampires," a statement he responded to with a derisive snort and a "That's so stupid. Everybody knows it's werewolves and ZOMBIES, not werewolves and VAMPIRES." I have no idea what he meant by this, but I wouldn't mind seeing a zombie-werewolf-vampire smack-down movie myself as long as it, too, featured Bill Nighy in a role I can only imagine he took because he thought it would be super fun to wear leather pants and pretend to be sinister. Because, you know what? That part IS super fun. Bill's the only good thing about these two movies, which are ridiculously hokey and far more about cool camera shots and kickin' action scenes than actual plot. Not that I was surprised to discover this, of course -- I knew what I was getting into when I saw they both starred Kate Beckinsale, who has never made a single movie that I liked (not one!). That said, I clearly enjoyed the first one enough to watch the second one, and it's worth renting one or the other yourself if you're a fan of Bill or "Benhameen" from Felicity (Scott Speedman, looking totally sexy when he's not dressed up in costume as Robin Williams' back. Bah ha ha ha ha! Get it? Cuz Scott's a werewolf in the movie and Robin's back is really, really hairy? I slay me!) (And ONLY me!).

6. Because across the pond, he's got Sean Astin's job as narrator of one of my favorite reality TV shows. . .

Best reason I've ever heard to move to England: Bill Nighy is the narrator of the British version of the fantastic documentary series Meerkat Manor! If you don't know what this is or why I love it so, check out the old write-up on Shakespeare (rest in peace, my brave little mongoose friend) I did last year. I love Sean Astin and he's fantastic as the narrator of the U.S. version. However, I would love to hear Bill's take on the Whiskers family escapades. They should let him guest-narrate a couple of episodes in future seasons here in the states. I'm okay with loaning the Brits Samwise Gamgee for a few months, if we can borrow Slartibartfast for a while in return. Just imagine the Kalahari remodeled with a few lovely coastal fjords! Perfecto!

7. Because he's also been in. . .

Enduring Love, which you can read my thoughts about in the Daniel Craig write-up; Shaun of the Dead, in which he got to play a zombie named Philip (the best kind); the "Inspector Lynley" series installment Well Schooled in Murder (thank you, by the way, to the reader who let me know about the Lynley series, and watch for a write-up on Nathaniel Parker coming soon!); Curse of the Pink Panther, not my favorite of the Pink Panther movies but pretty fun nonetheless; and, of course, Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest, as Davy Jones.

In newer news, Bill also gave a hilarious and charming Golden Globes acceptance speech earlier this year that made me love him all the more. After winning a Globe for his role in a film I haven't seen yet called Gideon's Daughter, he said "I used to think that prizes were damaging and divisive until I got one. And now they seem sort of meaningful and real." That's classic Bill Nighy, folks, and it literally made me laugh out loud.

[Aside: I do have to confess Hugh Laurie's speech was even better, though, and almost made me want to get back to work on his write-up. I'm having some issues with House lately, so I've been putting it off (and trust me, you don't want me to get into THAT rant, so don't ask). I can't wait to start telling the people I appreciate how much I love the way they smell of "newly mown grass" and how glad I am they aren't a band of "drunken thieves." The man IS a comedic genius -- upon this, we all can agree.]

Up next on Bill's plate is a comedy called Hot Fuzz, directed by Simon Pegg (of Shaun of the Dead). It's about a bunch of jealous colleagues that conspire to get a top London cop (Pegg) transferred to a new town and paired with a witless rookie partner (played by Nick Frost, also from Shaun of the Dead). The movie then turns into what sounds like a hilarious spoof of cop flicks, with lots of "explosive, high-octane, car-chasing, gunfighting, all-out action." Could be hilarious, could be utterly stupid. If we're lucky, it'll be both.

After that, we get more Pirates, and then after that, well, I'm hoping for global domination, personally. Either that, or some more romantic comedies (with smooching, and maybe some slap bracelets for good measure -- kinky!).

MacGyver Factor Score: 98.999432%. Minus a smidgen of points for making me go off in a public forum about something political. I hate doing that -- it just seems so inappropriate for this site, which is supposed to be about goofy, fun stuff. And yet, there wasn't really a way to avoid it without committing a sin of omission when it came to giving my opinion about The Girl in the Café. Regardless, I'd appreciate it if Bill would refrain from starring in any other movies that make me turn into the Incredible Hulk(ing Ranter), because it's simply not something I enjoy. The End. (Again, in unison: THANK GOD.)

Boyfriend-Related Links

Bill Nighy's IMDb page
The Official Bill Nighy Experience
Bill Nighy (fan site)
You Tube video of Bill in Love, Actually

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