It couldn’t slow down the steamroller that is “The Hunger Games,” but “American Reunion” scored reasonably well at a crowded box office over the weekend, earning $21.5 million domestically. The film, the first “American Pie” sequel in almost a decade, is predicated on nostalgia, on screen and off. One of the saddest truths “American Reunion”‘s characters need to learn is the notion that we’re not as young as we used to be, and it may be time to act accordingly. But if we don’t want Jim, Stifler, and the rest of the gang to behave like they did when they were seventeen, we still seem to want them to look like they did when they were seventeen, which is an impossible and cruel standard. Take, for example, this tweet from Keith Phipps, the editor of The A.V. Club:
“At tonight’s [‘American Reunion’] screening the woman behind me kept saying ‘She looks old!’ of the only female star who hadn’t had any work done.”
Before you spend the next twenty minutes trying to guess the female cast member in question, let me move quickly to my second link, this one an intelligent essay on the subject of plastic surgery in Hollywood by Dustin Rowles of Pajiba. His piece doesn’t mention “American Reunion” or any of its cast, but his subject — the sad state of a world where young actresses feel compelled to repeatedly go under the knife until what’s left looks like Lara Flynn Boyle — feels incredibly appropriate this week:
“Celebrities like Lara Flynn Boyle, Meg Ryan, or Mickey Rourke do horrible damage to their face through artificial means, and we — the ass blumpkins sitting on our couches sprinkled in Cheeto dust — are allowed to judge from afar. We are a cruel, bitter, and spiteful species, and celebrities are more than just movie stars — people that entertain us on the big and small screens alike — they are our voodoo dolls, famous people we stick our darts in to help us feel better about ourselves… What I’m more interested in is not the way Lara Flynn Boyle looks now, but how it go so badly away from her. When I see pictures of Lara Flynn Boyle or Meg Ryan in their current state, I don’t feel venomous. I have no desire to make fun. I don’t want to giggle at the horror or run up and show my wife what a mess Lara Flynn Boyle has made of her face. What I feel is a sort of empathetic helplessness. I feel sad, not necessarily for the way Lara Flynn Boyle looks now, but about the circumstances that drove her to this.”
Those circumstances are nicely summed up by Phipps’ tweet: people go to see “American Reunion,” a movie that’s supposed to be about embracing adulthood, to wallow in schadenfreude. In the case of the viewer that Phipps overheard, she’s not even critical of the actresses who had questionable plastic surgery — she’s mocking the only one who didn’t!
Generally, I have very little sympathy for movie stars who complain about how hard it is to be a multimillionaire, living in sunny Los Angeles, adored by fans all over the world. But this is just ridiculous: actresses are damned if they do and damned it they don’t. If they let the aging process take its course, people call them old. If they have work done, at best they’re the subject of constant rumor. At worst, they become Lara Flynn Boyle.
It’s not just public scrutiny that drives these women crazy, it’s Hollywood’s ageist attitude as well. A few weeks ago, rumors started circulating about who would be cast opposite Johnny Depp in the upcoming remake of “The Thin Man.” Depp is 48. The average age of his eight potential co-stars? 33. And two of the contenders — 26-year-old Carey Mulligan and 23-year-old Emma Stone (who’ll play a high school student in this summer’s “Amazing Spider-Man”) — are young enough to believably play Depp’s daughter. This is a movie about a married couple! With that sort of rigged-to-lose system, why even play? (Lara Flynn Boyle, by the way, is just 42.)
We love to look at movie stars, but we’re jealous of them too. When they fade even slightly, we feel a little bit better about ourselves. As Rowles says, ours is a cruel society. “American Reunion” is a comedy, but if you’re going to the film to laugh at how the cast looks, you’ve missed the point entirely.
Read more of Dustin Rowles’ “How Lara Flynn Boyle’s Botched Face Brings Out the Worst in Humanity.”