Just My Luck, the super-cutie-pie new Lindsay Lohan comedy, is about two people who think they are very unlucky at different times in their lives, but in fact, they are very stupid at different times in their lives.
I don't know if it's bad luck that puts you in Washington Square Park with your pants around your ankles, tripping into joggers, pleading with the owner of a big record label to listen to your band.
But stupidity is involved.
This happens to the guy-half of Just My Luck, played by Chris Pine. Though looking uncannily like Adrian "superstar Vince" Grenier of Entourage, he wears glasses which, by the ironclad rules of forgettable fluff this adheres to, means he's a big loser.
Likewise, I'm not sure Lohan, whose character takes her ridiculous good luck for granted, is unlucky when a massive party she throws for said record executive - a party featuring hundreds of guests, masked dancers with elaborate choreography, trapeze artists, fortune tellers, etc. - is broken up by the police for also (unwittingly) including a teensy bit of male prostitution.
Is she unlucky or naive?
One night Lindsay and Chris make out (it's no big thing, she's Lindsay) and though strangers, they unknowingly swap, um, fates. Now he's lucky. He gets his Brit-pop band on the radio and scores a cool job, and she's in jail for prostitution and her apartment floods; she loses her job; her hair dryer explodes; she wanders New York looking like a crack addict; she puts too much soap in the washing machine; then misplaces all of her money (a catastrophe she gives equal importance to the washing machine and hair-dryer disaster).
Almost needless to say, this is the last of the Lohan Girly-Girl Pictures. Probably not the last light, redundant comedy she makes. Despite the studio's insistence it's her first adult role, despite her saying things like "This is definitely going in my diary," here is definitely the last PG-13 comedy she'll make for a teen audience. How could it not be when her R-rated party-girl exploits have overtaken her career? It's a question bedeviling a handful of big actors right now.
Does the wacko off-screen persona bleed into the on-screen image - not only affecting how audiences perceive an actor's movies, but what audiences think of the characters they play? Without a doubt the answer is - absolutely.
Just ask Tom Cruise, whose Mission: Impossible III is already being (unfairly) labeled a disappointment because it didn't make a gazillion dollars last weekend (only $50 million in the first three days, in the United States alone).
The blame is on him.
For being Tom Cruise.
We preferred the bland icon.
Not much would save Just My Luck - which features too little of Lohan's Lucille Ball-sense of timing, and plays a lot like her 2002 breakthrough, Freaky Friday. But enough of her old charm peeks into this story about a girl who loses her charm, that as with Cruise and M:i:III, it's hard not to read the film as an elaborate act of autobiography. That movie is about a secret agent for a shadowy organization who's engaged to a brunette. Lohan plays a public-relations executive who can't manage her own self-image and falls to pieces.
Am I reading too far into it?
We're a self-righteous, vindictive, moralizing lot who increasingly can't separate life from art.
It's hardly a new thing: In the '50s, Ingrid Bergman spent years in exile after leaving her husband and daughter for director Roberto Rossellini, and though she later won a best actress Academy Award, her career was never the same. What's different, I think, is the sad intensity of our interest.
It damages our ability to empathize with characters; in fact, we don't see characters at all. If nuttiness and self-indulgence off-screen could once be tolerated as glamorous or dashingly eccentric, our laserlike focus on the unguarded private lives of actors means longevity is no longer a matter of acting success. If Cruise and Lohan still remind us they're good actors from time to time (and they are), it's no promise we'll turn out for their films.
Cruise, at 43, could be in decline. But for Lohan, less than half his age, it's a long slide into obscurity when you're only 19.
Contact Christopher Borrelli at: firstname.lastname@example.org