The Boyfriend of the Week
July 9 , 2004
If you'd told me, six weeks ago, that one day I'd fall madly in crush with the star of the latest Britney Spears video, I not only would've laughed you out of the room, I quite possibly would've given you a kick to the shins while I was at it. Because, to a lover of all music Good, well, them's fightin' words.
But, pigs fly, hell freezes over, people who aren't actually elected end up President -- stranger things have happened. And this week's Boyfriend, Stephen Dorff, is indeed the star of the latest Britney Spears video, "Everytime [sic]" (I say sic, by the way, because there is no such word as "everytime" -- it's spelled as two words. I'd be really snooty about that except I can't be sure I haven't made the error myself before and, as you'll see from this week's book review, I really have no patience for snobby grammar people who make grammatical mistakes themselves).
Anyway, to avoid major embarrassment, I feel I'd better explain myself before we go much further. You know, like, why it is I even know about the existence of this video if I loathe The Britney as much as I claim to. This can be summed up in three words: boring summer programming. Or, even better, in two words: channel flipping. I was skimming through cable the other night when I landed on MTV right as this video began rolling. At first, of course, the usual "Aagh!" escaped my lips when I realized The Brit was singing. But this time, my Aagh came out a little more like this: "Aaaag. . .whoa. Wow. Wait, what the. . .?"
Stephen Dorff? Looks that good without a shirt on? How did I age 30 years without knowing this? Where have I been? Or, more importantly, where has Stephen Dorff's naked torso been?
Okay, to be honest, I can answer that last question. And the answer ain't pretty. Because I've seen enough of Steph's (pronounced "Steve's" -- if he isn't going to spell it phonetically, neither am I) movies to know that where he and his naked torso have been is trapped in a lot of real stinkers. Usually thrillers in which he plays some kind of villain or cretin (or both). And usually that naked torso is obscured by a snide sneer on Stephen's lips that kind of makes you want to smack him in the jaw.
I've never liked Stephen Dorff.
And when the video started, to tell you the truth, I still didn't like him. But I respected him, sort of, and thus was so surprised to see him with The Brit that I got suckered into watching the whole thing
Once he took his shirt off, of course, it was all over. And now I have something else to confess. Something that is quite possibly the most embarrassing thing I've ever said on this web page. Here it is [cue drum roll here]: I have now watched that video approximately 96,437 times. And three times, I even had the sound on! Aagh! I know! But. . . But. . . Well, here, go watch it yourself and tell me you don't keep rewinding that bathtub scene over and over just to see his upper body ripple with exertion. I'm. . . well. . . there are no words. Except maybe, "Hot damn!"
After my 96,437th viewing, though, I realized I had a serious problem here. For one thing, If someone caught me watching a Britney Spears video, I could kiss my world goodbye. Frankly, I'd be lucky if my husband didn't divorce me in horror. And there'd be the shame, the humiliation, the people pointing and laughing, the picture circulated in the local gossip rag of me sitting in a corner wearing a dunce cap that said, "I'm stupid! And I have no taste in music!" Hell in a hand basket, I tell you, HELL IN A HANDBASKET! The only solution I could see to this problem was to, as soon as possible, replace this compulsion with one slightly less teenyboppery. I needed another Stephen Dorff video fix and I needed it now!
Well, first the good news: there are, I discovered, plenty of other places to see Stephen Dorff, both with and without a shirt. And now the bad news: 99.9% of them really stink!
For example, first up was a bad, bad thriller named "Cold Creek Manor." I remembered thinking this movie was terrible when I saw it several months ago (after it came out on DVD) but I couldn't remember why, so I rented it again. Settled in with a big bowl of microwave popcorn and a 16 ounce Diet Coke. Kitty on lap, DVD remote in hand, fast-forwarding through opening credits, onto scene one, onto scene two, onto scene . . .
Oh yeah, that's why. P-U stink!
It doesn't start out too badly: a yuppie NYC family decide to move to the country to escape the chaos of city life. They get a sweet deal on a mansion when the owner defaults on his mortgage and they promptly move in, tossing the original owner's belongings into the trash heap. (Note: this is primarily why I end up being on the bad guy's side, which is not, I don't think, what the director was going for -- yuppie bastards!) Anyway, lucky for me and all the other people who at this point already think them city folk deserve what they get, the original owner (Stephen) is, to put it mildly, totally insane. He shows up at their door pretending to be Mr. Nice Guy, welcoming them to the neighborhood, saying there are no hard feelings, and offering to help them fix the place up. He has dinner with the family, rescues them from snakes in the pool (ding ding, shirtless!), etc. But all along, he's been acting just a little creepy, and when the yuppie dad finally gives him the boot, all hell breaks loose, climaxing with a dark and stormy night during which he attempts to toss them all down a deep pit in the woods named "The Devil's Throat." [cue eye roll here]
Pretty much every single "thriller" cliche has been packed into this film -- in fact, after a certain point I started to wonder if the director hadn't actually done that on purpose, say, as an exercise for a film school class on what NOT to do when making a thriller. But I still might've been able to enjoy this flick because I love Dennis Quaid (the yuppie dad) and Stephen was doing a fine job. The problem was that during the last third of the movie, the director apparently decided the audience was too stupid to know when to be scared, so he started prefacing every thrilling part with some random, frenetic, piano-pounding music that was so ludicrously ill-timed and cacophonous it started giving me the giggles, thus completely killing the mood. And then, of course, the dark and stormy night hits, and blah blah somebody wake me up when it's over.
So, scratch that one, I thought. Though Stephen takes his shirt off during the snake-in-the-pool scene, I simply will not be able to replace The Brit's video with this movie. The video's actually pretty "not that bad," which are three words I can't honestly say in regards to "Cold Creek Manor." So, heading back to MTV.com, I watched "Everytime" again (sound off) and rewound and rewatched the bathtub scene 432 times. Ah, much better. Ready for round two.
Next up on the movie front was another terrible thriller I'd seen before, thought was bad, and forgotten why, "Fear Dot Com." This movie is about a web site that, when viewed, kills you in exactly 3 days. Or was it exactly 2 days? Oh, who cares, I ask you. If you made the insane mistake of joining the cast of this stinkeroo, you ought to be grateful enough for death when it comes. Steph plays a detective investigating the strange deaths, eventually tracing them back to the web site and to a serial killer played with great gusto by Stephen Rea, another man dead set against phonetic name spelling.
But while I think this movie was trying to make a somewhat valid point -- all these relationships we keep having over the web are inherently unhealthy -- right about the time the serial killer shows up, it pretty much succeeds only in making the point that Stephen Rea is one creepy dude whose acting career is really going down the potty. From "The Crying Game" to this in only ten years. 'Tis a pity.
Sighing heavily, I cast "Fear Dot Com" into the reject pile and picked up a couple of non-thrillers. It was here that I finally found some movies I could watch. The first was a sweet little film called "Deuces Wild" that costars Frankie Muniz (who I love, but who is too young for me) and James Franco (future Boyfriend of the Week). It's about gangs in the 1950's, and Stephen plays the leader of the Deuces, a gang dedicated to keeping drugs out of their neighborhood. It's not the greatest movie ever made, but it's good natured, not too badly written, and pretty darn watchable. Plus, it has Adrianna from "The Sopranos"! I luv ha'!
Next came "Backbeat," one of Stephen's early movies, which I saw in the theater and liked, but which I, as usual, couldn't remember a thing about. It's about the Beatles, and Steph plays Stu Sutcliffe, the guy known as "The Fifth Beatle." The movie follows the Beatles from their early days, when Stu was a member of the band, to the turmoil that followed when Stu decided he didn't want to sell out like the others. It's a very entertaining movie, and Steph does a darn fine job of pretending to be A: British and B: a musician.
Watched and rejected: "The Power of One," a movie about a young boy in South Africa who turns to boxing to help fight for the cause of the downtrodden. I know everybody liked this one, but I didn't even get to the part where Stephen shows up -- the little boy in the beginning was so completely annoying that I started squirming in my seat every time he opened his mouth. I finally had to turn it off, doing a little dance as I hit the stop button to rid myself of the heebie jeebie cooties his voice had dumped all over me.
Watched and thoroughly enjoyed: "Earthly Possessions," a movie based on a book by Anne Tyler that features Stephen as a bank robber who takes Susan Sarandon hostage. She plays a middle-aged preacher's wife who was at the bank withdrawing her savings so she could leave her husband and start over when Steph points a gun at her head and takes her along. While on the run from the cops, the two form an unusual bond. And what follows is a wild and quirky road trip that involves a series of petty crimes, a cat named Murder, and even a little bit of romance. It's not the greatest movie ever made, but it's good natured, not too badly written, and pretty darn watchable.
Now, here's the problem with Stephen Dorff. He's good looking, he's got a fair amount of talent, he's an interesting guy. But after reading some interviews with him on-line, he's losing points in my book for arrogance. He seems to think that his career is a distinguished one, and, in fact, he puts down other actors who got parts that he himself lost. For example, he mocks Leonardo DiCaprio (well, okay, who hasn't) for taking the lead in "Titanic," a role Stephen himself was up for, snootily saying he's glad he didn't end up having to be known as "that guy on the boat." Uh, well, Steph-o, instead you're now known as "that guy from that Britney Spears video." Take the snobbery down a notch until you're in a movie that gets 4 stars from Roger Ebert, okay?
But aside from the attitude, I have to say Stephen and his naked upper body have come up a lot in my world since this whole experience began. I've gone from pretty much loathing him to being somewhat intrigued by his personality, brains, talent, and, well, exercise regimen (because, those abs! are incredible!). When given a role that has a good story behind it (something that appears to happen all too rarely with Stephen), he does a decent job of things. What I think he clearly needs is a new agent. And Steph, I'm volunteering for the job if you're interested.
No, seriously, Stephen. Seriously. Listen up. Now that I take a closer look at your IMDB page, I have to be even more firm about this: you need to fire your agent and you need to do it as soon as bloody well possible. Because, as if your past wasn't bad enough, your future isn't looking too bright either. Indeed Stephen's got three movies coming up in the next year or two, and out of the three, only one doesn't scream "hellishly bad drivel" to me.
The first is a movie based on a video game, always a bad sign, called "Alone in the Dark" and starring Christian Slater. Slater plays a detective who investigates paranormal crimes and the plot has to do with evil demons and cults and stuff like that. Sounds craptabulous (meaning it might be an entertaining hideous dog of a movie), but it isn't going to earn him any critical kudos whatsoever. And neither will Dorff's next outing, "Tennis, Anyone?" which was written, directed by, and stars Donal Logue, a future Boyfriend of the Week, but one who likewise has a nasty track record of craptabulousness. It's a comedy about has-been Hollywood types addicted to celebrity tennis matches. Yawn. And then finally, the only one that has an ounce of promise, "Shadowboxer" in 2005, starring Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr. This one's a thriller (bad sign, but hey, Helen Mirren means it can't be all that bad, right?) about a woman and her step-son, contract killers with an unusual bond.
So Stephen, please, I'm begging you. Send me the script next time. BEFORE you sign the contract. I think together we can turn this whole career around for you. And I'll even work cheap -- you can pay me by taking your shirt off, flexing, and giving me a smooch. One smooch for every star Ebert gives your next movie -- incentive to make it a good one.
For biographical information about Stephen Dorff, check out the links below (this write-up was just getting toooooo long!).
MacGyver Factor Score: 92.472%. Points off because one of the very first things Stephen does in the "Everytime" video is break a perfectly good martini glass which, where I come from, is no less than a mortal sin. Lucky for his soul, it appeared not to contain a martini at the time. However, points back because shortly after the glass is destroyed, Stephen pulls his shirt off, and it's not long after that that we get to see his muscles ripple when he's hoisting the dead Britney out of her gray-watered bathtub (what is in that water, by the way? Note to self, do not bathe in Vegas!). I can't get enough of the bathtub scene. Or that scene in the very beginning where he's yelling at the paparazzi. The veins in his neck pop out and I just want to KISS them. There's something very wrong with me. However, I'm sure it's nothing another 96,437 viewings won't fix.