Last week Russell Brand had two films occupying the number one and number two spot in the US Box Office chart.
The first film and the more successful of the two, Hop, sees him hidden behind a CGI bunny, effectively playing second fiddle to pixels, while the second, Arthur, finds him prancing around apparently doing a Hollywood berk’s impression of a posh Brit, and opened to disappointing sales and heinous reviews.
Oh, how the previously-quite-funny have fallen. Has any entertainer ever sold out quite so shamelessly, and in such a short space of time, as Russell Brand?
OK, I’ll admit that the man seems to have a decent, moral head on his shoulders (just watch the video below). He’s loved by many, he’s unbelievably famous, incredibly rich and successful and he’s fucking everywhere.
“Aw then”, I hear you cry, “it’s jealously that’s making the little rat-faced wannabe writer think he can lay into poor put-upon Russ” – and I’d be the first to admit his achievements are enviable.
Would I like to have written a best-seller? Yep. Would I like to present an Oscar or two? That’d be nice. Would I like to bury my head in his wife’s chest and pretend I’m chief product tester at the greatest pillow factory on Earth? Sure, why not.
But my jealousy extends to people with more than £50 in their bank account and those who can drink Coke without it battering their digestive tracts after. Jealousy alone is not nearly enough to evoke my anger.
My reason for this vitriol is purely professional. I think he’s an appalling actor. Actually I take that back, I don’t classify him as an actor in the same way I don’t classify Paris Hilton as an actor. To be yourself on-screen, whether you’re a dumb blonde playgirl or a big-haired, wibbling tosser, is not acting.
Brand’s one-note performances and increasingly irritating childlike voice and manner are the same in every screen incarnation. Even when he’s playing a fucking rabbit it’s still ‘Jack Sparrow-aping selfish but loveable addict learns to be a little less selfish and addicted whilst still retaining his characteristic magnetism’. Stretch.
Of course there are many actors who essentially played the same role over and over without fear of personal and professional attack. Two of the greats, Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn, rarely stepped out of their comfort zones, playing respectively, the tough, grizzled cynic and the wide-eyed, gamine innocent. Yet neither suffer the derision placed upon Mr. Perry.
The chief reason being, negating class and talent for a moment, is the wannabe Brand, is just that, a brand. A walking advert for himself. An instantly recognisable product that sells well no matter how pointless it may be. Like the iPad.
And the most infuriating thing, he’s always like this. In interview after endless interview, he’s ‘acting’ his part. Playing up to what the public want from him as a cliche of himself.
Trouble is, Brand talks such a good game you start to believe that there is something there. His views on fame, the trials of public life, and art (as he puts it, “a grandiose but little word”) seem highly thought out and sensitive.
Yet what he gives to the public, at £10 a pop, is dirge of the highest order.
Which brings us back to Arthur, his first leading role and one that has, in something of an understatement, underperformed. Already some see this as the end of the road for Brand as Megastar.
I don’t believe this for one second. I just think that in the present moment people don’t want to see a rich, successful, good-looking man ‘struggling with life’, unless at the end of the feature he gets creamed by a double-decker bus.
Brand, ‘the actor’ will, in all probability, be around for a long, long time. He’ll pop up in movies as a lothario with his trademark hair and twinkly eyes and every time he does you’ll know exactly where his character and the film is going and you’ll want to die a little inside.
Or, and I do genuinely pray this is the case, one day he’ll hold a press conference and walk on in jeans and a hoody, his hair cut so that it no longer resembles a 70’s pornstar’s quim, and calmly state in a non-squeaky non-fake London accent; “You know what, it was all a joke. A performance piece to rival Andy Kaufman. Sorry if I’ve pissed anyone off.
“It was just an experiment to see how obnoxious and irritating I could be and still be idolised. I just got a little carried away that’s all. Now it’s over I’ll be taking parts that have nothing to do with my libido or my ‘rock star’ lifestyle, parts that perhaps have more meaning than those where I poop jelly beans. Thanks everyone. Sorry again.”
But until that day, to adapt his own book title, Russell Brand can Fucky Wucky Offy Woffy.