I made eye contact with Penn Badgley last week.
When I inevitably move to L.A. to start becoming famous, I will hobknob with celebrities on the regular. Until then, these encounters are few and far between. Save a few Real Housewives, my last big meet-cute was the infamous James Franco/ferris wheel/Paris story, which is more or less exactly what it sounds like. So you can understand my girlish glee at this new star-sighting.
While I rode no carnival attractions with Gossip Girl‘s swarthy young hipster lothario, I did meet his eyes for one brief but transcendent moment, while simultaneously escaping the terminally boring conversation I was having. What I can tell you is that I get why Blake Lively dated him; though despairingly short (celebrities always are), his hair is a masterpiece Michelangelo or John Frieda could only aspire to.
Serendipitously, later in the week I came across an innocuous review of a movie called Margin Call, which I would otherwise have ignored, except that the thumbnail photo featured Badgley’s chiseled mug and the billed stars included Zachary Quinto, whom I have a creepy-serious crush on.
To make a long story, well, not quite short but shorter, I read the (glowing) review and decided that I wanted to see this movie, based less on my interest in thought-provoking financial-crisis dialogue than my adolescent desire to stare at these pretty boys for two hours; it’s the same reason I watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy in high school. The movie wasn’t playing anywhere nearby on Fandango, but lo and behold, it just so happened to be released On Demand the same day as theaters.
This is a phenomenon I had previously read about but never experienced. For most people, who don’t ravenously devoure entertainment news, I’m guessing it’s fresh information. Basically, people don’t go to the movies anymore. And why should they? A movie costs $10+ these days, half the time you’re forced into an unwanted 3D experience that gives you a headache, the seats are uncomfortable, and you get yelled at for heckling Twilight but have to suffer questions like “Who’s that old warlock?” during the eighth Harry Potter movie. Besides, even my mother knows how to watch movies On Demand, and just about everyone has a Netflix (by the time you read this a Qwikster joke probably won’t even be timely anymore.)
As a remedy to the failing film industry, some studios have begun to think outside the box by releasing films that wouldn’t be big box-office draws (think moody, cerebral, talky un-blockbusters that appeal to that black hole demographic known as 35+). This way, quality films continue to get made without the pressure of needing to be Pirates of the Caribbean.
Margin Call is one such movie. I would never have made it to the theater to see this (although I did make a trip for the maligned Three Musketeers – the shame!), less so my parents, who should be commended just for staying awake until 9 pm to watch it in our living room. Yet this is the kind of movie a floundering twenty-something and her parents can all enjoy, and even feel intellectually stimulated.
Let me try to describe it in a nutshell, although admittedly the whole financial business of it all is hard for me to comprehend. Basically, at an investment firm I read was supposed to be Lehmann Brothers, a young associate realizes that a huge downward spiral has already begun. Everyone is fucked. The losses of the company, as projected, are to be larger than the net value of the company. So, so fucked. Margin Call follows the bigwigs at this firm over one long night where they suss out what to do. Somebody is going to be left holding a bag of shit, and you know it ain’t gonna be them.
They decide to sell everything, sacrificing their reputations, careers, and consciences so that they wind up on the winning side of a losing battle. We all know how this one ended, particularly those of us who can blog all day because we are thoroughly un-gainfully employed. What’s interesting is the myriad thought processes that go into the whole thing. Someone had to make these decisions, and evil though they may seem, there are two sides to every story. Paul Bettany makes a great point in the movie that everyone wants to claim they want equality, but really they just want to be the ones at the top, with the money and the cars and the big houses; guys like him have to do the dirty work so that everyone else can keep their consciences clean. How did I become complicit in my own demise?! Damn you, smarty-pants movie!
Margin Call appeals to the same sensibilities that made me love The Social Network, which is to say, geeky guys talking about boring nerdy computer things and somehow turning it into a thriller. Also, the cast is boss: Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore, Simon Baker, Zachary Quinto, Paul Bettany, Stanley Tucci, and Mr. Penn Badgley. To sum up the prestige of this cast, a brief exchange when Mr. Spacey came on screen:
Kristi: Kevin Spacey.
Brigitte: We love him. (Authoritatively, as a family spokesperson.)
So there you have it. Your daily dose of the future of cinema, cerebral movie reviews, and a taste of life in the Berry family.