Don’t Mind the Age Difference

So I was watching The Proposal the other night on FX (it was airing for the umpteenth time), and I couldn’t stop thinking about the 12 year age difference between Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. Now there’s been a lot of paparazzi photos of the two of them and their “secret Texas wedding” and other crap filling the the hole of Hollywood tabloids. But my thoughts went more to the age difference we see between pairings in movies, not tabloids or “real life” or in Hollywood.

Here are some that I thought of:

Pairing: Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz

Movie(s): Vanilla Sky and Knight and Day

Age Difference: 10 years

While Mr. Cruise is 16 years senior to his wife Katie Holmes, he is a surprising 10 years older than Ms. Diaz. I actually saw Knight and Day before Vanilla Sky, and I assumed there was maybe a 5 year difference between the two. After all, both have been acting for a long time. What I didn’t realize is that they’re actually 10 years a part. Even funnier, Penelope Cruz, a past girlfriend of Cruise’s and also a Vanilla Sky star who played opposite him in that movie, is 12 years his junior.

 

Pairing: Bradley Cooper and Julia Roberts

Movie: Valentine’s Day

Age Difference: 8 years

Playing two characters who sit next to each other on a plane, Cooper looks far younger than Roberts, even in Valentine’s Day. She being 8 years his senior, perhaps people were glad to find out that his character was gay, particularly for Eric Dane (understanding, ha). Cooper isn’t a stranger playing against older woman, however–he also plays against Sandra Bullock in All About Steve (age difference: 11 years).

 

Pairing: Colin Firth and Lúcia Moniz

Movie: Love Actually

Age Difference: 16 years

Although Moniz is relatively unknown in the U.S., she plays a small role in the film, with much of her dialogue in it being Portuguese. This surprising and odd pairing made it all the weirder to see the two end up together because the age difference wasn’t only significant, it was also very visible, even in spite of the roles they played.

 

Pairing: Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl

Movie: The Ugly Truth

Age Difference: 9 years

In the movie The Bounty Hunter, Butler plays opposite Jenn Anniston, who is the same age as he is. In The Ugly Truth, he and Heigl end up together, despite their 9 year age difference. The almost decade isn’t as apparent as some couples since Heigl is taller, making her appear older. On Grey’s Anatomy, she’s nearly a decade younger than all of her costars.

 

Pairing: Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie

Movie: The Tourist

Age Difference: 12 years

This was one of the most surprising age differences for me. Her romantic link (not marriage) to Brad Pitt (who’s soon to be 48 this month) as well as her overall, general look, make her appear older. I was surprised to learn she is still well in her 30s. Both she and Cameron Diaz appear older than what they are, perhaps partly because they have been acting for a long time.

 

Pairing: Shia Labeouf and Michelle Monaghan

Movie: Eagle Eye

Age Difference: 10 years

Although there might have been only a slight hint of a romantic possibility at the very end of the movie, both Labeouf and Monaghan starred in this unsuccessful (while still enjoyable) thriller. Monaghan has one of the most interesting histories of movie pairing from Shia Labeouf in Eagle Eye to Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 3 to Patrick Dempsey in Made of Honor.

 

Pairing: Viggo Mortenson and Liv Tyler

Movie: Lord of the Rings trilogy

Age Difference: 19 years

Perhaps it works well that in the story: Mortenson’s character Aragorn is really an 87 year old ranger who is the last left of a dying breed of people who live exceptionally long, yet do not look as old as they are. This huge age difference actually works very well with Tyler, who is also a model, playing a pure and delicate looking elf in the films.

 

Pairing: Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway

Movie: Get Smart

Age Difference: 20 years

Similarly to LOTR, Hathaway plays a character that is actually older than she appears, but had plastic surgery that now makes her appear younger than what she actually is. One of the strangest pairings, both in personality and age difference, Hathaway and Carell sorta worked well together in this film.

Have you ever noticed any strange pairings and just wondered what the heck the director was thinking? Were you ever stunned after seeing a movie only to realize the leads were more than a decade a part?

Long vs. Short Character Arcs

Before we had technicolor filmstrips, composers, and some serious technological advances, film and TV competed against one another for viewers’ attention. Although people today don’t choose to be a fan of either one or the other, there are still interesting comparison/contrasts between the two entertainment media. Many actors prefer one channel or the other to perform in, while some like taking part in both.

Earlier this year, I was reading this interview in Collider.com with John Krasinski and Ginnifer Goodwin for their then upcoming movie, Something Borrowed. Krasinski admits that without a doubt, playing a character in a long-time running TV show, The Office, is far more fun than playing a character in a movie who has to let it all out in one scene.

I understand that TV shows allow actors to flesh out their characters, continually building on what they know and adding and taking away from characters they play. It’s fun for the actors. But what do viewers prefer? I never really considered this question before I read the article and thought back about how television and film used to compete for viewers’ attention. Film was the beginning, and since then TV has become a huge medium in today’s society. And most people you ask may prefer one or the other, but are typically not opposed to either. And that’s really what it is–a preference, not a “must have,” or “should be.”

If you look at Krasinski’s character on The Office, Jim Halpert, you know that eventually he and Jenna Fischer’s “Pam” will get together. But we also know that it isn’t going to happen right away, because why would there be a need for a television show then? No, it must be drawn out. In that particular case, it takes three full seasons for the inevitable to happen. In Something Borrowed, his character, Ethan, has an arc–but a very short one. In fact, he drops a big bomb on the main character, Rachel, in one of the last scenes.

Whether it be television or a movie, the characters always start at a starting point. That way, there’s room to grow, learn, and develop relationships. While a movie typically has two hours on average to get it all figured out, TV shows often have multiple seasons with as many as 25 episodes a season. So which is better–the short or the long character arc? I believe it all comes down to context. And if the character arc fits the time allotted to the medium, then it suits it well. Although today, both media have clearly lost their predictability all around. Today, a TV show’s main character’s relationship will inevitably reach some resolution between seasons 3 and 5. Grey’s Anatomy, The Office, Glee, Psych, the list goes on. Everyone has to stick around for a later season to see the characters get together; therefore, there always must be a certain amount of relationship drama occurring in seasons 1-3.

In movies, typically something bad happens in the beginning of the film to the main character. Then, that character makes a life or environmental change to their situation. He or she is introduced to someone, and a new relationship begins, develops, deals with drama, splits, and inevitably comes together in the end. Many movies are exceptions to that rule, but this is a very common foundation screenwriters use for movies.

Jim and Pam

Obviously, this is all just my opinion on characters arcs in television and film. So here’s a pro/con list I came up with to conclude the topic:

Long Character Arcs (in television):

Pros: Well-developed character, more detailed, more room to be less predictable = possibility of more surprise, greater relatability

Cons: Ability to have over-written characters, drastic changes to characters can anger audience, space to be over-dramatized, repetitive

Ethan and Rachel

 

Short Character Arcs (in movies):

Pros: Challenge for actors to adapt, well-written characters, writer is forced to follow a direct path, typically less dramatic

Cons: Less originality, ability to have under-developed characters, less relatability, predictable story arcs, lacks in detail