A conversation arose in the screening room the other day about the sorry state of young, romantic performers in movies today and the overwhelming blandness slathered across our movie screens. Pretty, plastic, chiseled faces smile at one another and sometimes kiss, and their efforts leave everyone cold. Critics and audiences often use the word "chemistry" to describe these encounters; either the characters have it or they don't. Strangely, there's really no way to tell if it's even there until the movie is finished. You can put two actors in a room together, or screen test them, but none of it comes together until the audience becomes a factor.
One reason most movie couples have been so bland lately is the ever-increasing control that studios are demanding of their product. Every aspect of filmmaking must be regulated and stabilized, and so, to make the most of their romantic stories, these same studio people very simply cast the most beautiful actors they can find. Beautiful people sometimes explode on the movie screen with lots of personality and star power, but just as often, they don't, looking more like polished statues without so much as a heartbeat. James Dean was very handsome, but he had a surprising element, a kind of unpredictability, as well as world-heavy sadness. But James Franco, who played Dean in a TV biopic, has only the looks. As shown in his most recent film, Spider-Man 3 (151 screens), where there should be passion and danger and excitement, there's only grooming. At times I honestly can't tell the difference between him and Paul Walker.