I’m a list maker, I admit it. I have lists detailing everything from Why Sharks Are Scary (it’s their black soulless eyes) to Things You Can Do With Pam Cooking Spray Besides Cooking (homemade flame thrower). I keep a small notebook in my bag at all times in which I keep track of my grocery lists and my movie-watching schedule, as well as the all-important People To Call For Bail Money. The thing is, I forget things if I don’t write them down. Look at my Freebie Five—I can’t remember from one day to the next who’s on it so I end up with, as my friend T says, a Freebie Thirty-Five.
One list I can remember, because it’s so short, is the List Of Actors I Will See In Any Movie Regardless Of How Bad It Looks. It’s pretty much limited to Cate Blanchett, Steve Coogan (an Alan Partridge movie is coming!), and Johnny Depp. But after seeing the red band trailer for Jesse Eisenberg’s 30 Minutes or Less, I’ve added Eisenberg to list. Check out the trailer:
I openly and often admit my distaste for Aziz Ansari (Parks & Recreation), but I love how he says, “And your first thought was to come to a school full of children?!” Ansari’s range as a comic actor is pretty limited but he does what he does so well that it doesn’t matter. As for Eisenberg—this is the broadest comedy he’s gone for yet. For a dude with a perma-hang-dog expression and who broke out in Noah Baumbach’s depressing The Squid and the Whale, Eisenberg is really funny. In fact, though he’s best known for a dramatic role in The Social Network, Eisenberg’s resume is littered with comedies. It’s a really smart move to balance the high-class Oscar fare with comedies, and that he’s going broader in his humor shows Eisenberg is making a run at mainstream, non-nerdy success.
I support this move. Longevity follows diversity and Eisenberg avoids being pigeonholed by switching between small indies, big dramas, quirky comedies, and now, mainstream summer comic fare. And though he’s not the most classically handsome guy, Eisenberg is growing into his looks and yet he isn’t playing off as a “face guy”. The fact that he’s kind of completely hot is incidental to everything else he’s bringing to the screen. And that would namely be his broken-beat delivery—I love the way his voice cracks and breaks at odd moments—and the ability to signify devastation with just his eyebrows. The best actors can convey emotions with just their eyes—the minutest flickering of lids and flinching of brows says it all. It’s a really hard skill to learn and it almost always has to be an actor’s inborn instinct.
Jesse Eisenberg can have whole conversations without saying word or breaking an expression.
The quantifiable evidence that Eisenberg deserves to be on my list—The List—is that in the last few years he’s made pretty much every other list I’ve made for films. In 2009 he appeared twice on my Top 10 (Adventureland and Zombieland), he showed up on the 2010 Top 10 with The Social Network, and he made my most anticipated of 2011 with 30 Minutes or Less. He also has several other projects coming up that intrigue me, including Free Samples (action is set largely in an ice cream truck and has shades of Adventureland) and Predisposed, which will star the unlikely combination of Eisenberg, Melissa Leo and Tracy Morgan, and is billed as a comedy even though it’s about a mother entering drug rehab.
The qualitative evidence for Eisenberg is my simple enjoyment of everything his does (I thought Rio, while beautifully animated, was kind of overrated but Eisenberg’s vocal work was solid), and the fact that his instincts and interests lead him to make the kind of movies I consistently want to see. So far, he hasn’t made a movie I haven’t wanted to see. So yeah, he’s on The List. Which I’m sure makes him terribly proud.