PETER RAINER’S essay misses the mark. The article focuses on Robert Downey Jr.'s character, Kirk Lazarus, who purportedly is so dedicated to the craft of acting that he medically alters his skin to play the role of a black man. As it turns out, his character was not racially offensive, he was just crazy.
However, my wife and I were completely offended by the character played by Tom Cruise, a foul-mouthed movie mogul who was the true white man in blackface. His bumping, grinding and air-spanking to a vulgar hip-hop song was nothing more than dancing a jig a la the minstrel shows of days gone by. We walked out of the theater angry at the “racial sleight of hand” we experienced.
I FEEL compelled to defend the rights of Ben Stiller, co-writer and director of the film, and Robert Downey Jr. , to freely satirize other A-list actors, including themselves, who so deeply want to be authentic in their portrayals that they go to great lengths, be it gaining weight, starving themselves or dying their white skin black, to bring a character to life on the screen. I laughed so hard I cried during many hysterically written lines delivered with comic brilliance by Downey, who clearly was having a blast making fun of the serious acting profession he is a part of.
Are we now forced as an audience to take all movies and the characters in them so seriously that, instead of sitting back in our comfy theater seats, with a bag of popcorn in our hands, laughing and enjoying what is put in front of us, we must work during our movie-going experience? Where’s the simple “escapism” that movies are intended to provide us, especially during the summer blockbuster season?
Tracy B. Smith