“To me, the appeal of Chalamet is one of Hollywood’s great mysteries”
To the delight of his legions of fans, the March 2018 cover of “GQ” features none other than Timothée Chalamet, the 22-year-old French-American actor who has had a banner year between his supporting role in “Lady Bird” and his Oscar-nominated starring turn in “Call Me By Your Name.” In the world of popular culture commentary, Chalamet is becoming a polarizing figure in the way of “the Dress”—as in, the white-gold or blue-black dress that took over the internet in 2015. In less than a year, Chalamet has developed a large and vocal fan base, reminiscent of Benedict Cumberbatch’s at the height of “Sherlock” fever circa 2012. Some people are besotted. Others, like me, are totally confused.
To me, the appeal of Chalamet is one of Hollywood’s great mysteries—one of those questions that will never be fully answered, like whether or not Adam Driver is attractive or if Sofia Coppola is physically capable of making a film that’s not about the challenges of being a wealthy white woman.
Chalamet is a decent actor but lacks significant screen presence. While not the worst actor by any means, nothing suggests that ineffable star quality one sees in a Meryl Streep or a Daniel Day-Lewis. I find him entirely forgettable. I literally forgot he was even in “Interstellar,” a film I have seen at least 10 times, until I scrolled through his IMDb in preparation for this article. I even remembered the character he played and can recall particular scenes he was in, but in these memories his actual face is just a nonspecific void, like when they blur out an interview subject’s face in a documentary to protect anonymity.
Of course, perhaps only half of the fan admiration comes from an actor’s actual acting. The persona presented on press circuits and social media matters just as much, if not more.
There are a number of incidents that have earned Chalamet quite a bit of social media attention. For example, he is donating his salary for his role in Woody Allen’s upcoming film “A Rainy Day in New York” to TIME’S UP, the LGBT Center in New York and RAINN. However, he agreed to participate in a Woody Allen movie. He helped 89-year-old James Ivory up the stairs at the BAFTAs, but, Ivory, who wrote the role for which Chalamet is now Oscar nominated, also requested the assistance. It’s hardly as if Chalamet could have said “no.” As far as I have been able to find, Chalamet has never said or done anything especially endearing. He hasn’t shown off his ironing skills for Vanity Fair’s Secret Talent Theater, like Michael B. Jordan, or been photographed eating Hot Cheetos with chopsticks to avoid neonorange finger dust, like Oscar Isaac.
Timothée Chalamet is a decent young actor with good, if not particularly distinctive, fashion sense—a statement which could describe thousands upon thousands of other individuals with far less fervent fanbases. Yet perhaps there really is something special there, and I just can’t see it. I never could get those “Magic Eye” books to work. Maybe this is just one of those times.
So that’s my perspective as a naysayer. Here’s Chalamet fan Kelechi Alfred-Igbokwe ‘19 with her take:
“a masterful actor who breathes passion into everything he touches”
Timothée Chalamet burst into the scene around this time last year with the emergence of the now Oscar-nominated film, “Call Me By Your Name.” The film premiered at Sundance Film Festival, and Chalamet instantly became the subject of Oscar buzz.
At the time of printing, Chalamet has just reached one million followers on Instagram. He is a bonafide star, and with such mainstream success, there will understandably be haters. I am at peace with the fact that any phenomenon that captures the interest of a flock of young girls will be reviled. Indeed, the majority of Chalamet’s fanbase appears to fall under that demographic. That shouldn’t take away from his evident talent, for which he deserves to be lauded.
The words “Timothée” and “decent,” in my opinion, should never be in the same sentence. This young man is a masterful actor who breathes passion into everything he touches. If he wasn’t noteworthy in “Interstellar”, that was because of the limited role he had to play in a film that primarily focused on the relationship between a father and a daughter.
When we look at “Call Me By Your Name,” Chalamet’s acting elevates the film into masterpiece status. He is exceedingly gifted at acted effortlessly natural. Even while expressing raw emotion from the depths of the human experience, you forget that he’s acting at all. His is the style of acting that demonstrates poignant strength in vulnerability.
Of course, it is true that an actor’s acting is only half of the picture, and their persona during press junkets, award shows and other appearances add fuel to the flames of their fanbases. Chalamet’s personality is so appealing, quite simply, because he is so genuine. He’s humble, at times bashful, sometimes awkward, often deliriously smiley, but always honest, without appearing overly refined or polished. He’s just relatable, and that’s the reason why he’s so well-liked. He also has the infectious quality of being intellectual without being pretentious, which is a breath of fresh air in Hollywood. He has a deep appreciation for film-making and often cites wisdom he has gained from studying past great actors.
It’s interesting that being endearing is a hallmark for actors today, but Chalamet definitely rises to the challenge on that front. A quick Youtube search will uncover footage of a younger Chalamet and his antics when he was a student at LaGuardia High School, a performing arts high school for the gifted and talented in New York. His fans are well aware of high school Chalamet’s penchant for rapping, especially in a clip he made for his statistics class, in which he rapped about statistics as an alternative project. Is there anything more endearing than watching Chalamet’s reactions to that video when it is inevitably brought up on talk shows, like “Ellen”?
The icing on the cake, however, is Chalamet’s fashion sense. He is the king of quirky, creative style and has become known for wearing artful sweaters with unique designs to press events. I love a guy with good taste!