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Sunday, November 19, 2006

The freak show

The lovely couple depart the castle in their
flying saucer sent by their alien friends

La Dolce Vita, TomKat Style: Fellini Without The Cameras

By David Segal
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 19, 2006; Page D01

Subtle it was not.

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were married yesterday in a medieval castle 25 miles from Rome, surrounded by celebrities, a horde of paparazzi and hundreds of rain-soaked fans.

We hear you loud and clear, Mr. and Mrs. Cruise. You are super duper married. You are this-time-it's-for-real married.

Yessiree. What could possibly go wrong?

There are quieter ways to tie the knot than a Hollywood A-list wedding with guests including Will Smith, J.Lo and business partner Dan Snyder, then dispatching paramilitary police to keep prying eyes away from the service. It was as though Cruise were needling skeptics who guffawed when he claimed that he couldn't wait to wed the 27-year-old actress and mother of his newborn child.

You know, the same people who claimed that TomKat was just some publicity stunt. The dummies who argued that Ms. Holmes agreed to this union to resuscitate her flagging, post-"Dawson's Creek" career.

Ah yes, Scientology: Cruise's religion and the wild card of this whole event. Italy doesn't recognize weddings performed by Scientologists, so for a brief moment of on-air coverage yesterday there was the open question of whether there was enough Catholicism in the mix to earn the host country's imprimatur. But the couple's publicist later helpfully clarified: The pair already had submitted paperwork in the States needed to "officialize" this marriage.

That left just the question of whether the vows included the traditional Scientology promise to the bride of clothing, food and for reasons that you would need an expert to explain, a pan, a comb and a cat? Was the bride referred to as a "girl," as is customary, and was there the suggestion that men deserve a little room to, you know, stray?

We'll know soon enough. But who other than Cruise could orchestrate this totally public but totally private wedding and leave commentators to wonder aloud whether he was actually married?

What's known for now are the mundane details. That Jim Carrey got lost outside the castle barricades and ended up swarmed by fans. That the colors at the ceremony and the table settings for dinner were white, red and gold. That the cake was rigged with some kind of special effect that spewed rose petals when the couple made the first cut.

We know that onlookers were mostly disappointed, because the celebs arrived in limos with darkened windows and nobody got a really good look at them.

And yet we watched the wedding, as we watch everything Cruise-related, with a curiosity that borders on the forensic. Because, first and foremost, he is one of the most successful movie stars ever, with a lifetime box office gross of more than $2.6 billion, according to Also because we sense that despite all of his strenuous grinning, despite all the talk-show nattering about how everything is great and I do my own stunts and this is love, baby, love-- despite all this we know that there is something else going on here. We just don't know what. Cruise is the country's mystery patient and he has turned us all into befuddled doctors.

We see the symptoms -- the intermittently controlled rage, the odd way he mishandles fame, the couch-punishing interview he did with Oprah, the anti-psychiatry rant to Matt Lauer on "Today" -- and we scratch our heads.

With the wedding, just as with his life and movie work, the theme is overcompensation. From the (alleged) lifts in his shoes to his semaphore approach to professing love, to the freakishly rigid way he sprints in action movies, there are always signs of drive and determination that seem anabolic.

How Katie fits in is anyone's guess. Maybe the couple are every bit as in love as they claim. Maybe the tabloids run photos of Katie only if they have that distressed, what-have-I-done look she always seems to wear during her shopping sprees. Maybe her family really loves Tom, as he claims they do.

But we can't watch the TomKat show without wondering if this whole thing is, in fact, a show. No matter how many color photographs Vanity Fair runs of Tom, Kate and baby Suri frolicking on a hill, the possibility that this is all a charade never goes away.

Every career reaches a fork in the road.

If you ever wonder why you see the achingly handsome Brad Pitt in movies like Babel, why George Clooney gains weight for Syriana, and why it was so hard to cast the current Bond, you can look no further than Tom Cruise.

Pitt worked with Cruise early in his career and seemed to have chosen a path away from that kind of plastic superstardom. Clooney also took a hint and has charted his own path as well. No one wants to be trapped in Cruise's career, simplistic movies, badly acted. Even his action films seem to be less inspired than calculated.

Compare Mission Impossible to The Bourne Identity, and which seems more inspired, even with Matt Damon playing a gray man, a man who can fade into the woodwork, despite his blond hair.

Cruise is a cautionary tale for many in his profession. He is rich, he is famous beyond words, but he's also weird and unlikable. Not in the sullen Russell Crowe way, which is tolerable, but in a disturbing way.

But that isn't why I'm posting this. It's because this wedding was the media trying to convince people Cruise is a heterosexual man who got his new "wife" pregnant, and it just seems phony. Katie Holmes, who's had a reasonable career, seems to have been cast in the role of young wife, not someone he actually fell in love with.

The media kept trying to hype this nonsense as something people would care about, and instead, there was the feeling that it was just a bad play designed to make us care about people we increasing find creepy and stagemanaged.

As a media event, it seemed to come off poorly. It was as if they had been trapped in this act and they had to carry it to some kind of conclusion. Media events need an air of excitement to be worthy of attention. This whole noxious wedding, with a woman seen as a gold digger and a man who many thinks attentions lie elsewhere, was a failed media event.

Oddly, the more Cruise defends Scientology, the more criticism it comes under, the weirder it seems. It's like Cruise and his circle are harming his chosen faith more than helping it.

posted by Steve @ 11:34:00 AM

11:34:00 AM

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