6 Reasons To Be Ambivalent About Armie Hammer

Lone Ranger1 6 Reasons To Be Ambivalent About Armie Hammer

Virtually every publication’s list of the rising new generation of hot young actors (or whatever variation of this designation is used) includes the seeming juggernaut of stardom that is Armie Hammer. It’s almost hard to believe how few titles he has to his name at this stage of his career, given the amount of press he gets, but the attention has been earned through first a breakthrough performance as the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network, followed by a fairly well received role opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in J. Edgar.

He’s like one of those players in Moneyball who catches the eye of the aging scouts: he’s got the looks, the build, the charm, and the confidence of the type of bonafide moviestar that have sprung up for decades. But it’s unclear whether he has truly caught on with the public, even with his new starring role in The Lone Ranger. For all his amiability and likeability, there’s seems to be something about him that gets in the way of being universally beloved the way stars like Tom Hanks or Bruce Willis or more classical stars like James Stewart were and are. I can’t quite determine what that is, or whether I find him to be Charmie or Smarmie.

Here are 6 reasons why many can’t decide whether they like Armie Hammer or not.

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1) He was really good in that Facebook movie

The Social Network2 6 Reasons To Be Ambivalent About Armie Hammer

David Fincher’s The Social Network was such a monumental breakthrough in filmmaking back in 2010 that it was hard for people to even figure out exactly why it worked so well. And not only that, it was so surprising for a movie about recent history to be so well envisioned and imagined and executed that it sort of took the critical and public movie watching communities by storm. Plenty of this was due to Aaron Sorkin’s whip-smart script, and Fincher’s gorgeous and beautifully subtle direction, but a lot of credit went to the introduction of Armie Hammer.

The name Zuckerberg was universally recognizable by the time the film was released. After, the name Winklevoss was everywhere. Hammer’s portrayal of two distinct personalities united in their entitlement and somewhat justified outrage toward what they perceived as intellectual property theft. His iconic line, “I’m 6’5, 220, and there’s two of me,” was spat out with the perfect combination of indignation and vengeful rage. For a movie featuring tremendous work from a young cast featuring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake and Rooney Mara, Armie Hammer very nearly stole the show, and immediately caught the eye of critical and industry folk everywhere.

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2) He was maybe not so good in J. Edgar?

J Edgar 6 Reasons To Be Ambivalent About Armie Hammer

Most reviewers seemed divided over Clint Eastwood’s 2011 biopic J. Edgar, with most agreeing that the performances were strong but the movie itself was lacking in luster, so to speak. It almost seems as though Eastwood himself has to be featured in his movies in order to give them a subjective, sympathetic disposition rather than remaining cold and observational, which works in some instances, but perhaps not so much in a close character portrayal as we see with J. Edgar Hoover. I preface with this disclaimer because a performance is so dependent on a director’s ultimate handling of it that it’s almost entirely unfair to blame an actor for a poor performance in a movie like this one.

The relationship between Leo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer’s characters in the film felt flat for the majority of the time, which based at least on DiCaprio’s record doesn’t seem to implicate the work of the performers so much as the general shortcoming of the film itself. So I don’t feel like writing off Hammer entirely. Still, while Leo showed signs of rising above the material on occasion, Hammer’s albeit daring work as Clyde Tolson never really broke through, remaining stagey and ineffectual. There are plenty of critics who disagree on this, but for me it was at best a sophomore’s slump.

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3) It’s unclear whether he can play more than one note

Mirror Mirror 6 Reasons To Be Ambivalent About Armie Hammer

Granted, it’s probably fair to say that on the big screen at least, Armie Hammer hasn’t had a chance to show all he can do. He is disgustingly young, and really only has the three major roles to his credit prior to Lone Ranger. As the Brothers Winklevi he was terrific, although upon realization that his name was Armie Hammer, it’s difficult to not jump to the conclusion that perhaps there was a lot in these privileged characters to which he could relate. It could certainly be argued that his handsomeness was the main feature of his character in J. Edgar, the same pretty boy characterization springing up in Mirror, Mirror, although this one was more tonally comedic, even if that comedy largely bombed.

The optimist in me would say that he has loads of potential, that the jury is still out on whether the Hollywood push he seems to be getting is deserved or not, whether that push will make for an interesting and entertaining career. It’s also completely understandable for more skeptical audiences to wonder at the apparent ubiquity of Hammer when he hasn’t proved himself to this point. Time will tell.

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4) He had a seemingly instant rise to superstardom

armie hammer photo 530x398 6 Reasons To Be Ambivalent About Armie Hammer

Has it been too much, too fast? Is the latest generation of movie audiences skeptical of anyone who seems to achieve fame in a timeframe that, at least in the public eye, seems far too short? Hammer himself has pointed out that he worked for years before making it big. Like six whole years, you guys! Surely that seems like an eternity to a 26-year-old (I would know), but from what I have gleaned from more seasoned professionals, success is most often a long, dragging beast that is rare to even arrive for exceptionally devoted people. So thinking that six years of acting experience warrants a trip to the Oscars comes off as a tad Winklevossian.

It was the rapidity that cynics immediately recognized as showing signs of manufacturing, the Hollywood machine visibly drooling over this hot piece of fresh meat placed before them by David Fincher. The swirling talk around Armie Hammer as a potential lead for a number of projects was met with reactions boiling down to, “…the Facebook movie guy? Huh.” He was like a Billy Beane-ish prospect that could not possibly live up to the perceived promise pushed by publicists. That’s not to deny or diminish the hard work he has undoubtedly put into his craft, but merely to observe why it would be reasonable to consider his rise as quicker than usual for a 20-something actor.

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5) He continues to get pushed incredibly hard as a star

The Lone Ranger 6 Reasons To Be Ambivalent About Armie Hammer

His face remains just about everywhere. Although a lot of The Lone Ranger is Tonto-focused, Hammer is the face of the hopeful franchise, carrying the title in his character and therefore bearing the brunt of the publicity for the movie. It seems like a new trend in pop culture for personal brands to cement their status through longevity—call it the Scooter Braun model if you wish. But these days, stars are very concerned about their staying power, and this is achieved by remaining constantly concerned with a long-term game in terms of marketing celebrity brands.

I’m not saying this about Armie Hammer so much as I am about folks like Jaden Smith, who studios or whoever pulls the strings are really trying hard to establish as a bona fide moviestar by putting them front and center of intended blockbusters over the course of several years. I guess my big fear is that Armie Hammer, who could do good things, could easily go the way of someone like Smith, who audiences have soured on following the flop of After Earth, in which he was being pushed ahead of established superstar and superdad Will Smith.

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6) He comes from privilege but maybe does a decent job distancing himself from that

Mirror Mirror1 6 Reasons To Be Ambivalent About Armie Hammer

No, he’s not the heir to the empire that is Arm & Hammer, but he is the great-grandson of oil tycoon Armand Hammer (I can’t believe the company and that family are actually unrelated in origin). But he did live in the Cayman Islands for five years of his childhood, and his father and grandfather were big into real estate and business and film and television production, so it’s understandable that his career has consisted of several so-called “entitled douchebag” characters. To his credit, he seems to be trying to make it on his own name as Armie, and has said that his parents essentially disowned him (whatever that may mean) for becoming an actor instead of going to college. Then again, if Lena Dunham and Sofia Coppola get criticized for coming from privilege before becoming bigtime movie folks, it’s a criticism that needs to be made for everyone or no one.

The two sides of me are being pulled about by this Armie Hammer guy. On one hand, the part that resents the whole notion of old inherited money and folks who come from it yet still claim they’ve worked just as hard as anyone else thinks his good looks and high class bravado are surface traits that have got him where he is today. On the other hand, he seems like a genuinely decent dude who is trying to make it in the business the same as anyone else, and has put together a respectable resumé thus far. And he’s young. He has loads of time to prove himself. It’s just hard to see the publicity he has received and immediately jump to yeah, that Armand Hammer guy totes deserves all this for those of us who are also 26 and thrive on spite and jealousy.

Do you have strong feelings either way about Armie Hammer? Share your impressions in the comments section below.

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  • John Taylor

    Saw The Lone Ranger. Not as bad as I expected it to be.