Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In Praise of Alec Baldwin's Belly: Talkin' 'Bout My Inspiration!

(Alec Baldwin in It's Complicated)

Now, I'm not usually prone to giving movie stars blog space - they already have publicists to make sure their pics are everywhere. I also don't like to overpraise Nancy Meyer's fun but formulaic romantic comedies aimed at "women of a certain age", especially given their complete absence of any characters who aren't white and wealthy.

However, I've got to give a shout-out here to Meyer's newest offering, It's Complicated, for one simple reason: its presentation of the far-from-svelte and no-longer-youthful Alec Baldwin as a 50-something, overweight guy who nevertheless still has that make-her-knees-buckle alpha-male vibe and is still hot as hell, hairy paunch be damned.

I'm old enough to remember Baldwin in his Streetcar Named Desire days, when he could make an audience catch its breath by tearing off his shirt (which he did regularly on Broadway!). Unlike a lot of aspiring heartthrobs then and now, Baldwin didn't shave or wax his chest and abs, but you know what? He was amazingly hot, partly thanks to his muscles but even more thanks to his take-no-prisoners, sex-on-a-stick attitude.

Well, here we are a couple decades later, and Baldwin has definitely put on some extra poundage, as the pics above show and as anyone can see by flipping on their television Thursday nights for 30 Rock. He's somewhere between beefy and stout now, but the old swagger is still there and in this movie he is totally credible confusing the hell out of ex-wife Meryl Streep with his renewed ardor for her.

Better still, Baldwin is comfortable enough with his weight to use it to texture his characterization. Standing in his undershorts after sex with Streep, he can slap his hairy paunch and comment on all the weight he's gained in his second marriage - but with no trace of embarrassment. He can banter about his weight with Streep, asking her, "Why do you keep calling me 'Big Guy'? Is it because I'm fat?" And he can sprawl naked on Streep's bed, then explain afterwards that he thought she'd find that tactic "irresistible" - even though he's doughy and not buff these days.

Any guy with issues about his weight should see this film, just to watch Baldwin be sexy despite being substantially overweight by most standards and downright fat compared to the media's presentation of buff (not to mention hairless) guys with toned abs as the masculine ideal. Baldwin's Jake looks his age and carries the extra pounds that many middle-aged guys (yours truly included) can't manage to shed, either. But he's not a hapless sidekick or a pathetic, deluded loser: he's the movie's leading man, he's bracingly virile, and he exudes self-confidence, either in spite of - or because of - that paunchy body.

Am I saying we should all give up on losing weight? Hell no, it's still a healthful thing to do. But should overweight guys hide indoors until we lose enough weight to consider ourselves publicly "presentable"? Hell no, again. We need to learn to unbutton our shirts and slap those bellies of ours as long as we're still carrying them around.

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