As always, Spoiler Alert.
Be Cool is the 2005 sequel to 1995’s very popular and successful comedy film, Get Shorty. Now, I never saw Get Shorty. First off, I’m not a fan of comedies in general. And second, it stars John Travolta, whose movies I tend to avoid. Between his devotion to Scientology, and some negative associations from the first of his movies I saw, it’s challenging for me to separate him as a person from his roles and just sit back and enjoy the movie. Plus there’s often a certain greasiness to his appearance – relevant to the characters he’s playing, I understand, but it adds a squick factor that I have trouble getting past.
So there are the reasons I wasn’t interested in watching Be Cool.
Now here’s why I’m glad I did.
It can be summed up in two words: The Rock.
Be Cool is one of Dwayne Johnson’s first films, from so early in his acting career that he hadn’t even begun the transition from his wrestling name to his real one. There was a lot of speculation as to whether or not he could make it as an actor, with the assumption that he’d limit his movie work to mindless action flicks, something that his first roles in The Mummy Returns, The Scorpion King, and Doom only reinforced.
So it was a surprise when he played a gay man in Be Cool.
His character, Elliot Wilhelm, is the movie villain’s muscle. He’s also an openly gay aspiring actor who’s not that bright. His credulity makes it easy for his boss, Raji (Vince Vaughn), to string him along with promises of an audition ‘soon.’ Chili (John Travolta) also promises Elliot an audition. The difference is that, while Chili’s offer is as self-serving as Raji’s, Chili follows through – not only in getting Elliot the audition in the first place, but in giving him some advice on how to succeed in securing the role.
Be Cool is a comedy, so of course Elliot is played for laughs. The nice thing is that he isn’t played for laughs because he’s gay. It’s because he’s sweet and endearing and in many ways too good for the world he inhabits, which makes him a bit goofy, and someone the audience can cheer for – especially if it leads to Raji’s downfall.
The fact that he’s played by someone who’d built a career on being a big strong man who beat up other big strong men for our entertainment? That’s a nice bonus. (We’ll just leave the homoerotic undercurrents inherent in professional wrestling out of the equation for the time being.)
That’s not to say that Johnson is Be Cool‘s only bright spot. It’s actually a very funny and enjoyable movie overall. The story is engaging, there’s some excellent music, and the characters, while mostly more caricatures than well-rounded, are people the viewer can care about.
But I always end up coming back to Elliot. The reality is, it was a courageous role for Johnson to take, especially so early in his acting career, and he did a world of good for the LGBTQ+ community by doing so. Because who’s going to look at this …
… and dare to make a disparaging comment about homosexuality? And someone like him being okay with it likely changed a few attitudes for the better.
To see other posts in my venture to watch my movie collection in alphabetical(ish) order, click here.