Six Asshole Protagonists

By Matt Prigge
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 5 | Posted Mar. 23, 2010

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Greenberg

Charles Foster Kane, Citizen Kane (1941): The unwritten rule is: likable lead chracters. They can be a bit dickish, but the audience must feel safe rooting for their betterment. In addition to being innovative in every other department, Orson Welles’ film debut also introduced Hollywood to the concept of a character who is thoroughly unlikable. Yes, he’s crying on the inside, but he sabotages every chance of happiness for himself and those around him.

Robert Cole, Modern Romance (1981): Albert Brooks’ films reveal the dark side of the Woody Allen persona, depicting neurotics not as adorable quip-flingers but the egomaniacal need-monsters they tend to be in real life. In the hilariously unpleasant film, his Hollywood editor whimsically breaks up with his girlfriend, stalks her, inexplicably wins her back, then thinks she’s cheating on him. In the film’s most infamous scene, he goes on a date post-break-up. As they get in the car, a sad song hits the radio. Verclempt, he circles the block and drops her back home, expecting that she’ll understand.

Melvin Udall, As Good As It Gets (1997): As the rumor goes, Jack Nicholson’s bestselling author—an all- purpose bigot and temperamental egomaniac—was so despicable writer- director James L. Brooks decided at the last minute to make him suffer from OCD, opportunistically hoping the disorder would make him cute and less responsible for his toxic horridness. Pussy.

Roger Swanson, Roger Dodger (2002): The guy is a cock. A charming, golden-tongued cock. But a cock still.

Igby, Igby Goes Down (2002): Pint-sized cock, in a school blazer. Even Jeff Goldblum coldcocks this little shit.

Roger Greenberg, Greenberg (2010): Ben Stiller’s 40ish wastrel may have just emerged from a mental hospital, but even that can’t soften a character so cruel, odious and heartless a fellow critic has taken to renaming the film simply Asshole.

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1. Anonymous said... on Mar 24, 2010 at 01:04PM

“Glad you included Albert Brooks here. e's the one who reminds me mos tof Ben Stiller in this film. In fact, this movie often reminded me of an Albert Brooks movie.”

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2. N. wood said... on Mar 25, 2010 at 12:57PM

“No "There will be blood"????”

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3. Anonymous said... on Mar 25, 2010 at 04:23PM

“Oh, come ON! Cusack in High Fidelity? Enjoyable film, but it's always annoyed me how the character is really just a needy, inconsiderate, narcissistic wanker who has somehow convinced pretentious hipsters all over the world that these are completely justifiable qualities as long as you have good taste in music.

Rawwrrr.”

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4. Anonymous said... on Mar 25, 2010 at 06:51PM

“I agree with No.3. In the book, all of his crimes are just laid bare like some kind of blood eagle. It isn't sanitized or rationalized, it's a guy admitting to all of the lousy things he's done in his romantic relationships and lamenting the fact that, not only is he a really bad spot, but he deserved. Sewn, then reaped. You don't feel like you have to sympathize with Rob, but maybe you recognize him. The film turned Rob into some kind of everyman with awesome tastes and a romantic side. Feh. I think it was a much better payoff in the book when he finally gets over himself and tentatively moves forward. In the whitewashed film, a lot of his misdeeds are omitted, so it's just another case of 'John Cusack is so sensitive, and he's standing the rain' scenarios. Hornby's Rob may have been a bigger ass before he starts growing up, but the wishy-washi-ness of the character made me want to reach into the screen and give a swirly with wedgies on the side.”

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5. Matt Prigge said... on Mar 26, 2010 at 08:28AM

There Will Be Blood's Daniel Plainview is a good one, although I'm infinitely more concerned that I forgot -- and I did forget, at least for the purpose of this list -- W.C. Fields. (Though I suppose he's more of a lovable asshole. Still an asshole.) http://www.ifc.com/blogs/indie-eye/2010/03/greenberg.php”

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