At Least We Still Have Jeff Goldblum
The actor’s specific alchemical charm was a balm for our woes this year.
The understanding is, since we are guaranteed nothing, every day is a gift. If we are lucky, we get to advance to old age. And if we are truly in the lap of the Maker, we get to age like Jeffrey Lynn Goldblum.
There is no man twinklier, no visage more likely to induce nonseasonal cheer and delight, no person who instigates that rare aww/rawr response more efficiently than Goldblum. He occupies a significant place in the hearts and loin-memories of a broad swath of the population. For people of a certain age, he was a foundational crush — what did it? Was it premetamorphosis in The Fly (1986) or somewhere between Earth Girls Are Easy (1988) and Jurassic Park (1993). Let’s include all his films, up to and including Independence Day (1996), because does it even matter? We’re all right there with you, sis.
The thing about Jeff Goldblum is that he’s always been around — and at 65, it really does feel like it’s been always — and his core brand has been just as unwavering. He’s the best kind of quirky: an oddball who never crosses the line to become an undecipherable kook. For all his physical quirks, Goldblum’s whole aura is relaxed, and fans seem to dig it. He has enjoyed a steady Eddie sort of career, the type people don't really have anymore — Hollywood’s model for star-making has changed over the years, and the shift toward interconnected franchises (his presence in a superhero film notwithstanding) has narrowed traditional paths — yet his star has managed to ebb and flow without wild swings in either direction. He’s stolen scenes in TV and film, gently morphed into one of our favorite shills, not least for global brands like Apple and PayPal, and in the process, graduated to lovable “dad/daddy” aka the familiar hottie as new generations gleefully attest all over social media. It is quite the feat.
And he’s capped off his year in what feels like an instantly classic turn, starring as the Grandmaster in the fun and funny Thor: Ragnarok. Plainly expressed, the Grandmaster is an absurd figure. Even in a world as primary colored as director Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, he stands out: dressed in gold and blue and red, hair coiffed so he resembles a pewter cockatiel, and adorned with electric blue eyeliner and a vertical line of matching lipstick. It’s many things at once: funny, naturally. But also appealingly sexual. In 2017, it is important to note that it never veers into sleaze territory. It’s old-fashioned charm, without the icky feeling. Goldblum’s been laying the groundwork for his turn as Grandmaster in every single role — personal and public — before this one. Put it this way: It’s hard to imagine anyone but Jeff Goldblum playing him.
In the run-up to the autumn release of Thor: Ragnarok, Jeff Goldblum hit the promo track hard, appearing in brightly colored clothes and his trademark thick-rimmed spectacles, sprinkling cheer and goodwill across a generally turd-stained year. And it worked! Undoubtedly, this was a year that needed Jeff Goldblum in a succession of expensive designer clothes, cheesing gamely for the camera. Across demographics, a crush was either formed for the first time or based on the foundation of a formative youthful crush, reignited with a passion (nostalgia is worth more than gold in the corridors of lust). Sometimes, it turns out, there is nothing as uncomplicated as a tastefully shot photo of a hot, smiling silver fox in a patterned jumper, long legs encased in tailored trousers with his ankles bare. And just like magic, he appeared.
Jeff Goldblum's hotness journey is the Gold(blum) Standard.
Jeff Goldblum’s hotness journey is the Gold(blum) Standard: He’s been allowed to enjoy life at a pace that suits him, and has flourished in real life, and in our imaginations, as a result. Because Jeff Goldblum is not straightforwardly handsome, explaining his sexiness is something that throws normally articulate people into a tailspin of je ne sais quoi mutterings. As Seth Brundle, bug-eyed, pillow-lipped, and frenzied in his big breakout film The Fly, Goldblum looked dangerous and edgy rather than lantern-jawed and dependable — there’s always been something reptilian (but never cold) about him, and it is incredibly sexy.
Of course, the secret to his sexy is actually quite simple, if you break it down: The first thing is that Goldblum is tall (6-foot-4), and rangy with it. In The Big Chill (1983), he’s in his early thirties, and very thin — almost drowning in the sweaters and trench coats of the era. By the time of Jurassic Park a decade later, he’s added on bulk to play incredibly flirtatious chaos theory mathematician Ian Malcolm: His face has fleshed out a tad, and his curls are wilder. This might be peak Goldblum: dressed in all black, walking up to a mound of dinosaur shit, loose-limbed and lazy, gliding across the screen with eyes shaded by tinted lenses (more than two decades later, a fan asked him whose decision it was to unbutton his shirt: His answer was rambling and perfect).
He keeps his rakishness going in the 1995 romantic comedy Nine Months, all big eyes and tanned olive skin, saying things that would be doubly offensive coming from others. In one scene, dressed in a tight Henley shirt, his character describes the 25-year-old he’s dating to his friend, played by Hugh Grant, thusly: “Her skin is like a ribbon of candy. Breasts like sponge cakes. Her calves are like calzone. I mean, highly edible.” The only thing all three characters have in common in Goldblum’s intensity. He practically exudes pheromones. It’s uncanny.
His ageing method is a big slice of the pie we’ll call the Jeff Goldblum Appeal. The general design of society is that men get to hold on to sex appeal as they get older while women are forced into sleeved gowns and artfully gauzy necklines. But even with that in mind, Jeff Goldblum looks great. May we all age as well as Jeff: His face is not unlined, but he seems to be rolling with it. His gray has a sheen to it, and sits as a perfect complement next to his nutty brown skin. Sometimes he’s silver-bearded and sometimes it all comes off, but there is no drop in potency. In a January 2017 interview, Conan O’Brien called him “ageless” and asked for his secret. Goldblum said he had none, but he offered a tip: no creams, no ointments, no makeup. “Sleep. I like sleep,” he said.
Naturally, Goldblum is a wonderful late-night talk show guest. His comic timing is top-notch, as his is line delivery — a quality screenwriters seem to delight in when they write for him (see his uniquely musical delivery of “Yes, yes. Yes. Without the oops,” in Independence Day). Outside of the office, Goldblum takes part in meme re-creation, has shown he’s game for a round (or five) of Would You Rather, consistently recognizes his own eccentricities and chooses to revel in them. He is funny in a way that is generous, which is to say he appears happy to be the butt of a joke — as long as the laugh is good and pure.
Goldblum, a jazz pianist (of course!), embodies the cliche of the lithe-fingered musician: In interviews, and in character, his hands flutter, settling and taking flight like hummingbirds as he delivers his deceptively rambling stories. Goldblum’s voice is sonorous, and full-bodied. He makes it jump through hoops too, changing rhythm from staccato to legato and back again: It dips and dives, sometimes making his words come out in onelongrushwithnogapsforbreath, and sometimes, he stretches his sentences sibilantly. Pausing. Or trailing off...altogether, for no...discernible...reason.
And his laugh! In 2014, producer Flipshot made a three-minute track off one of Goldblum’s laughs in Jurassic Park. The “song,” called “Hahahrawrrahaha,” is hypnotic, and not just because of the pulsing beat: It’s perfectly distilled aural Goldblum gold, inimitably encapsulating his uniquely weird attractiveness. The result of those pauses is the creation of a sense of urgency that makes you want to lean in — it’s intriguing, see? And if you’re already leaning in, hasn’t half the battle of sex appeal been won?
At a time when it feels like Every Man Is Bad™, Jeff Goldblum Is Good is the narrative we all want to — nay, need — to seize upon.
Steve Jobs and Apple realized Goldblum’s talent for hooking people when they cast him in 1999 to hawk their computers. In those ads, two things were immediately made clear, and have remained true ever since: Apple products are ridiculously expensive, and Goldblum is a natural salesman. When he purrs “Aerodynamic design. Breathtaking acceleration. Air-cooled, turbo-charged engine” in the iMac Graphite commercial, it’s enough to make you reach for your wallet. A 2014 Motherboard piece celebrated Goldblum’s unwitting position as the tech pitchman in our lives; has there been a lovelier salesman? You know you are being sold something but, you tell yourself, the salesman really seems to believe in the product.
There’s even a mildly sly dig at his ad-sense in his cameo on the Season 9 episode of Friends: “You makin' fun of me?” he asks Joey (Matt LeBlanc), as esteemed actor Leonard Hayes. “Because I am not a sellout! I didn't do that for the money. I believe in those phones. I almost lost a cousin because of bad wireless service!” See, Jeff gets it: There is power in making yourself appear easy. It’s endearing, and the suggestion that you might be game for a laugh lends itself to internet boyfriendhood. Or internet-daddydom*. (*Your mileage may vary, based on your age and inclinations.)
Goldblum’s apparent security in his masculinity, which folds in the traditionally feminine with real ease, is fluid and homoerotic in a way that never seems queer-baiting or ally cookie–hunting. And his ability to hold the eye and the ear is nothing short of magical. It’s in his movement work, of course — his walk is sinuous but not oily, and he is incredibly graceful, especially for someone of such sheer length. In a scene from 1996’s Independence Day, Goldblum walks along a stretch of sun-bleached desert next to Will Smith, 16 years his junior and poised to become the biggest movie star on Earth. Smith’s youth and swagger are undeniable, but your eye can’t help but travel to Goldblum’s loping, hip-rolling, rhythmic walk. That’s because it’s eye-catching shit.
All of Goldblum’s qualities make it easy for us to project specific traits onto his person. Twitter has turned those projections into viral daydreams. One features Goldblum paired up with the likes of Stanley Tucci in a film where: “jeff goldblum and stanley tucci own a restaurant and are also husbands.” It’s impossible to know for sure, but the initial evidence suggests the twinkle quotient of such a film would probably end millennial sadness. To appease us in the meantime, he’s reprising his Jurassic Park role in the new Jurassic World movie, and we are well-pleased.
After weighing all the evidence — the familiarity, the voice, a well-turned fashion ankle, that laugh — it looks like the key component that made this Jeff Goldblum’s Year of Being the Internet’s Boyfriend was…2017 itself. At a time when it feels like Every Man Is Bad™, Jeff Goldblum Is Good is the narrative we all want — nay, need — to seize upon. Each new interview, every patterned trouser in a magazine shoot, every single TV spot was a cleanser, a tonic and a balm. Artificial sustenance when we were starving for it. The potential for Jeff to go Milkshake Duck on all of us is still there, as it is for every man (truly, 2017’s greatest legacy). But when we wanted to feel like everything was not unmitigated shit, we turned to good ol’ Jeff. We anointed him despite our fear of being potentially burned. It turns out, for all of Goldblum’s many charms, the biggest secret to our collective love in 2017 was a unique blend of fatigue and hope.
If that’s not 2017 in a nutshell, I don’t know what is. ●