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critiquing the critics

Justin Long Comes to an Understanding With the Film Critic Who Called Him a ‘Milky Mook’

In her September review of the Drew Barrymore–Justin Long rom-com Going the Distance, Movieline film critic Michelle Orange found herself puzzled by how Long might have landed Barrymore onscreen, writing, "How a milky, affectless mook with half-formed features and a first day of kindergarten haircut might punch several classes above his weight is a mystery." It was a memorably scathing line, and one that's proved, against all odds, to endear Orange and Long to each other. Long recited the takedown two weeks later on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, calling it "so bad that it set the bar, I think, for insults for me," but noting, "I actually kind of appreciate this woman." The incident inspired Orange to do a bit of self-criticism in an essay for the Rumpus entitled, "And This Is Word for Word: The Theory of Relatability and Rethinking Justin Long’s Face," and wouldn't you know, Long just replied to that, too.

Wrote Long in the comments section:


Michelle, since stumbling onto your article during a narcissistic and regrettable search, I’ve been following and really enjoying your articles (and not to worry, not only the film-oriented ones — I now know better than to categorize you that way). Of course it’s difficult to read hurtful things about yourself (though my skin is getting thicker by the movie), it makes it a lot easier when the article is so eloquently composed and genuinely insightful. And there’s also considerable truth in what Vivien and Larry wrote (again, as damaging to the ego as it may be) — I did choose to put myself in that position, therefore relinquishing any immunity to attack — whether it’s about my acting or my face. I brought it up on Jimmy’s show because I thought it was somewhat amusing just HOW harsh it was (again, in a very well-articulated way) — and I meant what I said, it really did set the bar. I’ve heard a lot of negative things about myself over the years but rarely are they said with such a thoughtful and insightful tongue. Now I’ll be able to withstand more slings and arrows thanks to the armor of humility you’ve forged for me. Please know too, I’m in no way being sarcastic — the fact that I read this piece should be testament to that. Michelle, I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d get to be in one movie, let alone several over the course of the last ten years — never had any delusions of grandeur. I always wanted to be a theatre actor like my mom, always assuming the movie roles were relegated to the good looking people. Which is not to say my Mom’s not good looking — she’s beautiful (though clearly it’s all subjective — you are not a fan of our gene pool so you might not agree) — she just had kids and never got that “lucky break”. Then I started idolizing guys like Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman, Sam Rockwell, Woody Allen, and Philip Seymour Hoffman — I found myself relating (I hope you’re not wincing at my use of that word now) to them and formulating some wild fantasy of one day pursuing a career in movie acting — if guys that looked like that could do it, I thought, maybe this milky mook could role the dice. So while there’s no defense for my performance in the movie (everyone is obviously entitled to their opinion), I have to say, I’m surprised by the amount of stock you seem to invest in my looks. I absolutely agree with you too, I’d be hard-pressed to hold a candle to even a fraction of Drew’s beauty - in my humble opinion, she’s the most beautiful girl in the world. Is that a message you want to proliferate though? That people of higher aesthetic echelons should stick to their own? Maybe you’re frustrated because it so rarely works the other way — I don’t remember the last time I was asked to accept a female romantic lead who was “punching above her weight class” — though it does happen (I just don’t want to name names at the risk of offending — I leave that to the experts). I suppose if it were more commonplace though you, as a woman, wouldn’t be so offended and might have taken it a bit easier in pointing out the disparity of our looks in “going the distance”. Regardless, I really meant what I said about your writing — I love film too and I love reading about it — so keep up the good work and I’ll try to pick better projects (though I did love filming that one) but short of some reconstructive surgery, unfortunately there’s nothing I can do about my mug (blame god and/or my parents on that one). Take care and hopefully one day our paths will cross so I can compliment you in person. Until then, best wishes and be proud and confident in your role as a film critic — you’re a damn good one.
-Justin Long

Sweet, humble, and cunnilingus-friendly? Mac wins again!

Sweet, humble, and cunnilingus-friendly? Mac wins again!

And This Is Word For Word: The Theory of Relatability and Rethinking Justin Long’s Face [Rumpus via Movieline]

Photo: Patrick McMullan