There’s kind of a Portrait of Dorian Gray thing going on with the new indie teen movie Beware the Gonzo (in theaters now): Despite being Jesse McCartney‘s first big movie since the 2004 teen drama Summerland, he’s unfortunately pretty bland. Then you have the film’s star Ezra Miller, who is nothing but charismatic (and creepy, but in a good way).
The two young actors’ success seems to be proportional: For every great scene that newcomer Ezra has, it makes Jesse seem like even more of a failure. You get the impression that he’s past his prime, that he missed out on his chance to break into the biz.
The movie is good, but Jesse’s character Gavin Reilly isn’t. He’s basically the Regina George of the school newspaper, yet lacking the shocking selfishness and impossible omnipotence of Rachel McAdams‘ queen bee commanded. Despite being Gonzo Gilman’s nemesis, he’s threatening only in one or two scenes.
Because the two actors play off each other so much in the movie, it’s not surprising that Ezra seems so much more comfortable in comparison. Jesse just seems unsure of how much fun he’s allowed to have with the role.
You know where we would be interested in seeing Jesse? In the TV pilot he shot recently for Locke & Key, a thriller series based on the bestselling comic book. The oldest son in a family that inherits a creepy New England house, he’s the one who doesn’t believe that there are spirits in the house. From the trailer alone, his character seems much more nuanced than Gavin Reilly. But so far it looks like that project’s dead in the water unless they can find a new distributor.
Meanwhile, Ezra is now making waves as unemotional school shooter Kevin in We Need to Talk About Kevin. He must have made Gonzo a while back before he was more well-known, but he it’s clear that he’s just as dedicated to it as a big-name project. He’s really playing the “creepily-precocious kid” angle; his other indie projects include a mystery called Afterschool, where he plays a student at an elite prep school who witnesses two girls’ drug overdoses and posts a video of their deaths.
Jesse in his heyday, circa 2004:
Ezra in his heyday, circa now: