Watch this video. It's an old video, by Internet standards, of Bradley Cooper speaking French while promoting the sequel to The Hangover. It's not important what he's saying, or why The Hangover II is known as Very Bad Trip 2 in France. It doesn't even matter if you've already seen the clip. Just watch it again.
If you're experiencing very strong feelings right now, you are not alone. Over the past week, Cooper's interview has become an unlikely online Rorschach test. On the surface, it's no different than any other clip where a comedic leading man starts speaking a romance language, but this clip has provoked sharply divergent reactions in those who watch it. Some of the most striking responses:
"So what if we can't understand a single word he's saying," writes Whitney Jefferson at Jezebel. "Words are irrelevant right now." Washington Post Celebritology blogger Jen Chaney agrees. "I don’t know the language," begins Chaney, so I can’t decipher 98 percent of what’s being said here...But it sounds impressive. And it also makes a movie about a bunch of drunken idiots traipsing through Bangkok tattoo parlors and strip clubs seem très sophistiqué."
At Entertainment Weekly, Cooper's multilingualism left Jeff Labrecque unimpressed, and a little angry. We have to say, he makes a compelling case.
"Is it the French language in particular that sounds so wonderful coming out of Cooper’s mouth? Would fluent German be as alluring?...The fuss over Cooper’s bilingual talent seems to be wrapped in surprise that the Hangover star — and Georgetown graduate who spent some of his college years in France — can speak the language. So are we giving Cooper extra credit because he’s… well… like… really, really handsome? Like a beautiful girl who knows everything about sports. You’re gorgeous and you can speak French! Amazing!"
A complete reappraisal of Bradley Cooper's career
The most sensible--or, depending on what you thought of The A-Team movie--most alarming response came from Kyle Buchanan. Writing at New York magazine's Daily Intel blog, he argued the clip was definitive evidence that Cooper--whose other notable roles include playing the bad guy in Wedding Crashers and Jim Carrey's best friend in Yes Man--is our Cary Grant.
"Over the last few months, Cooper has proven his versatility (in Limitless, which was a bona fide sleeper hit that he carried on his shoulders), his smarts (he's writing the script to Hyperion, a sci-fi novel optioned by Graham King), his humility (he's said that as much as he wants to direct Hyperion, he doubts anyone would let him, and he launched a self-effacing bid for the role of Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby through the New York Times), and his charm. He's been a great talk-show guest no matter which language he was speaking, and for his current Esquire cover story, he even prepared a stuffed-squid dinner for the journalist interviewing him. It almost seems too over-the-top — can a male movie star really be so charming and guileless? But why not say oui? After all, George Clooney can't do it all by himself."