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Drew Barrymore: Real or fembot?

The hippie-dippy sunshine sweetness just won't work on our columnists. By Tara Ariano and Sarah D. Bunting
/ Source: contributor

The path from child star to adult actor is fraught with hazards, and there isn’t a one that Drew Barrymore avoided stepping in, tripping over, or colliding with head-on. After early successes in films like “Firestarter” and “E.T.,” her Hollywood kid pedigree caught up with her, leaving her a recovering cocaine addict by the age of 14 (which was when she published her infamous autobiography, “Little Girl Lost,” documenting her miserable childhood) and twice divorced before her 28th birthday.

Like so many American icons before her, Barrymore reinvented herself, doing her penance in the Amy Fisher TV movie and “Poison Ivy” and “2000 Malibu Road,” and clawing her way up through “Bad Girls” and “Boys on the Side” and “Mad Love” until her celebrated cameo in “Scream” established her as being enough of an A-lister to merit a campy on-screen murder.

Now Barrymore is a producer of films both high (“Donnie Darko”) and low (the “Charlie’s Angels” franchise) of brow, playing eminently attainable love interests in movies from “The Wedding Singer” to “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” to the current “Fever Pitch.” Offscreen, she is happily engaged to Fabrizio Moretti of The Strokes, and a seemingly unflappable optimist, such a flower child that her production company is called Flower Films.

We just have one question: Is she for real?

Sarah D. Bunting
Well, let’s see. She starred in “Poison Ivy” and “Mad Love.” She married and divorced professional irritant Tom Green. She posed for “Playboy.” She has a butterfly tattoo.

The answer is clearly “no,” and yet she’s a power player in Hollywood. I don’t get it.

And I like her fine — which is odd, considering that I hate most of her movies, and I mean to tell you, I hate them. I walked out of “The Wedding Singer”; I would have walked out of “Riding In Cars With Boys” if I hadn’t fallen asleep; words cannot express how much I loathed “Boys On The Side.”

Yet, Barrymore herself doesn’t bother me, which is puzzling. Maybe it’s The Hasselhoff Principle. David Hasselhoff is not a master thespian, and he’s usually starring in junky stuff, but he’s the first to admit to those things, and he always gives a hundred percent onscreen. I get the same sense from Barrymore — that she shows up ready to work, even if the script is crappy (and/or contains a sex scene with Tom Skerritt) and she doesn’t think she’s better than anyone.

On the other hand, Steven Spielberg is her godfather, which, in Hollywood, means she is better than anyone, and which might explain how she emerged from “Freddy Got Fingered” with a career.

Tara Ariano
Ah, then I live a little ways down the road from you on this one. Hate her onscreen, hate her offscreen. And I think the main reason is that she strikes me as a huge phony. I think she got out of rehab and made a command decision to do nothing publicly but embody sweetness and light round the clock, regardless of whether it made her seem like a Disney cartoon heroine come to life (and I mean one of the drippy old-school ones, not someone like Lilo or Violet Parr, who are capable of expressing such human emotions as sadness or rage). Her good attitude is so relentless that I just can’t believe it’s legit.

Furthermore, the official line on Drew Barrymore is that we are to marvel at her ability to “survive” her mother’s bad parenting (the kind of bad parenting that had little Drew in bars at age nine and hooked on cocaine before she’d hit puberty) and come out the other side as this adorable cherub of positivity instead of…you know, Courtney Love. But no one had a perfect childhood, and the last time I checked, achieving adulthood wasn’t an event so extraordinarily rare that it should be celebrated with fawning, congratulatory magazine profiles.

Barrymore has cultivated such an amiable public persona that it seems perverse to hate her — particularly since, if she knew, she’d probably just light a votive candle for me or try to convert me by lining up Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz to join her in the Care Bear Stare. But oh, my God. She bugs the HELL out of me.

I won’t try to talk you out of hating her. I hate Julianne Moore — who is a far better actress and, as far as I know, a decent human being — for no reason other than that she has a mean-looking face.

But Barrymore is an actress; a lot of actresses are phonies. Oscar winner Hilary Swank, going on and on in her acceptance speech about how she’s just a little old girl from a trailer park, and then thanking…her publicist? Huge phony. Barrymore’s “Angels” co-star Cameron Diaz, always making sure any profile of her refers to how much she likes to eat and how often she belches and how very, very real and down-to-earth she is? Phonier than a phone booth.

Not that phoniness isn’t a good reason to hate Barrymore, if that’s the one you want to go with. Again, if you hate her, you hate her, and I support you. But I don’t actually think she’s insincere. I mean, wouldn’t you have to have a pretty happy-crappy view of the world in order to get engaged to Jamie Walters, who “rose” to “fame” as Donna Martin’s abusive pumpkin-salesman boyfriend Ray on “90210”?

Yes, Drew Barrymore was actually engaged to Jamie Walters at one point. Either she really is so sunshiny and sweet that she thought that could work out, or she’s super-dumb and has worse taste in men than a Gabor sister. She’s still wearing Uggs, after all; God knows what’s actually going on.

You’re right that phoniness, in and of itself, is neither especially offensive to me in other Hollywood actors, nor especially surprising. In Barrymore’s case, it’s the way she is phony that I find so annoying: what she’s faking is a kind of open-hearted, post-hippie, self-helped candor, where her childlike sincerity is the whole point. For example, I heard her mother on the radio right after Barrymore went on “Letterman” a few years back and flashed her boobies at him; her mother’s spin was that Barrymore just doesn’t even acknowledge society’s taboos and was carried away in the moment. Girl? Please.

Drew Barrymore acts like a real-life Phoebe Buffay — to a point. The reason Phoebe worked (as a fictional character, mind you) is that amid her embracing of Wiccan ceremonies and her devotion to aromatherapy, she also had a dark side, and she wasn’t shy about expressing it. Barrymore acts like she has no dark side, which is both strange and deeply irritating.

Maybe it’s not acting. Maybe the real Drew Barrymore is living in seclusion and the one we see on Leno is a Drewbot. Because, again: Jamie Walters.

In light of the marriage to Tom Green, my theory is that her stint in rehab involved a frontal lobotomy.

Tara Ariano and Sarah D. Bunting are co-creators and co-editors of