There’s no denying that Matthew Perry is a talented and funny actor. I watched The Whole Nine Yards the other night and was struck by his exceptional physical comedy, needing to rewatch a particularly splendid pratfall because I was laughing so much.
He obviously wanted to bring out his book to explain the demons that have pretty much plagued him all his life, almost certainly stemming from the time he flew alone from his mother in Canada to his father in LA – aged FIVE. That’s a big deal, granted. But just because he wanted to write it doesn’t mean it was the best idea to do so.
There were some intriguing snippets about his Friends cohorts (although not as much as I’d have liked), especially around his lingering crush on Aniston. There were some new and interesting stories I found out about him; his former prowess as a tennis player, his friendship with Hank Azaria, his courtship with Julia Roberts. But again and again, we had to hear about the latest drugs he imbibed which should surely have killed him, or booze imbibed which should surely have killed him, or rehab he tried which nearly killed him, or relationship he fucked up which felt like it killed him.
Sure, it’s his book and he can write whatever he wants. But a lot of the material comes across as quite self-entitled and whiny, dare I say it. Especially when he bemoans his sorry state and says he would switch it for a normal person’s life in an instant. He got a lot of stick on Twitter for slagging off Keanu Reeves. Clearly there’s some undisclosed beef here, cos Reeves seems an unlikely object of his ire. But like dear Lady Bracknell observed, once looks like misfortune, twice carelessness. Some pages after his remark that Keanu ‘still walks among us’ when such legends as River Phoenix are dead (which you could perhaps excuse as a moment of thoughtlessness), he mentions it again.
Then there’s also his insistence on how very famous he is and couldn’t then, or even now, go anywhere or do anything because of it. Sure, all six of them were mega stars and are still recognised by a lot of people. But there’s vast swathes of the world that would have no idea who he is, thanks very much, and would easily walk past him in the street. No doubt if you’re surrounded by yes men, arse-kissers and screaming multitudes at highly publicised events, you imagine you’re the stuff of gods. But he’s not. I can’t think of anyone who’s globally famous to merit that level of grandiosity. Possibly the late Queen would come close.
Chandler was always my favourite ‘Friend’, in part because I’m also an only child and quite often wisecrack my way out of awkward situations and make people laugh to like me (certainly did the latter at school to avoid being bullied). I still love watching Friends, even though there’s sections that don’t fit the mood of the time now (the fat-shaming and porn references particularly). And yes, Perry did contribute substantially to the scripts and deserves credit. I, as an actor, can separate character from an actor, but it’s always been apparent that the Friends characters DID resemble their real life counterparts substantially (although Perry wryly remarks on how Chandler did better in the marriage stakes). But I have to block out the stuff I learnt about him when watching. It’s not on the level of meeting heroes being a disappointment, far from it. But I’d hoped for more self-awareness from him, more to admire, truth be told.