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Will Wonka mark the end of Timothèe Chalamet's sex appeal?

Critics wonder if the actor will be able to maintain his status, but that is not the point

Will Wonka mark the end of Timothèe Chalamet's sex appeal? Critics wonder if the actor will be able to maintain his status, but that is not the point

Andrea Merolli/Warner Bros.

Among the most anticipated films of the Christmas movie season is certainly Wonka, the prequel to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Timothée Chalamet. The reasons for the hype are numerous. There's, of course, the lead actor, a sex symbol and bearer of a new, delicate idea of masculinity that avoids various forms of machismo, but that's not all. In charge of this prequel is Paul King, the director of the beloved Paddington. The cast also includes the comedic Hugh Grant as the Oompa Loompa, Olivia Colman, Calah Lane, and Keegan-Michael Key. As if that weren't enough, the film draws inspiration from Roald Dahl's 1960s universe, expanding beyond the original story and using it as source material to create a different and earlier narrative, which also changes the nature of the character previously portrayed by Gene Wilder and Johnny Depp in the 1971 and 2005 versions, respectively. Fans of the iconic children's author, who has also inspired Wes Anderson, are eagerly curious to see if the magic will be enough to carry on the characters with stories written by others and how they approached this.

Timothée Chalamet’s Trial by Fire

These questions add to the speculation about the film's medium to long-term impact, as is customary with highly anticipated movies. While awaiting the film's release in Italian theaters on December 14, there's also speculation about its potential as a new classic. Will this be the role that strips Chalamet of his status as an icon of contemporary masculinity? Some critics argue that the risk is indeed there. As Allison P. Davis writes for Vulture, Willy Wonka is not a sexy character, almost asexual. Taking on this role could mean a significant rebrand, and there's no guarantee that Chalamet's charm is enough to endure the dances, songs, top hat, and eccentricity of the chocolatier wizard. The author goes further, hoping for a career maturity that moves him beyond his role as the "White Boy of the Month" or "Internet Boyfriend," elevating him to higher levels. It seems that Timmy's influence on the masses will undergo a real trial by fire. Is it true?

A New Wonka, More Suited to the Times

There are many ways to answer this question, which in turn raises various issues and points of reflection. Let's start from the beginning. Wonka is a fun, joyful, and hopeful film that owes its charm to its visual appeal but, above all, to its main character. Chalamet's Willy is a dreamer on the edge of reality, a powerful yet sorrowful boy desperately seeking a sense of belonging and community. He finds it first in Noodles, the scullery maid of the evil Mrs. Scrubbit, and then in his gang of enslaved colleagues who will become his helpers, each offering their expertise and personal skills. Far from the bitter irony of those who played him before, Chalamet makes Wonka a better, albeit less nuanced, person. A purely and absolutely child-friendly Wonka who professes the power of friendship over any other motivation in life, including power, money (or chocolate). What's unattractive about that? Whether his life as an entrepreneur has made him calculating, cold, and ambiguous is a leap that we, as cynical and grown-up viewers who have experienced the other films, can make, and it doesn't matter now in the analysis of an actor and his status.

Beyond the Notion of Sex Symbol

Consider also the fact that Timothée has grown up. Rising to international fame with Call Me by Your Name at 22, he has become a man before our eyes, and so have his characters. That Chalamet owes his fame not only to his talent but also to the love and dedication that fans have shown him is undeniable, and admitting it should not be a mark of dishonor. Is it so strange that he now seeks something else? Something that, in any case, instead of erasing his sex appeal, transforms it, making it deeper and more nuanced. Who doesn't appreciate a young professional who, within a few months, portrays a quirky dancing magician with a passion for sweets and giraffes, and Paul Atreides, the heir of a feudal lineage who has inherited the powers of his concubine mother and finds himself in the midst of the struggles between two powerful families in Dune? Perhaps the point is not in his status but in how we consider this status and how it changes.

A Hollywood Star Aware and Therefore Stronger

The truth is, like it or not, the 28-year-old actor is making a series of thoughtful choices that are quickly and fruitfully making him not only a bona fide movie star but also changing the idea we have of movie stars. In this process, as if that weren't enough, he has never scorned his fans, who made him famous, or his title as the "Internet Boyfriend." Letting his professional choices speak for themselves, Timothée demonstrates respect for himself and the mechanisms of online fame, becoming the protagonist not only of the rise of a new ideal of masculinity but also of a new type of star. This star, far from being snobbish and arrogant, doesn't take itself too seriously, gracefully jumping from one role to another, while at the same time protecting his life and limiting his presence on social media as much as possible. Perhaps other actors (and the public and critics too!) should take note to establish a type of famous man who rejects all preconceptions, has fun and entertains, and is liked for this, not despite it.