No longer ‘on a break’: is the David Schwimmer renaissance finally here?

After years in the wilderness, the actor had a juiced-up turning as Robert Kardashian in The People v OJ Simpson and now hes back with Feed the Beast

Friends has, for the most part, sent its starrings down distinct, easily defined routes. Jennifer Aniston is a star. Matthew Perry will play the quirky, quippy lead in mediocre sitcoms until he dies or get bored, and Courteney Cox will draw eyeballs on TV when she wants to( though shes taking a justified break after the end of Cougar Town ). Matt LeBlanc bounced around for a while( Episodes comes to an end next year) and is now hosting Top Gear. Lisa Kudrow continues to do weird, beautiful projects that get prematurely cancelled( The Comeback ).

But David Schwimmer has had, perhaps, the oddest, quietest career and after a few years of doing apparently very little, hes returned to TV with a pair of high-profile roles in FXs OJ Simpson drama and now in his own vehicle, Feed the Beast. Whisper it, but after the McConaissance( Matthew McConaughey) and the Reesening( Reese Witherspoon ), the Schwimmnaissance is ultimately here, and its been overdue.

Besides some theater work, Schwimmers big move after the end of Friends was providing the voice of Melman the giraffe in Madagascar. In an interview, Schwimmer explains why he was cast as Melman by describing the character as neurotic, and a hypochondriac, and paranoid. Then, jokingly recognise his affinity with the character, Schwimmer swivels his head around as if hunting for the person who tricked him into being complicit in his own typecasting.

Many of his other TV roles have boiled down to similar caricature, like an extended bit playing himself in the fourth season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, where Schwimmer is brought in to replace his Madagascar co-star Ben Stiller as Leo Bloom in a production of The Producers in which Larry plays Bialystock.( Schwimmer mostly exists to fight with Larry about the cashew-raisin ratio in a bag of mixed nuts .) This seems ridiculous with hour, as Stiller has remained a huge star, but it wasnt so out of the question at the time Curbs fourth season aired in 2004, the same year Friends went off the air.

However, Schwimmers best post-Friends performances are largely against-type. As struggling performer Jared-turned eco-icon Greenzo on 30 Rock, hes an out-and-out asshole, rather than the asshole who thinks hes the nicest guy in the world. And the dramatic pinnacle of his career is a turn in Band of Friend as the small-minded, petty Captain Sobel, where Schwimmers capacity for resentment received a full outlet. But roles like this didnt keep up, or at least Schwimmer didnt keep taking them. Add that to the internets hatred for Ross Geller, and it seems clear: Schwimmer is a character performer trapped by the reputation accrued in a mistaken leading role.

So it induces sense that he turned to directing, though this didnt prove a much better option. Take his debut: Run Fatboy Run, a Simon Pegg vehicle about a cowardly man who leaves his pregnant fiancee at the altar, then wins her back by operating really hard. The script is instead bleak, and it would be easy to imagine a version of the movie that underlines the absurdity of the whole premise. But Schwimmer directs Run Fatboy Run as a altogether straight, inspirational narrative without only a hint of the misanthropy and surrealism the material seems to demand.

David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian, Cuba Gooding Jr as OJ Simpson aka The Juice. Photo: Prashant Gupta

It was a long few years in the wilderness, but Schwimmer was saved by another 90 s icon: OJ Simpson. As Robert Kardashian in The People v OJ Simpson, Schwimmer manages to take the pathetic quality of Ross Geller the hangdog look, drooping eyes, open mouth and channel it into misplaced moral superiority as the only person in the courtroom who is actually convinced of OJs innocence and thinks it matters. It helps that Schwimmers committed performance has produced one of the best memes in a indicate committed to generating memes: a supercut of Schwimmer telling the word juice.

Schwimmer, sadly, does not tell juice in Feed the Beast, the mob-chef drama that seems like it arose from the early brainstorming sessions for Burnt. He remains steadfastly unable to do a straight performance, without veering into meme territory. Schwimmer plays Tommy, a widower single father in the Bronx who works as a wine representative while drowning his dream of being a sommelier in a bottle and is struggling to raise his mute biracial son while dealing with his fresh-out-of-prison best friend, Dion( played by Jim Sturgess ).

His best moments on Feed the Beast are comic, responding to the gleeful mania of Jim Sturgesss Dion with a beat-down shrug. Its closer to the energy he has on 30 Rock or Curb. The bulk of Feed the Beast reads closer to Schwimmers first big dramatic role: Duane Hopwood. The movie stars Schwimmer as the title character, a struggling casino pit boss in Atlantic City at odds with his ex-wife( Janeane Garofalo) and her new boyfriend( John Krasinski ), navigating male bonding with his aspiring comedian friend( Judah Friedlander ). Also, hes dealing with the fallout from a DUI, which forces him to ride a motorcycle to work.

For all the supposed seriousness of Duane Hopwood, the image of Schwimmer on a motorcycle is indicative of the ways the movie is irrevocably of its hour( a montage is set to Rockin the Suburbs ). Its one of several mid-0 0s vaguely whimsical dramas about men navigating adulthood with the tools of childhood, but one of the only ones that takes its project so seriously.( Duane begins to overcome his alcoholism after a single AA meeting, mystically lets go of his ex-wife, and doesnt even get that much blowback for driving over 80 mph drunk with his daughter in the car .) Schwimmer plays Hopwood as an empty shell of a man, redeemed mostly because the script says so, and because it would be too depressing if he wound up alone.

Like Duane Hopwood and much of his post-Friends career, Feed the Beast induces David Schwimmer a square peg in a role hole. He has to express serious high levels of grieving, engage in complicated business transactions with his characters estranged father, and most dangerous of all, mother his child( who receives The Talk about policemen in one of the series more strained moments ). None of these are flattering things to ask of Schwimmer, who has a strong skill set in other areas.( Namely, playing hyper-earnest proportions that are easily digestible into memes. Sorry .) If the Schwimmnaissance is to have any hope of sticking, hell have to find something a lot more square.( Namely, playing hyper-earnest proportions that are easily digestible into memes .) This explains why Schwimmers recent lip sync rap battle with James Corden was so successful late-night talk shows are now basically incubators for hyper-earnest memes.

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