A unifying theory of Matt Dillon, the quintessential homme fatale
What if we told you that Matt Dillon’s beauty is more than just a pretty face, and that his sexiness works to allow him to be the quintessential homme fatale? Staff writer Alisha Mughal explains.
There is a scene halfway through James Dearden’s melodramatically deadly thriller A Kiss Before Dying (1991) wherein Matt Dillon’s character Jonathan Corliss is leaving the Hobart Hotel in New York City with a suitcase. From the point of view of every person, staff member, and civilian passing through the hotel, Dillon’s Jonathan cuts a fairly normal figure — checking out of a hotel, as millions have done before and will do after. If he does catch your eye, it’s because of his expensive-looking dark suit, his shiny hair set perfectly, his porcelain skin and flushed cheeks, his pink lips like a rose petal creased in half, and his dark Irish eyebrows. If he does catch your eye… it’s because he’s jaw-droppingly beautiful.
But look a bit closer and you’ll see the madness. Jonathan’s feet strain and slip on the hotel’s lacquered floors, pulled by the heft of the noticeably bulging suitcase; his rose-petal lips are parted slightly as he works to steady and conceal the huff of his breathing. His tie is a bit loose (but not too loose), tied swiftly by a carefully-cultivated habit to look presentable. His face struggles to contain the strain his body is under: his eyebrows want to knit over his narrowed eyes, but are stopped by his trademark James Dean-esque squint. Jonathan’s affected control is the kind only a madman can muster. Jonathan has the kind of surface beauty that no one suspects, so they look away from him before they can notice the fact that the suitcase he’s dragging contains the chopped up body of a woman.
It’s roles with this interplay of pristine and handsome outer layer, masking a nutty madness that slowly seeps through the seams of the facade, that Matt Dillon has been playing for most of his career. It’s this complicated nature that interviewers and journalists alike have had difficulty identifying, let alone summarizing. In fact, writers follow the same trajectory of interpretation as the people passing through the Hobart Hotel who admire briefly and then overlook Jonathan, as though beauty elides any malice or depth of thought. Writers get caught up initially in Dillon’s beauty so they neglect to look deeper. Dillon hints time and again through his performances and through his own words what exactly his process in selecting roles is, but many critics neglect this in favor of disparate surface readings, because the surface is so beguiling.