January 30, 2008

Psychotic Review: Tom Cruise, an Unauthorized Biography

Andrew Morton's newest expose touts itself as "uncovering the true story of the biggest celebrity of our age". I myself found the book, in general, to be somewhat disappointing.

Maybe it was the over year-long buildup. Maybe it was being overinformed, to a degree, about Tom before reading this. Maybe it was a general feeling that the pen dipped in venom that I expected and hoped for was nothing more than a pencil with a fairly sharp tip.

Morton's tome does provide more information about Tom's childhood and background than any previous literary efforts but it still feels as though a great deal of essentials are missing or were left uncovered. And some particulars seem a bit hard to swallow. Would a fifth-grade teacher watching young Tommy Mapother playing "The Sun" in a school pageant really be blown away by his performance? Would she really still be remembering this performance, some 35+ years later, if Tommy Mapother hadn't grown up to become Tom Cruise?

And did Tommy Mapother really grow up to become Tom Cruise or did he simply walk into a role that he's been unable and unwilling to shed for more than 25 years?

Morton does shed a small amount of light on Tom's relationship with his father, also known as the "merchant of chaos" as Tom referred to him in one interview, but spills more ink on Tom's relationship with his ever-present mother, Mary Lee, who apparently did the majority of the childrearing.

Surprisingly, while Morton does address the gay rumors (how can you write a tell-all about Tom Cruise and not?) he concludes that Tom was quite the ladies man in high school and beyond and is actually a roaring womanizer versus a closet-hiding homosexual. The statements supporting this seem rather thin (a typical statement from an ex-girlfriend being "my back was black and blue from the gearshift, I'll tell you that") as does the section detailing Cruise's first marriage, to actress (and Scientology introducer) Mimi Rogers.

Personally I was expecting a bit more as far as revelations go, but either Morton is stingy with detail or encountered a serious lack thereof. As a reader you never get the feeling that love had much to do with Cruise and Rogers' legal unity and while the Church of Scientology may have had a hand in bringing Cruise and Rogers together, they most certainly played a major part in their dissolution.

And this brings me to the most interesting part of Morton's book. The role of Scientology in Cruise's career, his marriages and his life. While Morton skims over some of Cruise's movie roles, and neglects to mention others, he doesn't shy away from the Scientology question. The hierarchy, the questionable practices and belief system, the close friendship between Scientology head David Miscavige and Cruise, all are exposed, even the ridiculous on its face rumor that Cruise spawn Suri was conceived via Rosemary's Baby with Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's frozen sperm. Crazy, yes, but somehow when the subject is Tom Cruise no form of crazy is off limits.

Many pages are devoted to Cruise's decade-long marriage to actress Nicole Kidman. Surprisingly, Kidman emerges worse for the wear, being shown as a needy, manipulative, ambitious and vain woman who drove Cruise to his limits. Their adoption of children Bella and Conor are explained not as a cover for their respectively homosexual private lives (alleged, of course) but due to Kidman's ectopic pregnancy early in the marriage which made carrying another pregnancy to term unlikely. The confusion of the end of the Cruise-Kidman marriage is not cleared up in these pages. Kidman is portrayed as shocked, surprised and hurt, while Cruise comes across much like an adolescent who doesn't know how to maturely break off a relationship.

Most disturbing of his relationships was his brief month-long pursuant of Sofia Vergara in 2005, where the actress was "love bombed" with text messages, telephone calls, flowers, candy and gifts. The gifts including, of course, trips to the Scientology Celebrity Center and the written word of L. Ron Hubbard. Just as quick as Cruise can apparently turn on the charm and high pursuit, he can also quickly transfer his attentions and presumably his affections, as Vergara found out after getting cold feet over the rush. Less than a month after his intense pursuit of Vergara, Cruise had moved on to Katie Holmes and the rest, as they say, is history.

Perhaps most disappointing, Morton writes precious little about the TomKat media beast and the many questions and rumors surrounding the arguably most public of Cruise's relationships. From Morton's viewpoint, Holmes truly fell in love with the bombastic Cruise and the only contract worth mentioning was the prenuptial that Holmes' attorney father helped to negotiate. No talk of a contract marriage, although Morton does mention that the Church of Scientology helped to put together a short list of prospective brides for Cruise (Holmes was number five on the list).

In short (no pun intended), I found Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography not quite the explosive biography I had hoped for. For the average layperson (i.e., someone that doesn't consume Tom Cruise gossip like a junkie on a three-day binge), TC: AUB will be an interesting mix of controlling, yet embarrassingly romantic, superstar wholly consumed by his dependence and dominance in a questionable "Church". For me, I found the book a bit dry, a bit anticlimactic. While I didn't dislike (or like) Tom Cruise any more or less than I had before picking up the book, I also didn't feel like I had gotten any further insight on him or his life.

Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography by Andrew Morton.

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