In Matt Damon news, the Academy Award winner dons eyeglasses in his new movie, “Suburbicon,” directed by his good friend George Clooney. For some reason, in order to play a regular, everyday man in weird or hostile situations, Damon’s characters must wear either horn-rimmed spectacles or browline models. For “Suburbicon,” Damon plays 1950s family man Gardner Lodge who plots to kill his wife so he can run off with her sister and collect the insurance money. The bloody, domestic satire features the ideal life in the suburbs and the ugly reality it hides. He dons the browline glasses for this one.
This look may remind movie-goers of a previous Damon role, as Edward Wilson in the 2006 dramatic thriller, “The Good Shepherd.” Based on the birth of the CIA, Damon plays a spy who is recruited to join the intelligence community while at Yale and would later become the director of the government agency. Sporting the browliners, Damon appears as a regular guy in the thick of confusing, difficult times as tensions with Germany, Russia and Cuba were high in the 1930s through the 1960s.
In their heyday, browliners were the most popular model of eyeglasses. Invented in 1947 by Jack Rohrbach, they were the top sellers in the 1950s. In history and pop culture, they were associated with football legend Vince Lombardi, civil rights icon Malcolm X and actor James Dean. One of the most cinematic turns for browliners comes from Michael Douglas as the anger-filled, laid-off worker who is having a really bad day in 1993’s “Falling Down.” With a crew cut, white button-down shirt and a briefcase, Douglas’ William Foster is a dangerous, four-eyed man. Damon has yet to make a memoable impression in browliners, but they seem to make him look more ordinary.
Another glasses-wearing role for Damon is of real-life mole Mark Whitacre in the 2009 comedy “The Informant!” Directed by another Damon collaborator Steven Soderbergh, Damon’s Whitacre informs the FBI of his higher-ups’ price-fixing schemes related to an animal feed additive. The wrongdoing involved many international companies, and Whitacre is tasked to record, note and detail anything that may be criminally related. Wacky and witty in execution with a 1970s feel, Damon’s performance as the highly unstable Whitacre, with a few bad bones of his own, is like watching the unpopular kid in town suddenly becoming a star. His glasses make him look like an idiot, an accessory commonly associated with nerdiness and intelligence. I remember seeing a large-scale advertisement during the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival featuring Damon’s goofy mug with horn-rimmed glasses surrounded in yellow and without knowing what the movie was about, I could tell that his character may not have all the marbles and is perhaps looking into a dark future with misguided optimism.
Damon is not the only superstar sporting glasses this fall season. Denzel Washington dons dark-rimmed, oversized spectacles in Dan Gilroy’s “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” Washington portrays the title character, a civil rights attorney whose lifelong work is at its end. Israel joins a larger law firm and his mission in life sways with the new environment he has taken. In the film’s first poster, instead of a front-facing Washington, who is one of the most handsome actors working today, viewers see a peek of his glasses and the back of his head full of dense coils. It’s a striking campaign and surprising move to only sell a movie by its star’s name alone.
Washington is not a stranger to glasses as he wore them in his Oscar-nominated role in 1992’s “Malcolm X.” To take on the weight of the historic figure, Washington donned browliners. Malcolm X was known to have several pairs of browliners, from wood-detailed to black-rimmed, and Washington mostly wore black frames in the role, from the line formation scene in front of police, his riveting speeches to his followers to his life-changing hajj to Mecca.
Washington also wears eyeglasses in the 2009 remake of “The Taking of Pelham 123,” directed by Tony Scott. Washington plays regular-guy Walter Garber, a New York subway dispatcher whose day is ruined as a hijacker (John Travolta) takes over a train. Garber faces character challenges along the way as he is placed in the unlikely role of being a hero.
“Suburbicon” will hit theaters Oct. 27, and “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” will land Nov. 3.