Chris Eigeman: An Appreciation

We realize that the tone of this blog can get a little…acrid at times. (Our mission is to chart the collapse of American pop culture, after all.) So every now and then, as a cleansing, we like to write something positive about someone we like.

In past appreciations of actorly types, we’ve praised the versatility of Kim Dickens and Jere Burns. That’s not Chris Eigeman’s jam.

Eigemen is not a chameleon, slipping from one role to the next with no traces of his inner Eigeman-ness shining through. That doesn’t mean he’s not a good actor.

In the ’90s, her served as the most prominent bridge between those verbose, mannered writer/directors, Whit Stillman and Noah Baumbach, appearing in three of each of their films. He became something of an icon for a very limited, very specific group of people who grew up in that decade. While he could walk down most streets completely anonymous, there are still a bunch of us who would get excited to see him walk into a bar we frequented.

Eigeman played very similar characters in all of Stillman and Baumbach’s films: panicky, well-spoken, urbane, and self-involved. His characters married Woody Allen’s less irritating neuroses and urban sensibility with the ’90s-centric cultural awareness, sarcastic streak, and naked nostalgia of Generation X.

He had such a distinctive persona– and was so inexorably tied to Stillman and Baumbach, who were not commercially successful, to say the least — that his career suffered when the clock struck 2000 and those directors stopped making films.

Eigeman garnered a supporting role in the ABC sitcom It’s Like, You Know, which was sold as “Seinfeld in L.A.,” and was not good but not terrible. When that series inevitably got the axe, he found his way to Gilmore Girls as one of Lorelai Gilmore’s paramours.

Gilmore Girls certainly had a large set of flaws, but Eigeman was a great match for Amy Sherman-Palladino’s overstylized, hypercaffeinated dialogue, and a good chemistry fit with Lauren Graham. He both grounded the show and brought it a more adult sensibility than it had previously experienced. When Lorelai eventually dropped Eigeman’s character for hulking moron slob Luke, it spelled the beginning of the end for the series creatively.

…and that’s pretty much been it for Chris Eigeman. Since his run on Gilmore Girls ended, he’s appeared in a few indie films (including Turn the River, which he wrote and directed), and a few one-off TV guest spots. “’90s Boy,” as the New York Observer called him, deserves better than he’s gotten in the new millennium.

Most recently, he popped up on Lena Dunham’s Girls, once again providing a dose of believability and interest to a deeply flawed show.

Eigeman should be able to make a lasting career of being a character actor and supporting player — he could easily be the romantic lead’s jaded best friend in any number of Hollywood comedies or a vital cog in the large cast of a high quality cable series. But he’s capable of more than that. Eigeman is likable enough and smart enough to pull of being a leading man — not in a big-budget smash-em-up, sure, but in indie films of the type he inhabited in the ’90s. His ability to play both lead and support is due to the balance he strikes between being funny enough to make you want to hang out with him and charismatic enough to make you forgive him when he’s a dick.

He’s grown into adulthood smoothly, and the charms and wit that carried him through Kicking and Screaming and Metropolitan play well with a few gray hairs on them.

Someone hire this guy right now. Please. He’s too good and still too young to be sitting on the sidelines for this long.


1 Comment

Filed under Film Has AIDS, Television Has AIDS, The Dilemma

One response to “Chris Eigeman: An Appreciation

  1. You know that Shakespearean admonition, “To thine own self be true”? It’s premised on the idea that “thine own self” is something pretty good, being true to which is commendable. But what if “thine own self” is not so good? What if it’s pretty bad? Would it be better, in that case, not to be true to thine own self?… See, that’s my situation.

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