How Promising Young Woman Turns Your Favorite Aughts Nice Guys Into Bad Men

Adam Brody, best known for playing Seth in The OC

Fennell really throws the gauntlet down when Seth Cohen, Patron Saint of Simps and Cool Geeks, reveals himself to actually be just as sleazy as the next guy. “It’s probably very unsettling,” says Brody, “It throws you for a loop right off the bat and sets the tone of unexpected for the rest of it.” That’s because at first blush it appears as if he’s really just playing a facsimile of Seth Cohen. There he is, meekly but affirmatively doing the right thing, shepherding a woman home and chastising his objectifying peers. (In a less emotionally devastating movie, this might’ve been a meet-cute.) And then the noble Uber ride home takes a dark turn, Brody’s Jerry changes the destination to his place, and your heart sinks. “That’s what’s so disgusting,” Brody laughs. “He thinks he’s being chivalrous. He could have just left her, but he’s rescuing her. And that lack of self-awareness and that self-delusion is really interesting. It’s more commonplace than we care to admit—or are finally starting to admit.”

For Brody, the point of his role isn’t so much casting against type but more about “using our boyishness, friendliness or seeming innocence to get you as an audience to let their guard down and take a much more pedestrian look at assault.” Fennell says “there’s a certain type of funny guy, who’s maybe not traditionally handsome, but still [is] this underdog,” she explains. “Even Adam Brody, who’s one of the best handsome men in the world, he often plays some underdog character. I think those nice guys maybe got away with a lot more than the jocks because I think they felt they were owed something.”

This type of role is rare enough for Brody that he called the experience “freeing.” “It’s very fun to not have to worry one little bit about getting an audience to like you,” Brody admits. “And in fact, finding little places to be especially awful, you can highlight that. It’s like leaning into your opposite instincts.”

Courtesy of Focus Features

Max Greenfield, best known for playing Schmidt in New Girl

By the time Max Greenfield enters the picture, Fennell’s game has become fully apparent. When Cassie saunters up to a bachelor party and an orchestral riff of “Toxic” swells, we’ve seen everyone from Seth Cohen to even Tami Taylor at their lowest. The question then becomes, just how high on the nostalgic faves list will Emerald go for her Final Boss? Then Cassie knocks… and it’s none other than Schmidt on the other side of the door. (Point of order: His New Girl role is clearly Greenfield’s most notable, but his stint on Veronica Mars qualifies him even more. A refresher: he was Leo, the charming, uncomplicated junior officer who gets jilted because emotional availability is boring TV.)

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