Ah, Ansel Elgort.
The mere mention of the Goldfinch star inspires debate in nearly any context. People love him or they hate him; they want to punch him, or they want to kiss him; they’re endlessly entertained by his star persona, or they would rather he never make another movie (or take another selfie) again.
Nonetheless, Ansel marches on, and so must we. Two years ago, The Ringer’s Andrew Gruttadaro asked the simple question: “Is Ansel Elgort Good?” His verdict: yes.
Whether my cherished coworker was right about this (he wasn’t) doesn’t seem to matter much anymore. Whether Ansel is good or bad has proved irrelevant to the several high-profile projects he has picked up in the meantime. (Looking at you, West Side Story.) But as those projects begin to hit theaters and encounter middling-to-terrible reviews—and box office results, as with The Goldfinch—it’s time to consider: Is Ansel Elgort truly a movie star? In order to decide, let’s examine Ansel’s many public personas—from Spielbergian Muse to Elite Instagram Boyfriend.
Ansel Elgort As a Serious Actor
Ansel has come a long way from capturing teenage hearts with Shailene Woodley in The Fault in Our Stars—not to mention their shared, failed Divergent series. 2017’s Baby Driver was the step he needed to move from Vaguely Obnoxious Heartthrob to Vaguely Obnoxious-Yet-Entertaining Frontman, and since then, his star has been firmly on the rise.
In October 2018, those Baby Driver dance moves worked in Ansel’s favor, when he was cast as Tony in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of West Side Story. Reactions were mixed, but as one Twitter user pointed out, few roles could be more on-brand for our boy.
whatever your thoughts on west side story are, props to ansel elgort for keeping his Well-Intentioned Boyfriend Who Dies In The End brand strong pic.twitter.com/FNlhxZbX92— emma lord (@dilemmalord) October 2, 2018
It remains to be seen whether Ansel can do justice to West Side Story, but his most recent leading role, in this week’s The Goldfinch, doesn’t seem to bode well. The “morose and downbeat movie” has raked in a series of bad reviews and disappointing box office numbers; the movie’s first weekend was the sixth worst of any movie to open in more than 2,500 theaters. Ansel isn’t the problem with The Goldfinch—he isn’t actually in the movie as much as advertised—but money talks, and so does Oscar buzz; or, in this case, the abrupt lack thereof.
Verdict: Ansel is a decent actor, but no one is counting the days until he collects that Oscar nomination; nor can he single-handedly carry a mediocre movie to box office success. Based on acting alone, Ansel Elgort is not a movie star.
Ansel Elgort As a Social Media User
These days, a celebrity has to know their social media brand. From Chris Evans’s earnest dog pictures tweets to Sophie Turner’s vape-god Instagrams, it’s a vital part of the movie star persona. And in Ansel’s case, it appears that he’s adopted Mirror Selfie King as his personal brand—so much so that on May 28, in the year of our lord 2019, Ansel posted 17 SHIRTLESS MIRROR PICS in a row to his Instagram account. I wish I could embed every single one here. You really have to see them all in a row to get the full effect. Alas, a small slice for your viewing … pleasure?
Selfie the first:
Selfie the fifth:
Selfie the 13th:
And finally, Selfie the 17th:
This was, in a word, baffling. It was also wildly entertaining.
The rest of Ansel’s social media is relatively standard celebrity stuff: He’s a devoted Instagram boyfriend to his girlfriend and high school sweetheart Violetta Komyshan; he does the occasional meme, and the occasional cute pet video; and he’s even tapped into the most powerful fandom on social media, the BTS army. (He got in early, too. Unlike, say, Wale, which was just sad.)
Verdict: Ansel’s Instagram and Twitter presence is just entertaining and confusing enough to spark conversation, but not seem too try-hard. Points to him for this one—Ansel’s social media is movie star caliber.
Ansel Elgort As a Cover Star
If we learned anything from Zoë Kravitz’s Rolling Stone cover, it’s that a good photo shoot can do wonders for a former Divergent actor. And to his credit, Ansel is putting in the work this year.
First, his blond phase—an internet boyfriend must, let’s be real—was immortalized for the ages in GQ Korea.
안셀 엘고트 Ansel Elgort (p: 목나정 Moke NaJung), GQ Korea, February 2019. 1/3 pic.twitter.com/N84F2JHgKk— 화보백업계정 (@jmtastexx) February 12, 2019
Then he lost the blond but donned lipstick and hair clips for V magazine’s August cover. What a run!
| | #VMAN42 cover star @anselelgort aims to disregard the heartthrob stereotype, & all eyes are on him as he tackles the leading role in the film adaption of @GoldfinchMovie. Pre-order the issue now at the link in bio! | #VMAN pic.twitter.com/KZ8XRVfKO4— VMAN Magazine (@VMAN) August 26, 2019
Ansel has got the photo shoot game on lock. Next up, perhaps he can move those talents to the red carpet—as his high school classmate Timothée Chalamet has proved, a little risk goes a long way.
Verdict: He may have a punchable face, but it looks pretty damn good in the checkout line at the grocery store. Ansel Elgort is a cover star.
Ansel Elgort As an Interviewee
As proved by Jake Gyllenhaal’s inspired press circuit for Spider-Man: Far From Home earlier this year, a good viral interview can go a long way. Unfortunately, Ansel doesn’t seem to have Jake’s crazy eyes or deep love for Sean Paul, and his attempts to charm hosts from Good Morning America to MTV have fallen flat—no matter how many carbs Keke Palmer attempted to force-feed him on camera.
That’s not that bad, just not particularly charming. But Ansel committed way harder for his Late Show appearance last week, to significantly more excruciating results.
Ansel, maybe don’t dance your way on the stage for a full minute before having to do an interview: otherwise you’ll be laughably out of breath and barely able to recover. Maybe he can blame Keke’s muffins for putting him in this position.
Verdict: Ansel, work on your press circuit technique. As far as Stephen Colbert is concerned, he is not a movie star interview. (Keke Palmer however … Go see Hustlers, everyone.)
It seems we’re at a stalemate. Andrew thinks Ansel is Good; I think he’s mostly Bad. His acting chops and interview skills aren’t movie star caliber, but his social media presence and modeling skills are. Where does this leave us? Since it’s up to me, I say: Ansel Is Not A Movie Star … Yet.
Steven Spielberg, you’re our—and Ansel’s—only hope. See you in 2020.