Once upon a time, I considered myself something of a thirstbucket for Rami Malek. Perhaps it was the brooding brilliance he portrayed on Mr. Robot (a great show) or the brooding brilliance he portrayed in Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (the best Twilight), but he was such a transfixing enigma to me as an onscreen star that in the summer of 2016, before everything went real bad, I wrote an ode to the actor proclaiming him an even better “internet boyfriend” than, qué escándalo, Oscar Isaac.
Last summer, or perhaps it was the summer before, I saw Malek walking down Houston Street in New York City, slightly taller than I expected (in that he was slightly taller than I), wearing a hoodie and gazing up at the marquee for the Sunshine Cinema, itself now a distant memory, just dust for a condo to supplant. His eyes were glistening; his jaw was deadly; I felt like lightning was striking my insides but managed to act like a normal New Yorker and keep it moving while, and this was so funny, a bunch of extremely nerdy teen boys standing outside the theater lost their shit, pointing and freaking out that their Mr. Robot hero was in the flesh.
This seems ages ago now, long before Bohemian Rhapsody and those monster teeth were international topics, long before an Oscar was a gleam in anyone’s eye, least of all Rami Malek’s, if his reaction upon receiving an Oscar at the Oscars was any indication. Then, we reached saturation, and the Rami reality seemed to invert: Rami Malek did the weird, Patrick Bateman-esque Mandarin Oriental commercial; Rami Malek claimed not to know Bryan Singer, the original director of Bohemian Rhapsody, was a longtime alleged predator (though he did later say that he sympathized with the alleged victims and that working with Singer sucked). It was too much, and the sheen, for me, was slightly dulled, like when someone you’re just getting to know calls too many times in one day. We’re not tight like that yet. I need my space.
Foot, MEET MOUTH. Rami Malek is on the cover of GQ’s September issue looking sharp and nice in a wide variety of impressive suiting, and the ensuing story by writer Molly Young is a reminder that Rami Malek is not his Boho Rhaps version of Freddie Mercury, nor is he really the dead-faced poet of the Mandarin commercial. He’s freaking Rami Malek and he is Elliot from Mr. Robot, a freakily brilliant little show about hackers and predatory capitalism, and I hate how much the details in Young’s story remind me that I stone cold love this dude as an actor and person. The thing I hate most about it is that my favorite part comes when he is shopping for his girlfriend, Lucy Boynton, at the freaking Goop store. Ugh! He buys her a nice-smelling deodorant ($11!), assures the clerk he’s not shoplifting, jokingly uses the British slang “chuffed,” then has that shit fucking gift wrapped:
Malek asks the salesperson to take the deodorant and wrap it painstakingly in black cloth in a jewelry box and then to throw the necklace into a deceptively informal Goop shopping bag. That way, when Lucy opens the deodorant, she’ll think she’s being mildly punked, and then he’ll hit her with the hidden necklace.
“Do you think this gift requires a card?” he wonders aloud.
No, I think it’s cooler if it’s just a random “thinking of you” gift.
“I agree. Is this boring for you?”
What, running errands with Academy Award® winner Rami Malek? No. Anyway, nothing is more fun than colluding on gifts for someone, especially when I’m not paying for the gifts.
“Good. This will be funny. She’ll think I’m being goofy.”
Mission accomplished. He leaves the store and heads north. Lucy is at a restaurant on the west side; the plan is to walk across town and meet her there with the presents. Malek swings the bag in hand. The sun is shining. He is upbeat.
I HATE THAT I LOVE HIM SO MUCH!