Did you hear the one about Justin Timberlake's movie-star card being revoked by the Hollywood Police? You did not. That's because, one, there is no such thing as the Hollywood Police, two, there is no such thing as a movie-star card, and, three, there is no reason Justin Timberlake should, as a Variety headline urged Monday, "stop acting."
True, Timberlake is not at his box-office peak after "Runner Runner." His new gambling thriller in which he stars alongside Ben Affleck got off to an expectedly lousy start this past weekend.
And, true, Timberlake has never really had a box-office peak, having yet to top-line a No. 1-opening movie.
And so what?
Meryl Streep, to reach for a comparison in order to bat down the argument, didn't star in a No. 1-opening movie until she was 58 and nearly 30 years into her movie career. Should she have "stop[ped] acting" when "She-Devil" or nearly all her films of the late 1990s fizzled? Of course not. Long before "Mamma Mia!" elevated her to the box-office elite, she won Oscars and starred in movies we love to watch.
Not unlike Timberlake.
He, too, is a performer we love to watch (partly because, as Vulture's Margaret Lyons noted last week, he so loves to perform). And though currently Oscar-free, he generated legitimate Oscar buzz for his supporting turn in "The Social Network." And, guess what: he's starred in movies people love to watch--no, really. "In Time," his 2011 sci-fi thriller, grossed more than four times its reported production budget. "Friends With Benefits," his 2011 romantic comedy, did likewise. Maybe the movies didn't play like big hits here, but they played like big hits overseas. And as long as you're big somewhere, you're big.
In the end, Timberlake doesn't need a blessing anymore than he needs an unsolicited career assessment. The only thing he needs is perspective: It is a rare thing to be movie star. It is so rare one should not ever willingly stop being a movie star. And one should not unwillingly stop being a movie star until one's movie-star card is pried from one's possession by the Hollywood Police, which, we remind, do not exist.
And the only advice Timberlake needs is something Affleck, his "Runner Runner" costar (miraculously off the hook for once) has lived: You're cold until you're hot; your career's over until you're Batman.
See Justin Timberlake in a clip from "Runner Runner":