Miracle on 53rd Street

On Phone Booth

Raphaela Weissman


Melani and I watched Phone Booth and talked about it and I wrote down what we said! This movie was flawed, but fun. Pretty flawed. We spend a lot of time talking about Colin Farrell’s appearance and accent work, which I will address ever so briefly: Colin Farrell, as a person who is regularly cast in leading roles in major Hollywood projects, is objectively an extremely attractive man, and if he doesn’t look great in a movie, it’s because he was made up intentionally to not look great, or because the hair and makeup and costuming choices in 2003 are disastrously of the time. These are in no way personal attacks on our guy, nor are our criticisms of his accent work. I think almost every non-American English-speaking person who does an American accent sounds a little silly — in fact, I’m only willing to name one British actor whose American accent contains no traces of that funny “I’m a British person doing an American accent” thing, and that’s Dr. House himself, Hugh Laurie, and even he says it’s really hard to do.

I hate disclaimers, let’s move on to the fun part, shall we? Here is my conversation with Melani, lightly annotated, on Phone Booth. (Oh wait one last thing! I have tried to link all of our references — Melani and I are extremely cultured people, as you’ll soon see, but we are nothing if not inclusive. We want everyone to have access to our vast library of knowledge. If you don’t know who Claire’s boyfriend on Six Feet Under is now, you will by the time you’ve finished reading this.)

Setting the stage (or, who did Colin Farrell date in the ’90s?)

Raphaela: Melani, what are your associations with Colin Farrell? What do you think about when you think about him?

Melani: I think… Irish, above all.

Raphaela: Above all!

Melani: Above all else. I think of In Bruges… that was him, right? That might be the only specific movie that I know I’ve seen him in. I’m sure I’ve seen him in lots of other movies too.

R: Do you recall him as like a headline, tabloid name in the nineties?

M: Mmm… rings a bell? Why, what was he up to in the nineties?

R: Do you want to know who he reportedly dated, or do you want to try to guess it as we watch the movie?

M: Ok, well if it’s the nineties, 2000s… Gwyneth Paltrow?

R: That’s a really good guess. Here, I’ll give you specific feedback on your guesses. In response to Gwyneth, I’d say that’s a lot less surprising than what the answer is.

M: Oh, it’s weirder than that?

R: Yeah, you’ve gotta get way weirder. More out there.

M: Ok, I’m gonna say Jenny McCarthy.

R: That’s much closer! That’s much much closer.

M: Ok, so your hint was a good one.

R: I think if you wanted to just play off of Jenny McCarthy, you could get it from there.

M: I’m gonna marinate on that. I’m just gonna let Jenny McCarthy roll around in my brain.

R: Okay, and as you get his vibe as we watch, and you think about who you could see him… I don’t know, going to the farmers’ market with on like a Sunday…

M: …Johnny Knoxville?

R: With Colin Farrell at the farmers’ market?

M: Yeah.

R: Well now we’re just talking about things that are sexy to think about. You’re supposed to be guessing who he dated.

M: Right, right.

A promising start

The movie opens with shots of satellites in outer space and extensive footage of people on phones. A voiceover tells us there are something like three million telephone exchanges in New York City alone.

R: This is my favorite movie I’ve ever seen already, and we haven’t seen Colin Farrell.

M: I love it.

R: It takes place in Times Square, our favorite place in the world...

M: So far, it’s like Gravity meets The Matrix meets…

R: The 25th Hour? I was trying to think of a New York movie…

M: Cops have cell phones! Ladies have cell phones!

R: If the whole movie was this, I wouldn’t be mad about it. I’m having a great time with this informative video about phones in New York City.

— — — — — —

R: Oh my God, we were living in New York in 2003!

M: That’s right.

R: This was freshman, sophomore years, these were our years (M and I met freshman year at NYU and lived together sophomore year).

M: I did have a cell phone. I got one when I moved to New York. When did you get a cell phone?

R: I got one the year I lived with you.

M: Okay, so this is very timely!

Six conversations on accents and hair

M: There he is!

R: Oh dear. Readers… my eyes are popping out of my head, we’ve just seen Colin Farrell for the first time—

M: — and he looks like shit.

R: …I can’t handle what I’m seeing and hearing. He looks like shit in every way, his terrible sunglasses are not even on straight, and I have to be honest with you, I can’t tell if he’s doing an American accent or not. I think he is?… Yes, he is. God, it is terrible.

— — — — —

R: Ok, his facial hair in this is going to be really difficult for me. I don’t like that at all.

M: It makes him look like a different person.

R: It really covers up some good features and brings out some bad features, I feel.

M: Yeah, I mean if that’s the intention… it might be! It’s weird to see him looking like such a doof. It’s ok, though. I’m kind of looking forward to watching him be a dork. It sounds refreshing.

— — — — —

R: Sometimes, I just really don’t want to hear him talk.

M: Because of the accent, or?…

R: Yeah. Maybe I’m being harsh about the accent.

M: No, the accent’s terrible.

— — — — —

R: If they wrote him as Irish-American, that’s going to make me extra angry. It’s New York City, why not just be like, he’s an Irish guy living in New York? Like probably a million other people?

M: I’ll be curious if he has some kind of backstory about… growing up in Brooklyn? Or if, for no reason, they just made him do an accent.

— — — — —

R: You can cover up the bottom half of his face…

M: …and remember that he’s attractive?

R: It’s quite a bummer to start a movie with an attractive person, objectively speaking, I’m not even talking about personal preference, he’s just an attractive person, and to have that taken away.

M: Like why are we watching?

R: Like there’s not going to be anything to look at, whenever he’s on the screen.

M: For the entire movie, yeah.

R: I’m not opposed to seeing his teeth a little bit more. That’s helping. Sorry I’m talking about this the whole time.

M: Well, we have to look at it the whole time.

R: Come on baby, show me those teeth!

M: Show me those pearly whites!

— — — — —

R: He has so much hair on top, there’s so much hair on top of his head.

M: It’s like a helmet.

R: Do you think there’s any possibility that that’s a wig, and not a haircut? Because it’s so bad? I almost would prefer it if it was a wig.

M: The goatee looks homegrown, though.

R: Yeah…

M: There’s no getting around that.

R: No…

The stars come out

R: Is that Claire’s boyfriend from Six Feet Under?

M: Oh my God.

(Note: Ben Foster, is this actor’s name.)

— — — — —

M: Now who’s this?

R: NO WAY!!!!

M&R in unison: IT’S JOEY!!!

R: It’s Joey, folks. (Note: It’s Katie Holmes.)

M: Is she also doing an accent? She’s kind of doing a little baby voice.

R: That’s kind of her thing. (In a baby voice) “Come on, Dawson!”

— — — — —

(The cops show up.)

R and M: YES!!!!!!!!!!!!

M: I didn’t realize this was such a star-studded film!

R: Forest motherfuckin’ Whitaker in the house.

— — — — —

R: Cop number two has looked a little bit mystified through this whole thing.

M: Like maybe he’s an actor playing a cop who wandered onto a crime scene? That’s something that would happen to Joey Tribbiani.

R: I think it’s possible that this actor is nervous.

M: Nervous?

R: Is that really rude?

M: To be in the presence of —

R: Yeah, to be around Forest, and to be in a feature film? He seems nervous, he’s got kind of a nervous vibe. Maybe I won’t write any of this in the actual thing, maybe that’s super bitchy.

M: No, I love that theory, are you kidding me?

R: I hope it’s not super rude to say about a professional actor.

M: I think it’s super funny.


Colin Farrell picks up a ringing phone in a phone booth, and it’s a psychopath who knows intimate stuff about him and says if he, Colin Farrell, hangs up, he, the psychopath, will kill him.

R: I’m going to be obsessed with who this voice is and I’m not going to be able to figure it out.

M: I was just thinking that.

— — — — — —

M: Do you think they let him (mystery voice guy) just adlib?

R: Just let him go? I hope we find out it’s like, Wayne Brady, like someone who’s good at improv.

M: I hope we find out it’s AI. Like a robot.

R: Oh my God, yes! Wait, I gotta show you my AI portraits of myself.

M: What does that mean??

R: There’s an app where you put in a bunch of photos of yourself and the app generates 50 portraits of you.

M: Cool, I wanna see.

R: I’m glad that’s your reaction. Whenever there’s a thing like that, people are like, “Duh, just let the algorithm scan your face, GENIUS, that’s a smart thing to do, give AI access to your — ”

M: Oh, whatever. I’m pretty sure they have all my information already. I’m not worried about it.

R: That’s exactly right. We’re already — the Matrix is here, my friends. Eat some Italian cookies and—

M: Eat some steak.

R: Live it up. Watch some Colin Farrell movies. It’s here.

— — — — — —

R: I’m gonna call him Wilson, the guy we can’t see. Wilson is annoying.

M: He is annoying, among other things.

(Just then, Wilson says, “This reminds me of ’Nam.” We laugh a lot.)

R: Wilson, get out of here! You weren’t in ’Nam, Wilson.

(Just then, Wilson calls Colin Farrell an idiot for believing that he was in Vietnam. “I’d have to be fifty to have been in that war!” he yells at him, disdainfully.)

R: “How dare you suggest I’m fifty.” I guess we learned that Wilson’s kind of a diva; we could exploit that, use that against him, right?

M: We found his weak spot. His vanity will be his downfall.

— — — — — —

R: Boy, I can’t wait to find out so much about Wilson, to a point where I’m like, are they going to tell us anything about this guy?

M: I don’t think so. I was going to ask for your predictions for the end of the movie, and then I was like, I don’t think there even is going to be a big reveal.

— — — — — —

R: Everyone in this movie is very confused all the time except for Wilson.

M: Well, it’s Wilson’s world.

R: We’re just living in it.

— — — — — —

More important revelations

R: This, big time, is the kind of movie I’d watch on TV with my dad. Because it would be on TV, and he’d be flipping, and we’d watch it.

M: Would you make fun of it, does your dad make fun of movies?

R: Yeah, sometimes we would. Oh man. You know what I watched on TV with my dad one time that I would love to watch again? It’s this movie where Meryl Streep and David Strathairn, however you say his name, are on a river trip and they get lost or some kind of crazy shit happens while they’re boating on the river?

M: I wanna watch that movie, that sounds like a good time.

R: The River Wild. 1994.

— — — — — —

M: Ok, this movie does have my attention, because I am really curious, what’s going to happen when they try to get him out of the booth???

— — — — — —

M: How much do you think Bell Atlantic paid to be part of this?

R: Gosh, I mean they’re in just about every shot. (The phone booth says Bell Atlantic.) Adjusted for inflation? I’m not very good at that. I would say $74,983.

M: The only sponsor who paid more was Colin Farrell’s bloody ear.

R: Like Colin Farrell’s Bloody Ear Cereal Treats?

M: You get a bloody ear in every box.

— — — — — —

M: Is that Harry Connick, Jr.?

R: I would be so happy if that was Harry Connick, Jr.

M: Just wishful thinking, I think.

R: Do you know that Harry Connick, Jr. played at my great uncle Milton’s sixtieth birthday party?


R: Yeah, he’s super rich, and it was the talk of the family, he got Harry Connick, Jr. for his birthday party.

M: Where was the party?

R: Somewhere in Manhattan.

M: Wow wow wow.

R: You’ll never look at me the same again, now that you know that.

M: No, I won’t. Did your parents go?

R: I think so?

M: Ask them how Harry Connick, Jr. was!

A thrilling conclusion (not to the movie)

R: I just confirmed that this particular relationship that you’re trying to guess… it was in progress in 2003. Around this era, apparently, was when he had just one date

M: Only one date? And it was enough to make headlines?

R: With a certain person…

M: Britney Spears.

R: THAT’S CORRECT!!! How did you fucking do that???

M: I’m so excited! I won the game, that’s fun.

R: I can’t believe you did that! I’m really impressed.

M: (looking something up on her phone) Is this the article you found? “Eleven Men Who Were Lucky Enough to Date Britney Spears”? Wow, Fred Durst??

Bringing it home

M: This is still happening! They haven’t shut this down!

R: I was thinking about that a minute ago, it seems like all of New York City has come to a screeching halt because of this phone booth situation.

M: It’s especially interesting that they made that reference to “you’ll get shot for pulling out your wallet,” because it does highlight the absurdity of this whole movie. Like he would be dead by now, right?

R: Yeah, everybody’s really taking their sweet time.

M: I’m surprised New York City allowed this to be filmed.

— — — — — —

R: This movie is a wild ride. Don’t you ever pick up a pay phone, anybody reading this.

M: This could so easily be you, is the moral of this story.

— — — — — —

Wilson is revealed to be [actor] — I’m withholding the spoiler, but if you look up just about anything about Phone Booth, you’ll probably see who it is immediately.

R: It’s [actor], but why?

M: I don’t know. I really don’t know.

R: Why?

M: I think they’re absolutely not going to tell us why.

R: I’m staring at the screen slack-jawed. If they don’t tell us what the fuck is going on —

M: I think that’s the end of the movie.

R: I think you’re probably right.

M: [Actor] is just an agent of chaos.

R: He’s just out here trying to fuck shit up.

(Credits start)

M and R: Joel Schumacher!

This is a Joel Schumacher movie! M and I did not know until the credits.

— — — — — —

R: I can’t wait to watch The River Wild.

M: Yeah, that’s going to be great.

R: We’re gonna have a great time.



Raphaela Weissman

Raphaela is a writer living in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of the novel Monsters: https://unbound.com/books/monsters/