My Policeman

Amazon’s ‘My Policeman’ Shows Harry Styles’ Charm Belongs on Stage, Not Film

Harry Styles does poorly in Amazon Prime Video’s My Policeman.

Sorry. As someone who spent too much to see Harry Styles in concert and loves to wax poetic about fandom, this saddens me. If this wasn’t true, I wouldn’t risk burning my Twitter mentions. Harry Styles is a wonderful singer, songwriter, and pop sensation, but not an actor. Not yet. Really? OK!

Styles may become an excellent actor with practise. Maybe even excellent. He wasn’t ready for My Policeman, and director Michael Grandage (or the producer who held a pistol to Grandage’s head) did Styles a disservice by hiring him. My Policeman stars Styles as Tom, a closeted policeman in 1950s England who falls in love with Patrick, a museum curator portrayed by David Dawson. In Golden Age short shorts, collared shirts, and sweater vests, Styles looks like a movie star.

In another ’50s period drama, Don’t Worry Darling, the correct appearance helped him survive. My Policeman is risky and demanding. At least four personal sex scenes make it quite tactile. (They are delicate, sensitive, and well-directed, but would make even the most seasoned actor uncomfortable.) It’s a heartbreaking, forbidden romance that depends on the two characters’ chemistry. Unfortunately, Styles fails.

Styles is uncomfortable, stiff, and wooden in a part that should be attractive, engaging, and compelling because Patrick gushes over “my policeman” in his journal entries. Tom’s sexuality-related anxiety can only explain so much. Dawson, a 2007 Laurence Olivier nominee, gives and gives. Styles is trying, but he can’t match Dawson’s flirtatiousness. Instead of pulling for these star-crossed lovers, you wish Patrick—a fascinating, erudite man who has you leaning in with curiosity every time he’s on screen—would drop this dull officer and go on.

Styles’ magnetic stage presence is a 180. Because Styles has that “lean in” charm. His charisma makes him a huge star with a loyal fanbase. Not his sharp cheekbones or floppy hair made him famous. Not exactly. Styles’ love and excitement make him the most popular member of One Direction. His wide-eyed, nonjudgmental awe at his millions of loving supporters. He embraces the oddballs who applaud him. He also looks good in a dress. If you don’t have “it,” fans won’t plan a press tour for you. Many were afraid Amazon wasn’t promoting My Policeman enough.

That may be why Hollywood producers, agents, and executives who promoted Styles assumed his charisma would translate to movies. In Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, when he looked terrific in a WWII outfit and scarcely had any lines, no one complained. Fans and non-fans laughed at his 2019 Saturday Night Live hosting gig. After his unsettling presence in the Eternals after-credits scene, some anxiety set in. However, starring parts in Oscar-bait, buzzy films like Don’t Worry Darling and My Policeman are significantly different from cameos and live sketch comedy. I’m unaware of Styles’ acting training. He wasn’t ready to appear opposite Florence Pugh, who was nominated for an Oscar and BAFTA. He can’t handle a gay love tale about homophobia, repression, and denial.

Hollywood bosses with cash signs have long forced pop artists into projects they shouldn’t be in. Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez succeed, while Beyoncé and Mariah Carey fail. Styles will be fine—those sold-out tour dates won’t change—but you feel for him. The juicy celebrity drama surrounding Styles’ relationship with Don’t Worry Darling filmmaker Olivia Wilde has hurt Styles’ public image in recent months, outside of his close followers. He needed a My Policeman victory. This film disappoints fans. Styles may attend the Oscars with additional training. His appeal is greater on stage for now.

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