La Dolce Vita, TomKat Style: Fellini Without The Cameras

By David Segal
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 19, 2006

Subtle it was not.

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were married yesterday in a medieval castle 25 miles from Rome, surrounded by celebrities, a horde of paparazzi and hundreds of rain-soaked fans.

We hear you loud and clear, Mr. and Mrs. Cruise. You are super duper married. You are this-time-it's-for-real married.

Yessiree. What could possibly go wrong?

There are quieter ways to tie the knot than a Hollywood A-list wedding with guests including Will Smith, J.Lo and business partner Dan Snyder, then dispatching paramilitary police to keep prying eyes away from the service. It was as though Cruise were needling skeptics who guffawed when he claimed that he couldn't wait to wed the 27-year-old actress and mother of his newborn child.

You know, the same people who claimed that TomKat was just some publicity stunt. The dummies who argued that Ms. Holmes agreed to this union to resuscitate her flagging, post-"Dawson's Creek" career.

Well, psych! You people just got owned.

Because they did it, these crazy kids. (Well, Cruise is 44, but whatever.) We know because at 8 p.m. yesterday, Italian time, a rep for the couple -- of course the couple have a rep -- confirmed the exchange of vows and rings. It was like NASA announcing something momentous but unseen.

Aside from a terse 'mission accomplished,' however, we learned little else. In fact, as a media circus, this wedding was kind of a bust. Cable news anchors were left grumpily staring at a live feed of the Castello Odescalchi in the town of Bracciano, wondering if the couple would emerge and bless the assembled with a photo op, and perhaps a sound bite.

"They're teasing us," harrumphed Ashlan Gorse of Life & Style Weekly in an interview on MSNBC.

Don't expect a glimpse tonight, Gorse told viewers, because the couple reportedly plan to sell wedding shots to a magazine. Or two, or three, with proceeds to go to a charity.

"All that money could go to Scientology," Gorse chuckled.

Ah yes, Scientology: Cruise's religion and the wild card of this whole event. Italy doesn't recognize weddings performed by Scientologists, so for a brief moment of on-air coverage yesterday there was the open question of whether there was enough Catholicism in the mix to earn the host country's imprimatur. But the couple's publicist later helpfully clarified: The pair already had submitted paperwork in the States needed to "officialize" this marriage.

That left just the question of whether the vows included the traditional Scientology promise to the bride of clothing, food and for reasons that you would need an expert to explain, a pan, a comb and a cat? Was the bride referred to as a "girl," as is customary, and was there the suggestion that men deserve a little room to, you know, stray?

We'll know soon enough. But who other than Cruise could orchestrate this totally public but totally private wedding and leave commentators to wonder aloud whether he was actually married?

What's known for now are the mundane details. That Jim Carrey got lost outside the castle barricades and ended up swarmed by fans. That the colors at the ceremony and the table settings for dinner were white, red and gold. That the cake was rigged with some kind of special effect that spewed rose petals when the couple made the first cut.

We know that onlookers were mostly disappointed, because the celebs arrived in limos with darkened windows and nobody got a really good look at them.

And yet we watched the wedding, as we watch everything Cruise-related, with a curiosity that borders on the forensic. Because, first and foremost, he is one of the most successful movie stars ever, with a lifetime box office gross of more than $2.6 billion, according to Also because we sense that despite all of his strenuous grinning, despite all the talk-show nattering about how everything is great and I do my own stunts and this is love, baby, love-- despite all this we know that there is something else going on here. We just don't know what. Cruise is the country's mystery patient and he has turned us all into befuddled doctors.

We see the symptoms -- the intermittently controlled rage, the odd way he mishandles fame, the couch-punishing interview he did with Oprah, the anti-psychiatry rant to Matt Lauer on "Today" -- and we scratch our heads.

With the wedding, just as with his life and movie work, the theme is overcompensation. From the (alleged) lifts in his shoes to his semaphore approach to professing love, to the freakishly rigid way he sprints in action movies, there are always signs of drive and determination that seem anabolic.

How Katie fits in is anyone's guess. Maybe the couple are every bit as in love as they claim. Maybe the tabloids run photos of Katie only if they have that distressed, what-have-I-done look she always seems to wear during her shopping sprees. Maybe her family really loves Tom, as he claims they do.

But we can't watch the TomKat show without wondering if this whole thing is, in fact, a show. No matter how many color photographs Vanity Fair runs of Tom, Kate and baby Suri frolicking on a hill, the possibility that this is all a charade never goes away.

Of course if it's an arrangement, that means that Katie Holmes, the tweener's answer to Snow White, struck a Faustian bargain involving a baby and marriage. Which sounds crazy, though perhaps it's not harder to buy than the lightning-quick courtship that preceded this union.

Perhaps we'll find out one day. Until then, we will stay mesmerized by Mr. and Mrs. Cruise, even if we can't really see them.

Washington Post correspondent Sarah Delaney contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company