It should be no surprise to anyone that consummate overachiever Ronan Farrow narrates the audiobook edition of his new book, Catch and Kill, himself. What is surprising for the audio rendition of this serious work of nonfiction reporting about Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement is that Farrow chose to summon special accents to read some of the book’s dialogue: As television writer Craig Rowin pointed out on Wednesday, if you listen to it, you can hear his impressions of everyone from a “tough Ukrainian guy” to Donald Trump himself. I listened my way down Rowin’s Twitter thread with great interest, and I have some thoughts. Here, a ranking of his voices—or at least the ones Rowin helpfully isolated on Twitter—from least to most objectionable.
If you just heard Farrow’s impression of his producer at NBC News, Rich McHugh—when McHugh was on the phone with his young children in the background—you wouldn’t think this book contains much voice acting at all. Farrow is basically just reading like normal, with just the slightest bit of dad voice. Nothing to see here. But oh, you wait.
“Friedman: Cockney Man Interested in Book”
It would have been so easy for Ronan to just not do this. He’s only half-doing it anyway; it’s fairly understated as far as Cockney accents go (except when he can’t resist hitting the word hell and other h-words too hard; a producer should have talked him down from that). And honestly, who outside of Austin Powers/characters in movies has a Cockney accent? Why be so serious about the veracity of your book that you have to do your own Cockney accent? Blimey. Note how this clip also contains Farrow’s impression of Rose McGowan, for which the note he gave himself seems to be, “Try to sound sexily righteous.”
“Anna: The Refined European”
I don’t know, guys, Farrow says the woman on the other line used a “refined” voice, but that’s not what I got from his breathy reading of “You can call me AH-nah.” He sounded to me more like … a man doing a woman’s voice in almost falsetto and woefully embarrassing himself. Of course, he then makes it worse by doing the voice of a woman “trying to be seductive”: “I won’t bite … come, sit next to me.” Nope nope nope nope. It strikes me also that you’re still allowed to do a “vaguely European” accent without it being considered rude or offensive and that you should maybe not be.
I don’t know how Farrow manages to bungle this one so badly in just 22 words, but yikes, this is a bad Trump impression. We’ve all heard so many by now that there’s a fairly high bar to pass, and this one really fails to commit, trying to make certain words sound sleazy (“pussy,” “fuck ’er,” “big phony tits”) and then just giving a normal line reading to the rest. Actually, food for thought: Is this bad, or is it just a reminder of how slimy Trump himself is? Either way, yuck.
“Howard: The Australian Surveillance Dude”
This one is bad for how strongly it does commit. Farrow is really trying to do his best Australian accent here, and he does a decent if hammy job, but the effort is so cringe-worthy you want to Van Gogh yourself. You also hear Farrow’s Weinstein voice in this one, but it’s surprisingly normal. I guess he had the good sense not to do a weird bad impression of the main subject of his book, as that could make him look a tad unserious. Unlike the rest of them.
“Tough Ukrainian Guy”
Rowin was right to start his Twitter thread with this one for maximum appeal, because it’s by far the worst one. First of all, it calls all of Farrow’s direct dialogue into question, because who would actually say something as cartoonish as, “I’m into some cool sheet, some dark stuff”? Which is not to leave out the ludicrousness of the accent itself, which sounds like Farrow honed it playing a vampire in a school play (which he starred in despite being at least seven years younger than the other students in his class). What’s sad is that Catch and Kill really does contain some “dark stuff,” but anyone who hears these accents will be too busy laughing to pay much attention to it. And that is very much not cool sheet.