I once had a dream where I was visiting my hometown and hanging out in a friend’s basement. There were some random people I went to high school with and one of them had brought their cousin, a young woman who looked a lot like Beanie Feldstein. “You look a lot like Beanie Feldstein,” I told this stranger sitting on the corduroy basement couch. “I am Beanie Feldstein,” she said. We proceeded to talk for the rest of the dream-night, becoming fast dream-friends. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, I am now friends with Beanie Feldstein,” a fact that felt both surprising and inevitable. I woke up to discover that it wasn’t true.
Still, it feels like I could be friends with Beanie Feldstein.
Despite her growing list of starring roles and accolades, the Jewish actress exudes warmth and humility, exactly the kind of familiar face that you might see at the basement party of an old high school friend. Part of that familiarity, for me at least, is a kind of Jewish recognition: She may as well have been sitting next to me every Tuesday night in Hebrew school, or snatching the lead part in my summer camp’s annual musical night while I resigned myself to back-up dancer number three. She’s the Jewish girl next door who made it big, and I can’t help but burst with pride whenever I see her name in another Deadline report, or see her face pop up on a magazine cover, which these days seems to happen every week.
Like many, I first fell in love with Bean (can I call her that?) in 2017 during her iconic performance in Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird.” I love pretty much everything about that film, Dave Matthews Band soundtrack included, but Beanie’s Julie took the best-friend-who’s-suddenly-not-as-popular-as-the-lead-role, something that can so easily fall into overused tropes, and made it sparkle. There’s a reason people are still quoting her “titular role” line, and there’s a reason that movie seemed to quickly launch Beanie from the best friend sidekick to the leading spot itself.
Two years later, she co-starred with Kaitlyn Dever in “Booksmart,” an incredibly fun romp of a high school movie in which Beanie plays a straight-A student ready to cut loose right before graduation. (Many touted it as a “female version” of “Superbad,” which stars Beanie’s older brother, Jonah Hill, but director Olivia Wilde was not down with that comparison.) Maybe because her character’s name was Molly, or maybe because I too was an academic overachiever, but that movie solidified a certain kinship I felt with Beanie, like if we could just happen to meet at a friend’s basement party, we might actually become friends… but anyway, I digress.
By that time, Beanie had proven herself to be a masterful comedic actress, soon starring in “How to Build a Girl” and landing an arc on the TV series “What We Do In the Shadows.” She also became a pro at the late night TV interview, proving she’s just as charming on and off screen — sharing childhood anecdotes about pranks with Jonah, an incredible impression of her mom screaming at a vet, and Ben Platt’s “Funny Girl”-themed promposal.
But this year, Beanie has demonstrated that not only can she carry a comedy, but has some serious dramatic acting chops. When it was first announced that she would be starring as Monica Lewinsky in the third installment of FX’s “American Crime Story,” I was both thrilled and curious to see how she would pull it off. Her previous roles were filled with levity and hijinks, and from what I remembered of the Clinton scandal, which took place when I was 12 and led to the very memorable experience of my mother sitting me down to tell me, “Oral sex is sex,” this part would not be filled with such shenanigans.
I need not have been concerned. In “Impeachment,” Beanie has embodied Monica’s character flawlessly — the combination of confidence and vulnerability, adeptness and naivete, a brilliant and capable young adult who also breaks down into her mother’s arms when it feels like her entire life is over. I have cried along with Beanie’s Monica while she’s cried, and bunched up my fists in indignation at her mistreatment and abuse. For a young actress to hold her own opposite Sarah Paulson, who has continually proven herself to be one of the finest actors of our time, is testament to the fact that Beanie is a serious star.
And there’s only more Beanie to come. This Thanksgiving we’ll see her in “The Humans,” a stage play written and adapted for film by Stephen Karam about a family gathering for the holiday, also starring Amy Schumer and Steven Yeun. She’ll be the voice of Harriet the Spy in a new animated series coming to Apple TV later this month. We’ll need to hold our breath for some time until we can see her and Ben Platt in Richard Linklater’s “Merrily We Roll Along,” which is being filmed over the course of 20 years. Sooner than that, we’ll be able to catch Beanie in a new anthology TV series called “Girls Can’t Shoot (& Other Lies)” with Beanie’s girlfriend, Bonnie-Chance Roberts, in the executive producer role.
And then, hello, there’s “Funny Girl.” Beanie will be reviving the role it seems she was born to play, following in Barbra Streisand’s footsteps to bring Fanny Brice to Broadway once again next spring. Considering Beanie’s been cosplaying as Fanny since her third birthday party, it feels almost too good to be true to see this mega-talented Jewish star take on one of the most iconic Jewish roles of all time. She’s a bagel on a plate full of onion rolls, and I’m ready to see her dominate the big screen, the small screen and the stage all at once.
But more than any big break or award she’ll inevitably win, I think what makes me happiest about watching the rise of Beanie is seeing her remain unapologetically herself. She will drop Yiddishisms in interviews. She will kindly remind you to stop talking about her body. She will open up about her grief, her sexuality, and the fact that she does not know Lea Michele whatsoever. She can pose for the cover of W Magazine while still making you feel like, if you did wind up at the same Passover seder one year, you’re bound to get along swimmingly.
Beanie Feldstein is no doubt having a moment, and I hope — I’m sure — it won’t be a passing fad. I’ll be rooting for her the same way I’d root for any old friend of mine, with joy and pride, just happy to see her doing her thing.