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Michele Willens Headshot

FACE IT: Look Who's Sexy Now

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Who cannot love the fact that the sexiest couple on screen this year is Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini? In Enough Said, 52-year-old Dreyfus has never looked more fetching, and the late, great Gandolfini is finally allowed to be a leading man who looked like -- well, like a lot of the leading men in our own lives.

It seems the very notion of what defines chemistry on-screen has expanded. My vote for the second sexiest couple this year is Chadwick Boseman and Nichole Beharie, who portrayed Jackie and Rachel Robinson in 42. Neither of those pairs adorn magazine covers or get zillions of hits on YouTube. But they make folks like Ashton Kutcher, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Aniston and Mila Kunis, with their latest on- and off-screen mates, look almost foolishly unseasoned, or desperately clinging to a vanishing youth.

We're finally seeing people who are beautiful, yes, but also, naturally so, even blemished. They come in different colors and shapes and ages. Not since the late '60s, when the Hoffmans, Pacinos and Hackmans burst onto screen, has our concept of what makes an attractive role model been so potentially altered. I don't want to go overboard here, but when you add in television series featuring performers like Mandy Patinkin, Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Michael J. Fox, Julianna Margulies, Bryan Cranston, Andre Braugher and Rachel Griffiths, you have to conclude that viewers do seem willing to fall in love and lust for a wider variety of looks. I am not saying pretty boys and girls are going anywhere, but I bet I am not alone in finding the owner of Downton Abbey sexier than the young man who was to inherit it.

That show heralds from Britain and let's face it, the Europeans have always had more respect for the ongoing sensuality of their actors. Jeanne Moreau, Catherine Deneuve and Sophia Loren come to mind, and Gerard Depardieu still appeals, even as he has grown almost obese. American filmmakers and audiences now also seem more willing to embrace those who speak with accents. Jean Dujardin (The Artist) is one of the stars of George Clooney's upcoming The Monuments Men, and the luscious Marion Cotillard and Kristin Scott Thomas seem to be in most everything else. None of them are spring chickens, by the way, but they have great faces that have lived and loved alongside their great talent.

Cotillard and Dujardin are French, who we've long known have that special allure. Haven't you always wondered how they can drink all that wine and eat all that beurre and remain slim and silky? Now comes a book that helps explain why. Forever Chic, written by Tish Jett (an American who spent years abroad) shares the secrets of what she calls the French "timeless beauty, style and substance." She spills some of their beauty secrets but also gets to the core of what makes them seem more comfortable in their skin. "A Frenchwoman knows her strengths, conceals her weaknesses and also never -- except with her closest friend s-- talks about her fears, failures or flaws. They know that a soupcon of mystery is magic."

I, for one, wouldn't mind a few more soupcons in my repertoire. Not to mention, finding a way to feel comfortable -- let alone sexy -- in this weathering skin. In the meantime, I am thrilled that we are seeing some of that magic mystery in our media, emanating from people who look like they've been around... and are still going strong.