MAD MONEY directed by Callie Khouri, written by Glenn Gers, with Diane Keaton, Katie Holmes and Queen Latifah. An Alliance Films release. 104 minutes. Opens Friday (January 18). Rating: N
27 DRESSES directed by Anne Fletcher, written by Aline Brosh McKenna, with Katherine Heigl, James Marsden, Edward Burns and Malin Akerman. A Fox 2000 Pictures release. 107 minutes. Opens Friday (January 18). Rating: NN Rating: NNNNN
How hopeless have Hollywood movies become for female actors? Check out 27 Dresses and Mad Money to find out.
Poor Katherine Heigl. She plays Jane in a paint-by-numbers romantic comedy about a woman who’s always a bridesmaid – 27 times – never the bride. Gee, wonder how this one ends. To be fair, there’s a great montage where Jane models all the dresses for maybe love interest (and very cute) James Marsden, and a terrific payoff shot at the end. But most of it is as predictable as the death.
Before 27 Dresses, Heigl starred in Knocked Up. She played the smart, attractive entertainment TV personality who has a one-night stand with fat slacker Seth Rogen (huh?), gets pregnant and suddenly turns into a loser with no female friends and no life. A big hit, but even she has admitted it was hopelessly sexist.
And that’s what happens when you’re young, white, blond and starring in Grey’s Anatomy, one of the most successful prime-time drama series on TV. At this rate, Heigl could be mired in weak rom-coms for the rest of her career.
What happens when you’re older and you’ve been there, done all that, like, say, Oscar winner Diane Keaton? You get to be in paint-by-numbers heist comedy Mad Money.
Here, Keaton, the endearingly ditzy mainstay of Woody Allen films of the 70s, turns in another hysterical, whiny performance as the over-60 wife of a man (Ted Danson) who’s just been laid off. She lands a job at the Federal Reserve and decides to rip the place off with Queen Latifah and Katie Holmes.
You could say it’s a Keaton problem – she played a similar character in Because I Said So and Something’s Gotta Give – but her turn as mom with cancer in The Family Stone indicates that in a properly written role, she does know how to tone it down.
The roles are not out there, period. Okay, this isn’t a new problem, but we do have a new raft of actors who are playing dull and predictable roles or not working at all.
The great Frances McDormand, 50 years old and also an Oscar winner, is rapidly becoming the new Joan Cusack – everybody’s best friend.
It started with Something’s Gotta Give, when she played the ho-hum, all-knowing family friend, and continued in North Country, when she was bosom pals with Charlize Theron.
For a sense of how low McDormand can go, you can look forward to the release of Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day, in which McDormand mugs for the camera as a nanny-turned-social-secretary. Ick.
Allison Janney, a terrific talent, is a classic example of someone destined to be cast as a mom – and a dull one at that, even in an indie hit. Juno has many things going for it, but the pregnant teenager’s unbelievably supportive parents – one of them Janney – are not among them.
Even Laura Linney, who gives a devastingly powerful performance as a woman watching her dementia-ridden father fail in The Savages, has stooped to playing the neurotic mother in The Nanny Diaries.
No wonder you have to really work to find five decent performances to fill out the Oscar best-actress category this year. And to include any women over 40, the Academy has to reach across the Atlantic.
That’s where they’ll find Julie Christie (Away From Her), who’s only doing small indie films because she can’t stand being demeaned by Hollywood, and Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose).
Wonder what will happen when Julia Roberts and Jodie Foster get past their stale date. They’d better hope writers like Tamara Jenkins (The Savages) and Lisa Cholodenko, who wrote McDormand’s last great role, in Laurel Canyon, get a lot more work.
Or maybe television will rescue them. That’s where Glenn Close (Golden Globe winner for Damages), Sally Field (Brother And Sisters) and Holly Hunter (Saving Grace) are doing some of their best work ever and where Janney really scored in The West Wing.
Emmy Award winner Katherine Heigl deserves a better outfit than 27 Dresses.
See Susan G. Cole’s blog on her new film duties, No Country For Old Women, at www.nowtoronto.com/blog/view_post.cfm?post=538