I like Jennifer Aniston. A lot of people do, and some people are indifferent, I’m sure. Some who know me, may be aware that I’ve been planning to write about Ms Aniston for years now, due to my conviction that she’s one of Hollywood’s most talented actors, yet consistently underrated. Jennifer Aniston has been in some really bad films, and A LOT of useless romantic comedies, and every few years she acts in a ‘serious’ film, and audiences and critics alike rush to praise her performance as if she’s never really performed before. That’s my perception of Jennifer anyway. Apparently, she’s also appeared as the cover star of magazines more than any other actor. People say she has a ‘girl next door’ quality that is key to her appeal. I’m not sure if that’s true, I just think she’s brilliant to watch.
In order to really put this long-held conviction to the test, this week I’m introducing a new column: Aniston of the Week. Every week I’ll report on a different Aniston performance, which will mean viewing some films I’ve seen many times before, some I’m looking forward to and some I have until now avoided (perhaps because they also star Adam Sandler). This viewing will be in no particular order but will commit fully to my Aniston attraction. This week, the mainly lamented and long gestating 2015 Bogdanovich comedy.
FILM: She’s Funny That Way
DIRECTOR: Peter Bogdanovich
CHARACTER NAME & PROFESSION: Dr Jane, Therapist
PLOT SUMMARY: Screwball comedy about a call girl named Izzy (Imogen Poots) playing a call girl in a play directed by one of her client’s (Owen Wilson) and written by her therapist’s (Aniston) boyfriend (Will Forte), who’s father (George Morfogen) is a private investigator following Izzy for another of her clients, the obsessed Judge Pendergast (Austin Pendleton). It’s basically a lot of backstage shenanigans.
CHARACTER TRAITS: Dr Jane is confident, assertive, judgemental of her clients and constantly breaking patient-doctor confidentiality.
NOTES ON PERFORMANCE: Dr Jane’s character is key to the plot of She’s Funny That Way due to her habit of revealing one patients problems to another, and Aniston seems to relish her tendency for rawness. She’s introduced having a fight with Forte’s Joshua Fleet on the street, pausing to shout at the annoying potential patient calling her mobile phone out of office hours (that pesky Judge). I particularly liked the line, “Alright, I’m gonna change my tampon’’, which she says to the old judge while he’s in session with her. It’s a bit clunky – who says that?! But it demonstrates the character’s obliviousness and her self-confidence. Dr Jane doesn’t care what other people think of her, but she does judge them, and this contradiction is what makes her relatable and entertaining. Aniston is assured and controlled, making an (at first) very unlikeable character into the most interesting aspect of the film. While all the other characters slump into exactly the place you expect them to, Dr Jane remains the unpredictable element, seeming to have the most fun.
NOTES ON FILM: From a screenplay Bogdanovich wrote long ago with Louise Stratten, a long time in development and finally supported by Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, whose own work demonstrates the influence of Bogdanovich’s earlier output. As a consequence the film has an unconsciously retro feel, and relies on some pretty fantastical plot points. If you love Bogdanovich (Noises Off, What’s Up Doc? The Last Picture Show), you’ll nevertheless appreciate it.
CONCLUSION: Aniston saves the day!