Jennifer Aniston – an actor seen frequently doing great work in poor films, sometimes excellent work in good films, and occasionally, amazing work in excellent films. How are we to know this prolific and skilled artist’s full range? We’ll just have to watch all of her films. After a 2016-shaped hiatus, Aniston of the Week is back, and this time, it’s Horrible Bosses 2.
FILM: Horrible Bosses 2
DIRECTOR: Sean Anders
SCREENWRITER: Sean Anders and John Morris, Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Michael Markowitz
CHARACTER NAME AND PROFESSION: Dr Julia Harris D.D.S
PLOT SUMMARY: Julia is a Dentist and a sex addict. In Horrible Bosses 1, she sexually harassed her employee Dale (Charlie Day), making his work environment unbearable. Here, her workplace is broken into when the three idiots (Dale, Nick – Jason Bateman and Kurt – Jason Sudeikis) intend to steal Nitrous Oxide in order to kidnap the son of the man who ruined their business. The break-in is interrupted by Julia’s sex addiction meeting, which she brings to a swift end when Nick gatecrashes it, pretends to confess to homosexual affairs and enables her sex fantasy of ‘turning’ him. Later, when the three idiots enact an even more elaborate plot to pursue their kidnapping plans, Julia – having discovered the break-in on CCTV – tries to blackmail Dale into having sex with her. To her, his penis is ‘the white whale’ and she wants it or she’ll send all three idiots to jail. Dale dupes her and they get away. Finally, Having utterly failed to carry out their idiot plot, Dale is left unconscious having been shot and Julia visits him in hospital, claiming that while he was under, she took advantage of his involuntary erections during his comatose state.
CHARACTER TRAITS: Single minded, narcissistic, manipulative, predatory, vengeful.
NOTES ON PERFORMANCE: Aniston clearly had fun playing such a problematic character in Horrible Bosses and came back for more. She appears totally comfortable with the character, effortlessly conniving and portraying what I assume she rationalised is ‘naughty’ behaviour, when in fact it’s cruel and deeply unfunny.
NOTES ON FILM: The Horrible Bosses films perpetuate stereotypes about masculinity, about race and about female sexuality. They have rape jokes, which, just to be totally clear – are never funny – and feature most of the cast performing beneath their capabilities. The premise of Aniston’s character being funny is that an attractive woman with a sex addiction is something men should be grateful for, because of course, men aren’t allowed to feel victimised by predatory women – then they would seem weak. Yes, female on male rape is much rarer than male on female rape, but it does happen, it is real and the consequences are just as devastating for victims. That this is a studio film that made hundreds of millions of dollars and was written and directed by straight, white, cis men is exactly what’s wrong with Hollywood.
CONCLUSION: Please Aniston, do better.