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.
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 hiatus, Aniston of the Week is back, and this time, it’s We’re the Millers.
FILM: We’re the Millers
DIRECTOR: Rawson Marshall Thurber
SCREENWRITERS: Bob Fisher, Steve Faber, Sean Anders, and John Morris
CHARACTER NAME AND PROFESSION: ‘Rose’ aka Sarah, stripper.
PLOT SUMMARY: Rose works as a stripper and lives in the same building as weed dealer David (Jason Sudeikis). He has all his money stolen when his other neighbour, Kenny (Will Poulter) chases off some thugs from Casey (Emma Roberts) and David attempts to help. Now owing his supplier Brad Gurdlinger (Ed Helms) money, he agrees to go to Mexico to smuggle back an enormous amount of weed, and persuades Rose, Casey and Kenny to come with him, posing as a family in order to avoid suspicion. Rose only agrees to accompany David on the trip because the club she works as starts insisting the strippers also prostitute themselves, and she demands $30,000 from David. They get into Mexico easily, but have ever-elaborate ways of avoiding suspicion when they meet the Fitzgerald family – Edie and Don (Kathryn Hahn and Nick Offerman) – the latter turning out to be a DEA agent.
CHARACTER TRAITS: Caustic, intelligent, resourceful, witty, compassionate, creative.
NOTES ON PERFORMANCE: Aniston convinces as a disgruntled stripper, one who has no enthusiasm left for her job and therefore gives a low-energy performance, and her grumpy, quick-witted persona works well in scenes riffing off the smug Sudeikis. It therefore doesn’t convince at all when she suddenly offers to strip to appease the real criminals who are threatening their lives. A to-camera shrug from Sudeikis simply confirms this is just an excuse to objectify Aniston and that makes the scene ultimately really sad.
NOTES ON FILM: Well, it’s total trash. Produced and written by a band of talentless men, this shows on screen. Broad strokes, an excruciatingly lame plot, total lack of humour, stereotypes instead of characters, and infuriatingly, I actually watched the extended cut by mistake – why anyone would want two whole hours of this film on purpose is baffling to me. Real low point.
CONCLUSION: It has come to my attention that there’s a We’re the Millers 2 in the pipeline. Save us all.
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 hiatus, Aniston of the Week is back, and this time, it’s Mothers Day.
FILM: Mother’s Day
DIRECTOR: Garry Marshall
SCREENWRITERS: Anya Kochoff, Matthew Walker, Tom Hines
CHARACTER NAME AND PROFESSION: Sandy, Interior Designer.
PLOT SUMMARY: Sandy is divorced from her husband Henry (Timothy Olyphant) with whom she amicably splits custody of her two sons. Sandy thinks there might still be a spark between them, but is surprised when Henry wants to talk and rather than expressing a desire to start again, he announces he has married a much younger woman called Tina (Shay Mitchell). Meanwhile, other characters such as Jesse (Kate Hudson) and her sister Gabi (Sarah Chalke) have secrets about their relationships that they’re keeping from their parents. Plus Kristin (Britt Robertson) won’t marry her boyfriend Zack (Jack Whitehall) because she’s adopted and doesn’t know her birth mother, and of course they all actually know each other or meet each other in the course of the film. Oh and Jason Sudeikis plays a man called Bradley whose wife died and he’s trying to raise two daughters.
CHARACTER TRAITS: Patient, kind, funny, anxious, frustrated.
NOTES ON PERFORMANCE: The usual poise, handling of pratfalls with ease and a familiar gently flustered frustration or being comically irate, or sweet and self-deprecating and making it all look easy, almost as if she doesn’t have to try. Aniston isn’t exactly being tested by the script though, which is very basic, moving through plot points as if it’s in a rush.
NOTES ON FILM: Well, it’s brilliant to see Aniston being a bit of goofball, expressing natural female rage and vulnerability, but the film is utter nonsense and frankly, racist in places. Kate Hudson’s husband Russell (Aasif Mandvi) is Indian, and her parents don’t know she married him because they’re racist, so how does the film deal with this? They make Russell’s Mum racist too, of course, so that’s all right then and we can all just get along and not really confront prejudice. Apparently the cast mainly signed on to do the film just for the chance to work with Garry Marshall (Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve, Pretty Woman) so they probably didn’t even see a script.
CONCLUSION: It looks as if Aniston liked this role for the opportunity to show vulnerability and anxiety, and issues of aging, and perhaps didn’t think about how the rest of the film is rubbish. An edit of just her scenes would be great, thanks.