Assessing Heather Graham: License to Strip
Subject: Heather Graham, 41-year old American actress
Date of Assessment: June 8, 2011
Positive Buzzwords: Nudity, beauty, sleep
Negative Buzzwords: Romcom, limited appeal and talent
The Case: People like to talk about the so-called “downward trajectory” that Heather Graham’s career has supposedly taken. Still, she’s worked steadily since her first movie role in 1988’s License to Drive (the one where both Coreys stuffed her in a car trunk), which she followed up with an acclaimed turn in Drugstore Cowboy and an adorable character, Annie Blackburn, on the second season of “Twin Peaks.” Then, she toiled away in relative obscurity for nearly five years until she stunned audiences (or at least myself) as Jon Favreau’s dance partner in the last act of Swingers and appeared alongside Robert Downey Jr. in Two Girls and a Guy. Then, Heather became the very naked Rollergirl in Boogie Nights, which was a pretty overrated movie but highlighted not only her physical assets but also her ability to play a very damaged character and not just some bobblehead.
Soon, she was suddenly everywhere at once with a cameo in Scream 2 and several mainstream (financial) hits like Lost in Space, Bowfinger, From Hell, The Guru, and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me as the gorgeous Felicity Shagwell. Heather was never a great acting talent, but she had spunk and even convinced Fat Bastard that he was a great lay, which is no small feat. That should count for something, but I’m afraid that it merely qualified her as arm candy instead of as a box office draw in itself.
Just as suddenly, Heather disappeared from the public consciousness. Nowadays, most of Heather Graham’s oeuvre (and I use that term mostly ironically) is utterly forgettable and not even worth mentioning here. Upon first consideration, I was inclined to give Heather some credit for not going down the romcom heroine path, which certainly must have been an option to her with those big blue eyes and all of that blonde hair (in manner of today’s closest example, Amanda Seyfried). Then I realized the error of my ways because Graham has attempted, at various points, to revive her career in a very inauspicious subgenre of romantic comedy; that is, Graham has subjected herself to repeated instances of the pregnancy-oriented romcom. One of them, Miss Conception, involved Graham affecting a posh English accent while receiving the horrible news that she’s only got one egg left and merely two weeks to find a stud so as not to waste the opportunity. The second one, Baby on Board, featured Graham as a spurned wife who hopes to drive her cheating husband (Jerry O’Connell) out of their home, War of the Roses style. And the third movie, Blessed wasn’t a romcom but attempted to go all Rosemary’s Baby by impregnating her with the seed of Satan himself. These are not only the very sort of roles for which Heather is not believable, but they’re also ridiculous takes on the female sex for which she should be ashamed to participate.
All of this is really a shame, for Heather has provided (on rare occasions) a few glimpses of real emotion in some respectable indie flicks — Committed, Adrift in Manhattan, and Broken — but these films didn’t get the distribution required to prove to audiences that she’s worth watching. On the small screen, Heather’s had some moderate success as a supporting player in one episode of “Arrested Development” and a recurring stint of “Scrubs.” However, her very brief outing as a television leading lady (in “Emily’s Reasons Why Not”) lasted just one episode before it was yanked for poor ratings.
Since then, Heather enjoyed a bit of unexpected success by playing the prostitute role in The Hangover movie, but has that caused anyone to watch any of her movies that followed, such as Boogie Woogie, Father of Invention, 5 Days of War, or The Flying Machine? Nope.
Prognosis: So now Heather Graham turns to children’s movies as “Awesome Aunt Opal” in this weekend’s Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer. Yes, the woman who loves to get naked onscreen is now starring in a kid’s movie. While she has six movies in various states of production and one in development, it’s doubtful that any of us will ever have the chance to see them, and once she loses her looks, Heather Graham will be gone forever. On a positive note, that’ll just give her a chance to sleep more.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.