It wasn’t until I was driving home last night and passed a billboard for Office Christmas Party that a huge puzzle piece from this weekend’s Saturday Night Live dropped into place.
I haven’t been paying much attention to this movie because I’m a snob and I’m fine with that. So I didn’t realize that Kate McKinnon and Vanessa Bayer were in it, alongside Jennifer Aniston. So suddenly Aniston’s SNL drop-in made a lot more sense. Sure, she’s a fan of the show, and her Weekend Update bit with Bayer was good and her Paley Center sketch was weird and great; but the real reason why she was there was that she had a movie to promote. That’s usually why actresses of her fame level do appearances like this.
That might not be a revelation to you. It probably isn’t. You’ve probably been seeing billboards and trailers for a while now and after all, Aniston and Bayer mentioned during their Rachel bit that they worked on a movie together.
But did you notice that they never actually said the name of the move?
Jen said she and Bayer had “such a good time making our movie together,” and during the opening monologue, Vanessa told Emma Stone that she’d made two movies since they saw each other last: “Trainwreck and another one.” Which is a funny joke— as I took it— implying that the second movie wasn’t worth mentioning, not that it was a major Christmastime release starring some A-listers.
Sure, maybe Jennifer Aniston just really thinks SNL drop-ins are fun, and she and Vanessa Bayer are BFFs now, and they didn’t care about promoting their movie because they were just enjoying the fun of life. But in another, more realistic version of this world, there’s a pretty obvious explanation for why they never said the movie’s name: They weren’t allowed to.
I’ve written before about how when it feels like a celebrity is everywhere all of a sudden, that’s not a coincidence; it means they’re promoting something or angling for an award. If you thought that Emma Stone and Casey Affleck were announced as SNL hosts at the same time by coincidence, then I’m sorry to take your Hollywood innocence from you but no, this is a business, and their agents and managers and publicists make these things happen.
So sure, Emma Stone killed it this week; she was great on SNL. No one’s saying she had to force her way onto the show, not at all. But she wouldn’t have been there— not in this peak Oscar season slot, anyway— if she weren’t actively campaigning for that Best Actress nomination. Now, Jennifer Aniston isn’t, as far as I know, up for any awards buzz this year, but looking at press coverage as a business, it’s odd that Stone’s team let another A-list leading actress type share that night.
And— let’s get this out of the way— don’t give me any of that “why can’t two women share a stage without it being turned into a competition?” nonsense. Of course they can. Emma Stone and Kate McKinnon and Vanessa Bayer and Leslie Jones, these are all beautiful female celebrities who can exist and collaborate and share. And yes, it does suck that the instinct IS to imagine competition. But when it comes to awards and box office returns— That IS a competition. And even though they’re not exactly fighting for the same demographic, Office Christmas Party and La La Land are vying for coverage and at least some audience traffic on their shared opening date. Sure, La La Land is opening in 5 theaters this weekend and OCP is in 2800, but it’s still competition and stars do SNL for fun, sure, but really they do it for press coverage.
So did Emma Stone’s team agree to let Aniston do a cameo under the condition that the name La La Land’s competition never be mentioned? There’s no other reason why she wouldn’t have dropped the name. And if so, that is hilarious. That’s a good joke, and one that Stone seems like she could own— that Jennifer Aniston was welcomed and enjoyed but was legally prohibited from saying the name of her movie opening nationwide this Friday. I would love to have seen that joke. Instead, we just got its weird, peripheral presence, not detracting from any enjoyment of the show, but just a small, persistent nagging question of, “Wait, why is Jennifer Aniston here again?”