Welcome to the newest acclaimed series on Pajiba, a series that the New York Times has already proclaimed, “Powerful, biting, but ultimately pointless, another futile exercise in Pajiba’s ongoing quest to reduce celebrity to its base elements,” and the AV Club has hailed as “inconsequential and inane.”
Today we kick off the series with our first subject: Jennifer Aniston. The year: 2002. The movie: The Good Girl. After eight years of playing the gorgeous Rachel Green in the television sitcom “Friends,” and and thus far failing to establish herself as a feature actress as the love interest in films like, The Object of My Affection, Rock Star, and Office Space, Jennifer Aniston needed to shake up her career. At the time, she was best known for popularizing a certain style of hair, often referred to as the Rachel Green Bob.
Although the hairstyle only lasted a few years, it had created an indelible mark, and Ms. Aniston — who in 2002 was married to American film star Brad Pitt — needed to create some distance from her “Friends” character that neither her mega-celebrity husband nor her body’s unnatural flexibly could create.
Ms. Aniston was at a crossroads in her career, and rather than continue contorting her body, the actress attempted to show some flexibility in her acting range. She made the difficult decision to play against the stunning good looks that had allowed her to achieve so much small-screen success. She decided to play ugly. She took the lead role in the Mike White scripted comedy drama, The Good Girl. It was a bold move for Ms. Aniston. After so many years using her body to create an image of effortless sexiness
Ms. Aniston had decided to exchange a man’s tie for a smock.
Gruesome, isn’t it?
Shedding three layers of cosmetics, tying her hair up, and eschewing her high-heels and glamorous wardrobe for ill-fitting sweaters and a name tag, Aniston threw herself into the role of the cashier Justine Last, no doubt expecting that Academy Award nominations would rain down upon her. Surely, the powers that be would recognize the sacrifices of an actress who would dare cover up this pristinely airbrushed flesh-on-bone figure
with a man’s over-sized coat.
She would even go so far as to play the unfaithful wife of the Shrek-like John C. Reilly, and seeing Ms. Aniston holding a generic beer can, the match felt so natural. Hidden beneath those overalls, it was impossible to believe that Ms. Aniston could advance beyond the physical station of Reilly, with his beer gut and misshapen teeth.
Sadly, the move would backfire. Despite the artful direction of Miguel Arteta, a masterful script from Mike White, and capable performances from both Aniston and her supporting cast (Jake Gyllenhaal, Zooey Deschanel, John C. Reilly, and Mike White himself), the daring career move would not pay off for Ms. Aniston. The world simply wasn’t ready to see such an unflattering depiction of the sitcom star, warts and all. It was almost too sickening for the American viewing public to stomach. The movie opened in limited release in the summer of 2002 with a meager $150,000 and would never rise above number 9 on the box-office charts. A month later, “Friends” began it’s penultimate season, and The Good Girl was all but forgotten, remembered only as Jennifer Aniston’s brief experiment with unholy frumpiness.
Over the next decade, despite a series of hits and misfires, many still point to The Good Girl (known pejoratively among many as The Ugly Girl) as the reason that Aniston hasn’t amassed the same kind of success as Sandra Bullock or Meg Ryan. The collective memory of Hollywood is long, and it would take years before they’d completely forget the blemishes that Aniston revealed in The Good Girl. It would also take nearly a decade before Aniston would even consider taking a role that didn’t take full advantage of her stunning good looks. She finally climbed the mountain again last month, however, putting her hair back and wearing eyeglasses for the first 20 minutes of the Adam Sandler comedy, Just Go With It, a brief but scarring reminder of the hideousness she displayed all those years ago in The Good Girl.