Earlier this week, in a red carpet interview at the premiere of Contagion at the Venice Film Festival, our favorite GOOPstress remarked casually, “I have little kids, and I’m a full-time mom. I really only do small parts now.” And here I thought, after the country-and-western Hiroshima, Country Strong, that it was simply that Gwyneth couldn’t get better parts. How convenient that, when faced with dimming star power, Gwyneth is suddenly only doing “small parts” now.
Her recent work, however, does bear that out: She’s only in the first 15 minutes of Contagion and, before that, she did a couple of episodes on “Glee,” not to mention small supporting roles in the Iron Man films. Still, haughty pretension and America-hating aside, I don’t think that Gwyneth is a bad actress (at least when she’s not singing) and I typically don’t mind seeing her onscreen. When it’s in small doses, I appreciate it even more, as in Iron Man, where I thought she was perfectly cast, and as part of an ensemble, like The Royal Tennenbaums, where she managed to break my heart by simply stepping off of a bus.
But Gwyneth is not the only lead actor that should reduce his or her screen presence. There are several others who I do like, with varying degrees, but perhaps would be better in small doses. These are those five.
Tom Cruise’s best two roles, for instance, were an extended cameo on Tropic Thunder and an Oscar-nominated supporting turn in Magnolia. In both instances, he took on roles that — at least, briefly — re-resurrected his fading star power and, in the process, demonstrated that he could play a part other than “Tom Cruise.” More importantly from my perspective, he showed — after the Scientology video leaked, and after his Matt Lauer brush-up on the “Today” show — that he has a sense of humor. I think Cruise’s best career path now is the Michael Douglas route, as an evil meglomaniac, or more villain roles like perhaps his best to date, in Michael Mann’s Collateral. In either respect, his days as an action hero are limited.
Jim Carrey is another actor going through the lead actor motions, mostly in children’s fare. I like Carrey, particularly in dramatic roles such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Truman Show, a couple of movies that didn’t rely on Carrey to be “Carrey.” I also thought he was great in the under-appreciated The Majestic. At this point in his career, though, I think Carrey can still pull off his manic one-note characters, but they need to be pushed into the background. Carrey could be a great scene-stealer in a feature film, or maybe his talents could be best utilized on television, where he got his start. He might have been a nice addition to “The Office,” not as a replacement for Michael Scott, but as a potential replacement down-the-line for Creed. That’s the perfect amount of Carrey.
I wouldn’t have really thought it about Jennifer Aniston, either, until over the summer, after her small supporting role in Horrible Bosses. I often forget that, before a series of bland, mediocre romantic comedies, Aniston was a comfortable, amusing and breezy presence as part of the “Friends” ensemble. She’s also demonstrated some acting ability in The Good Girl, Friends with Money and a movie that no one else saw but that I actually liked, Management. She was terrific in Horrible Bosses, and there’s nothing quite like seeing her as a sexually harassing bitch who asks Charlie Day at one point to “fuck my mouth.” She could still pull off a few Mrs. Robinson roles, or one like Marisa Tomei’s turn in Crazy, Stupid, Love. What’d really impress me, however, is a role five years from now as the MILF in the inevitable American Pie remake.
Ryan Reynolds barely got to enjoy his time as a leading man, and already I’m trying to usher him back to supporting roles. I’m not saying the man should do exclusively indie fare (though he was great in Buried), I’m just saying: Reynolds is best when he’s a scene-stealing wise-ass. As Deadpool, he was the only fun part of X-Men Origins: Wolverine and who could forget the role that made us all love him before we stopping loving him: As Hannibal King in Blade: Trinity. Now that is what Reynolds should be doing: Wearing a beard, delivering wry one-liners and fuck-starting heads. Let this man be the sidekick, maybe even the sidekick that turns on the main hero in the end. And if he wants to keep a clean-shaven face, he’s also pretty good on TV.
Jonah Hill: I had recently gotten to the end of my rope with Jonah Hill, particularly after seeing the trailer for The Sitter, where it became all too obvious that Jonah Hill had only one speed, and that speed was “fucking obnoxious.” It was refreshing and funny in Superbad, and it was amusing in small doses in Knocked Up. But he was irritating as hell in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and I actually found myself liking Russell Brand more than Hill in Get Him to the Greek (a decent movie with one amazing drug-fueled sequence). When he spoke, I wanted to throw shit at him. That was until I saw Moneyball and realized that there <>is another speed to Jonah Hill. He can play subdued. He can be funny and wry without SCREAMING dick jokes, as he did in Funny People. But you know what the best Jonah Hill role was? Accepted. Now that was the perfect amount of Jonah.