No Leading Lady
is an extraordinarily beautiful woman and a pretty good actress.
It is quite unfortunate for her that she was not born fifty years earlier
because would have been one of the premier movie stars of the forties
and fifties. That beautiful face of hers, the slightly exaggerated
mannerisms in her roles, that husky voice; she would have been a perfect
leading lady to pair opposite Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart.
It is a shame, however, that she is stuck acting in the present because
her style and beauty does not translate to an audience that is more
and more interested in attainable beauty.
One of Catherine Zeta-Jones' problem is that she is too stunning,
simply too good looking to be an actress today. One could argue
that Angelina Jolie is just as beautiful, but Jolie has that hard edge
to her, that soupcon of something broken and damaged. Zeta-Jones
simply projects too much maturity and etiquette to appeal to the horny
teenagers who populate the multiplexes today. Julia Roberts
is not a classic beauty, but she has a spunk that the reserved Zeta-Jones
doesn't quite have.
Zeta-Jones first burst onto the scene playing a sex symbol in The Mask
of Zorro and Entrapment and the young guys loved watching
her slink around in skintight pants. However, it seemed that she
quickly grew tired of being just a bombshell and played a pregnant woman
in Traffic, a married woman in America's Sweethearts,
and (winning an Oscar for) playing a 20's showgirl in Chicago.
She might have been sexy in each of these movies, but she wasn't trying
to be, and certainly none of these films was aimed at an audience younger
than twenty-five. And marrying Michael Douglas certainly
didn't help keep her in the consciousness of the younger set.
She hasn't worked very often, having made only four films since winning
her Oscar. All of them have been commercial and critical disappointments
(The Terminal, Intolerable Cruelty, Ocean's Twelve, Legend of Zorro).
And her latest film, No Reservations, is her first in two years
which is a long time to wait for a woman in her thirties.
No Reservations is a trifle of a movie and is a disappointment
for anyone familiar with Mostly Martha, the German film on which
it is based. It is about a tough female chef named Kate (Zeta-Jones)
who winds up being the guardian for her niece Zoe (Abigail Breslin)
after her sister dies in a car accident. At the same time, her
restaurant hires the bombastic Nick, who specializes in Italian food
as well as making Kate swoon.
It's a nice movie and everything is cute, but it doesn't
measure up to the original which seemed fresh and interesting and was
made with passion. Scott Hicks, the director of films like Shine
and Snow Falling on Cedars, is filmmaker with an eye
for cold precision which works great in the kitchen scenes but kills
the emotion in any sequence away from the restaurant. Eckhart
is terribly miscast, simply because he doesn't project the kind of arrogance
that is needed for this part. Whatever he brought to Thank
You For Smoking, he left it at home this time around.
Zeta-Jones is ... okay. She doesn't do anything particular great or particular awful, she is just kind of ... there. The idea of remaking Mostly Martha was a bad one from the start, but Zeta-Jones is simply too beautiful and sophisticated for the part. When she is supposed to be falling apart, we can't buy it because she gives off an aura of having it together.
I think this film represents what is wrong with Zeta-Jones' career.
No director has quite figured out what to do with her. She obviously
has some talent and is strikingly gorgeous. It would seem to be a slam-dunk
to put her in a film opposite someone like Clooney or Pitt and just
let the sparks fly. Unfortunately, she has been cast in roles
opposite both Clooney and Pitt and the sparks didn't fly.
The problem was that while the couples looked great together,
it seemed like Zeta-Jones was from another era. She looked young
enough to be their girlfriends, but she acted old enough to be their
The best onscreen couple that Zeta-Jones has been a part of was opposite
Sean Connery. For some reason, they seemed suited for each
other and he's at least thirty years older than her. Maybe that's
why she married Michael Douglas. I don't know if I would
quite call it old-fashioned, more that she is just old at heart.
I still think there is hope for Catherine Zeta-Jones, but I don't think it will be as a typical leading lady. I think now that she is approaching forty, she would be excellent in a Mrs. Robinson type of role, seducing a younger man. In other words, I think she will be a great onscreen mother and I think she will be capable of giving some wonderful performances in that vein.
It would be a shame if Zeta-Jones doesn't get something to really sink her teeth into, but I also get the sense that she doesn't really care that much about being a movie star. She doesn't work very often and seems more concerned about being with her family while doing cell phone ads. After all, she's already won an Oscar and made more than enough money.
William Goldman once wrote that Robin Wright was so beautiful
that she could have been the biggest star in the world if she wanted
to. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of
view) she didn't want to be. Perhaps Zeta-Jones doesn't want to
be a movie star and if that's the case, then we can only wish her the
best and hope to see her turn in some better performances in the future.
August 10, 2007
by Noah Forrest
07.30.07 - Skinheads in the Cinema & This Is England
07.28.07 - Siena Miller: Good or Evil?
07.26.07 - The Frenzy on the Wall
Forrest is a 24 year old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.
opinions expressed in these columns are the writers and do not neccessarily
reflect the opinions of Movie City News or any of its editors or other