Jennifer was born in New York in 1970 and began her career as a child model before crossing over into acting in 1984 when the similarity of her nose to that of Elizabeth McGovern who was playing the character as an adult won her a part in Once Upon A Time In America. She has worked steadily ever since, attracting increasing critical acclaim and remarkably little scandal, a role model for any aspiring actress to follow.
1. Once Upon A Time In America ( 1984 )
Jennifer's presence in this one means finally watching it all the way through after commencing it nearly 30 years ago. I should explain that I had selected the films for an end-of-year all night video party at our hall of residence in 1985 and this was something like the eighth in line starting at around 4.30 in the morning. After about 20 minutes the only other guy in the room decided to call it an early morning and I quickly followed suit. I had seen a considerable chunk of it on TV years later but this is the first complete viewing.
The film is spaghetti western king Sergio Leone's contribution to the gangster film genre, his final film and a true epic, lasting 3 3/4 hours. Although lauded at the Cannes Film Festival it was trashed in the USA after studio bosses severely cut and re-sequenced it. Some of those critics subsequently lauded it on seeing the director's cut.
The action takes place in three different periods. In 1968 , David "Noodles" Aaronson ( Robert de Niro ) is a New York Jew in his late fifties who receives a letter informing him that the graves of three friends killed in a police shoot out thirty years earlier have been relocated as a result of redevelopment. He has been living in Buffalo under an assumed name so no one should know where he is. He returns to New York to solve the mystery particularly as it may reveal where the loot that should have been his as the last man standing ended up.
The story is mainly told through flashbacks covering the other periods, Noodles's teenage years ( where he's played by Scott Tiler ) in an opportunistic street gang which begins to become more ambitious when joined by the smarter Max ( Rusty Jacobs then James Woods ) and the gang's activities in the Prohibition era which culminated in the shoot out. In both Noodles pursues the unobtainable Deborah , first as a twelve year old pricktease ( Jennifer ) then an ambitious actress ( Elizabeth McGovern ) . There's a fair helping of violence, both rape and murder, throughout the story.
Seen end to end it is a good film if not quite the masterpiece that's been claimed. The main criticism, that there are no sympathetic characters has some validity. You can't really empathise with a principal character who rapes women both casually and when he doesn't get his way. Deborah and Max are both ambitious self-seekers who mock Noodles's caution and lack of imagination. There is some - though not much - flab ; I'm not sure what the sub-plot involving Treat Williams's union boss brings to the film for instance. There are a few plotholes in the central mystery and Jacobs is too big to evolve into James Woods . The emphasis on sex sometimes gets a bit much; the scene where the four smirking guys reveal their peckers to remind Tuesday Weld's character of her rape is ill-judged.
For those most part though it is deeply engrossing , beautifully filmed with lavish period detail, a wonderful soundtrack from Ennio Morricone and a sly sense of humour in the script.
The performances vary. De Niro is fine although the character's too often a passive spectator for it to be one of his best performances . Woods is one of my favourite actors but again I think he's been better elsewhere . The teenagers are all good and Brian Bloom as "Patsy" has the spookiest eyes I've ever seen which may partly explain why he's largely moved into voiceover work .
Jennifer's role was accompanied by some controversy. In Deborah's first scene, knowing that she is being spied upon by Noodles , she turns her back and pulls her dress off giving him a quick glimpse of her rear. Jennifer was only 12 at the time and the general thought is that the producers got cold feet about the scene and inserted a credit for extra Margherita Pace as her body double. Pace bore no resemblance to Jennifer and it's widely believed she did the scene herself. In any case she's very good especially in delivering one of cinema's most brutal rejection scenes and impossibly beautiful. She's also a very good fit for McGovern although the latter's role as a great actress is somewhat ironic as she's clearly not a very good one herself.
2. Phenomena ( 1985 )
Jennifer jumped straight into the leading role in her second picture, an Italian horror film directed by genre master Dario Argento.
The 14 year old Jennifer plays Jennifer the daughter of a famous actor who is sent to an exclusive but deeply unattractive Swiss boarding school where she soon learns there is a serial killer on the loose nearby who targets young girls. On her first night she sleepwalks but fortunately ends up at the nearby house of a paralysed entomologist Dr McGregor ( Donald Pleasance with a dodgy Scottish accent ) who helps police investigations. When he realises that she has some supernatural bond with insects the two attempt to track down the murderer.
Argento's film is more concerned with style and atmosphere than presenting a credible story. From the opening scene which doesn't really explain the first victim's presence at the killer's lair, to the very final credibility-straining action of its intense conclusion, there's a cavalier approach to logic and likelihood but it's still quite an enjoyable film. It's well-paced - the US distributors who took out 20 minutes before reissuing it as "Creepers" must have had attention deficit issues - and delivers its shocks well, particularly in the barnstorming last 10 minutes. There's also some fun in spotting the cheeky borrowings from other films such as Last Embrace , Carrie and most obviously Don't Look Now. It's a bit sloppy in parts; the dubbing of the other school girls is atrociously wooden and early on when Jennifer arrives at the school there's a snatch of voiceover which sounds like part of the trailer has got mixed up with the actual film.
Jennifer is very good for her age, coping well with the fact that most of her co-stars are speaking Italian during her scenes. She's carrying a fair bit of puppy fat at this point, accentuated by wearing billowing virginal white blouses throughout the film . It's also a physically demanding part requiring a lot of wet work. Accent apart Pleasance is fine although it's the sort of role he could play in his sleep .Out of the Italian cast Daria Nicolodi ( apparently Argento's ex-wife ) as her sinister chaperone is the pick. Mention should also be made of Tanga as McGregor's tame chimp , a born scene-stealer ( though he blotted his copy-book by taking a lump out of Jennifer's finger ) .
3. Seven Minutes In Heaven ( 1985 )
Jennifer returned to America for the leading role in this low budget teen sex comedy.
She plays Natalie Becker , a serious-minded teenager who chooses to stay at home when her widowed father leaves on a business trip. She takes in school friend Jeff ( Byron Thames ), who is having issues with his stepfather, on a strictly platonic basis. Her best female friend Polly ( Maddie Corman ) is sex-obsessed and chasing after a professional baseball player Zoom after a chance encounter.
It would be easy to do a real hatchet-job on this film. The comedy is contrived and unfunny. There's a low-flying boom mike in more than one scene. The three leads apart, who are adequate rather than impressive, the acting is absolutely atrocious particularly one Alan Boyce as Natalie's untrustworthy boyfriend. I'm not surprised Jennifer is the only member of the cast I recognise. The soundtrack by the similarly obscure Robert Kraft is utterly generic limp synth-rock . It promises some teen nookie - the opening scene has Polly prattling about cocks - and delivers zilch.
And yet there's still something likeable about the film. When it's not setting up painfully contrived comic scenes, the script is quite strong , with some snappy dialogue and one or two surreal touches which work well. The relationship between the girl who can get it but doesn't want it yet and her friend who's gagging for it but no guy's interested is well realised and gives the film some emotional heft. Thames's character is a walking cliche but he is given one or two moments to shine.
4. Labyrinth ( 1986 )
Jennifer's next project was a children's film directed by Muppet maestro Jim Henson and produced by George Lucas.
Jennifer plays Sarah, a spoiled teenager who wishes her baby brother abducted by goblins when she has to babysit him and lo and behold that's exactly what happens. Instantly repentant , Sarah is set a challenge by the goblin king Jareth ( David Bowie ) , to penetrate the labyrinth protecting his castle in a set time and so secure his release. The film follows her quest with the aid of some motley muppets who make up the rest of the cast.
Considering the talent and expense involved this should have been a lot better than it is. The sets are fantastic and the puppetry as good as you'd expect especially considering this was made before the CGI era but in most other respects it's very disappointing. The script is muddled and lacking humour ; Python Terry Jones received the writing credit but in fact his draft was considerably modified by others and consequently is incoherent. There's no strong narrative thread ; the action simply moves from one set piece to another. Nor is there any character development , Sarah's the same person she was at the start of the film and her main helper , Huggle , is a hopelessly confused creation
Then there's the Bowie problem. Our man looks risible in a frightwig seemingly borrowed from Sigue Sigue Sputnik and slightly obscene jodphurs and his acting is as reliably wooden as ever. That may be one reason why he was allowed to perform his specially-written songs in lieu of much dialogue. These are as vacuous and over-produced as anything else in his eighties output and contribute nothing in the way of illuminating the story - on each occasion it just seems like the action's been interrupted for a pop video.
My five year old son was intermittently engaged with the film. He enjoyed some of the special effects but switched off immediately when Bowie started spouting.
Jennifer's main contribution is to look stunningly beautiful - and well developed for a fourteen year old - throughout but she acts as well as the script allows and is just about the only participant to emerge with any credit . The box office returns were disappointing, much to Henson's distress, and it turned out to be the last feature film he made before his untimely death in 1990.
5. Etoile ( 1988 )
The seventeen-year old Jennifer went back to Italy for the lead role in this odd little supernatural thriller. For different reasons she required a body double for this one too. Jennifer does have sex in this but it's offscreen; it's the ballet scenes where she needed a lookalike
Jennifer is Clare Hamilton, an aspiring ballet dancer who travels to Hungary for an audition for ballet school. At her hotel she meets Jason ( Gary McCleery ) a young American travelling as assistant to his antique collecting uncle ( Charles Durning ). Before being auditioned Clare loses her nerve and wanders into the deserted theatre where her little routine is witnessed by a mysterious man in the audience. Soon after this she adopts the personality of a nineteenth century ballerina Natalie Horvath and Jason becomes concerned for his friend's safety.
Though to some extent anticipating Black Swan this is an unsatisfying film which is murky in both its cinematography - you can hardly tell where some scenes are taking place - and its narrative. There's no real explanation for Clare/ Natalie's change of heart over killing Jason or the spooking of Jason's hard-nosed uncle. Ballet fans might enjoy the generous amount of dance footage but there's little for anyone else.
The acting's not great either. I have to be honest and say Jennifer's awful in this, wooden and relying far too much on her obvious beauty to carry her through. McCleery isn't much better, embarrassingly over-manic at times. Durning's greater experience is obvious though he's only a supporting character. The Italians barely have a line between them so it's hard to judge their performance.
For further information on this one check out Jerry Richey's take here Etoile
6. Some Girls ( 1988 )
7. The Hot Spot ( 1990 )
This was 19-year old Jennifer's breakthrough role as an adult.
The film is a noir-ish thriller directed by Dennis Hopper which uses some familiar tropes. Harry Maddox ( Don Johnson ) drifts into a small town and unbidden sells a car to a difficult customer at a car showroom which lands him a job there alongside gorgeous secretary Gloria ( Jennifer ). Maddox observes that an unsavoury and late-paying client called Sutton ( William Sadler ) has some sort of hold on her. He also notes that the local bank run by the eccentric Ward ( Jack Nance ) isn't very well guarded. On top of that he has attracted the attention of his boss's wife Dolly ( Virginia Madsen ) an unhinged but cunning nymphomaniac. How these three strands intertwine and resolve themselves takes up the rest of the film with a generous helping of sex and violence.
Though well- shot and decently-acted , The Hot Spot is a bit too contrived and predictable to be a classic of the genre. The blackmail sub-plot isn't very convincing and anyone mistaking Madsen for Jennifer even in a darkened room just isn't credible. Nevertheless it moves along at a good pace and is entertaining enough to justify two hours of your time.
Johnson ( at the tail end of his Miami Vice fame and not Hopper's first choice ) isn't my favourite actor but his surly screen presence fits the role here and the supporting players do their jobs well enough. Madsen is great as the femme fatale and flashes the most flesh in a very physical role.
Jennifer reveals her breasts for the first time in a scene with the unknown Debra Cole ( above ) in her last film to date. It's quite short but Jennifer also appears in a wet bra and panties a couple of times. Her acting as the sweet virgin with a secret is adequate but no more than that.
8. Career Opportunities
9. The Rocketeer ( 1991 )
Jennifer's next film was this comic book adventure tale. Though the action is set in the 1930s the Rocketeer made his debut in comics in 1982. His creator Dave Stevens has a cameo in the film.
The storyline starts with stunt pilot Cliff Secord ( Bill Campbell ) gatecrashing an FBI pursuit while on a practice flight. For no very apparent reason one of the mobsters shoots at the plane and causes its ruin. However Cliff and his genius mechanic friend Peevy ( Alan Arkin ) find what the mobsters had stolen, a controllable jet pack designed by Howard Hughes ( Terry O' Quinn ) and he plans to use it to impress girlfriend Jenny ( Jennifer ) , an aspiring actress. She is an admirer of swashbuckling actor Neville Sinclair ( Timothy Dalton ) who is pursuing the rocket for reasons as yet unknown aided by mobster chief Eddie ( Paul Sorvino ) and scary behemoth Lothar ( Tiny Ron Taylor ).
Despite getting a good head start in the race to adapt comic book heroes, the film didn't do very well at the box office and you can see why to some extent. Disney bought the rights with a view to selling toys which meant cutting out some of the darker elements in the material and sending a message that it was essentially a children's film. However it's still too violent for younger children so it falls between two stools. It was also a long time in development and you can spot the signs in the gaps and red herrings in the script. A stabbing incident on a film set goes completely unexplained and an old romance of Peevy's is mentioned and then not developed. The look of the film is great and the action well staged.
The characters have all the depth of rice paper but that goes with the territory. Campbell was previously best known as gay Luke in Dynasty a few years earlier but is suitably bland in the main role and Dalton enjoys playing against type as a suave villain. Elsewhere you do get the feeling that the likes of Arkin and Sorvino are wasting their time trying to invest their roles with some gravitas. Jennifer , looking fantastic in a low cut dress for much of the film, does get what's required and plays the slightly naif thirties heroine with a knowing charm.
It is a reasonable film - there've been much worse in the genre , but it's nothing to write home about.
10. Of Love And Shadows ( 1994 )
11. Higher Learning ( 1995 )
Jennifer gets top billing in the opening credits and trailers here although she's not in it much ( but see below ).
John Singleton's film sets out to follow three students in their freshman year at the fictional Columbus University. Two, Kristen ( Kristy Swanson ) and Malick ( Omar Epps ) are enrolled on a political science course taught by Dr Phipps ( Lawrence Fishburne ) and the other Remy ( Michael Rapaport ) hopes to be an engineer. Malick is only there through an athletics scholarship and finds himself over-stretched by the academic and sporting demands. Kristen finds herself swinging between Arthur and Martha ( represented by Jennifer's older activist student ) after being raped and Remy's socially inept hick becomes easy prey for a group of neo-Nazis led by Scott ( Cole Hauser ).
So far so good and this is a watchable film but it could have been much better. It's trying to be two films at once, both a realistic campus drama and an allegory on American society generally and the two are sometimes in conflict. Would there really be a neo-Nazi sorority ( we're never told what Scott and his buddies are studying ) and an overtly racist security force on a nineties campus ? Would Remy's Jewish room-mate not be just a little concerned about the copies of Mein Kampf left around the room ? The allegorical angle is overplayed and heavy-handed with the statue of Columbus worked into as many shots as possible until it becomes the backdrop for one of the most over-the-top death scenes I've seen in a long time.
The other main problem is that the film does feel like it's been heavily edited from a longer opus and the cuts have been made at the girls' expense. So Kristen's story is told in fitful jumps, for example she's told by the Fees Office that she'll have to get a job to support herself but we never find out what it is - and then after her big intercut dual love scene ( tame but well-executed ) halfway through the film Singleton seems to lose interest in her story until near the end and her rapist goes effectively unpunished. There's no skimping on Malick's story though which probably reflects Singleton's priorities. There are far too many scenes of him being mentored by Phipps - I like Larry Fishburne and his is a good performance but he's in the film too much - and when he gets together with Deja ( Tyra Banks ) she starts lecturing him as well. As a consequence the third quarter of the film becomes preachy and dull and it needs the climactic lurch into melodrama to lift it. It doesn't help that Malick's buddies are played by rappers rather than actors with both Ice Cube and Busta Rhymes failing to muster more than one facial expression each. The final scene actually highlights the problem with a meeting between Kristen and Malick , whose paths have barely crossed, underneath the statue , uncomfortably mouthing some unconvincing lines trying to knit it all together.
Jennifer does OK but you don't see enough of her and Swanson and Banks are fine. Epps is over-stretched by the script and the best performances come from Rapaport who manages to elicit some sympathy for his pathetic character and Hauser with a chilling portrayal of cool, intelligent evil.
12. Mulholland Falls ( 1996 )
Jennifer played the murder victim in this noir-ish thriller set in 1950s L.A. It was the second film directed by Lee Tamahori after Once Were Warriors.
Nick Nolte is Max Hoover , leader of a four man squad of proto- Harry Callaghans using strong-arm methods to clear the city of visiting gangsters. That though is virtually a red herring as the team then start to investigate the murder of Alison ( Jennifer ) whose battered body is found on a construction site. She has been Max's mistress but he soon finds out she has been filmed having sex with other men including the director of the Nevada Atomic Testing Site ( John Malkovich ) .
This isn't a terribly original film with Chinatown in particular a huge influence and it wasn't a success at the box office, hence its slipping into obscurity despite a very impressive cast. Nevertheless it is a decent example of its genre and is modestly rewarding if you like this sort of thing.
Nolte does his usual thing hulking around with minimal growled dialogue though he does the violence well enough . Chazz Palminteri as the therapy-spouting Coolidge is the pick of his partners and gives the film some humour. Malkovich, Treat Williams , Andrew McCarthy and Bruce Dern all boost the film in supporting roles. Critic's favourite Melanie Griffith got her customary Razzle nomination, for worst supporting actress as Hoover's wife , and won but she's not in it that much.
Neither of course is Jennifer and you don't really get a sense of her character through just a couple of flashback scenes. There are some more glimpses of her funbags which are just awesome.
13. Far Harbor ( 1996 )
14. Inventing The Abbots ( 1997 )
Jennifer's next film was this family drama set in the late fifties.
The film focuses on a pair of brothers JC ( Billy Crudup ) and Doug ( Joacquin Phoenix ) growing up with their Mum ( Kathy Baker ) in a small town in Illinois . JC is convinced that the town's rich guy , Lloyd Abbott ( Will Patton ) owes his wealth to a patent conned out of his father and becomes obsessed with the idea of marrying one of his three daughters preferably bad girl Eleanor ( Jennifer ) . The more placid Doug meanwhile develops an easy friendship with youngest daughter Pam ( Liv Tyler ) . When Eleanor is sent away JC switches his attentions elsewhere causing conflict in both families.
This is a well-acted film with no glaring flaws but it's only moderately entertaining. I found it a bit slow and fragmented with the long fades marking the passage of time only emphasising the lack of a strong narrative arc. Michael Keaton's narration hints at darker depths in the story that are never really explained. Though we're seeing him through his brother's jaundiced eye JC, though well-played by Crudup, is still a pretty contemptible character who doesn't evoke any sympathy.
There are actually no poor performances. Phoenix is a reliable performer and doesn't disappoint here and it's interesting to see Tyler playing against type as a plain Jane virgin.
After giving a short but welcome flash of boob , Jennifer disappears after the first half hour apart from a brief reappearance in a scene with Phoenix which has no other point . She's not called on to do much apart from look sexy which is not exactly taxing for her.
15. Dark City ( 1998 )
Jennifer had the lead female role in this science fiction thriller directed by Alex Proyas.
She plays Emma the wife ( or is she ? ) of the main protagonist John Murdoch ( Rufus Sewell ) an amnesiac who may be a serial killer of prostitutes. He is pursued both by the cops led by Inspector Bumstead ( William Hurt ) and a group of strange black clad assassins led by Mr Hand ( Richard O Brien ). We already know they are aliens because of a Blade Runner style clunky voice over by Murdoch's psychiatrist Dr Schreber ( Keifer Sutherland ) added to the beginning of the film against Proyas's wishes. We also know he is helping the aliens and answering to their leader Mr Book ( Ian Richardson ) but that's about it in terms of knowing what the hell's going on in this film.
Dark City was Proyas's first film after The Crow and has the same noir-ish look but unfortunately it's nowhere near as good. While that had a tight narrative structure and characters you could care about this is all over the place and you can't really engage with anyone. It's chock full of red herrings and unanswered questions. Who killed the prostitutes ? How did Murdoch acquire superior powers to the aliens ? What purpose does Emma being a night club singer serve ? What are the objectives of the aliens' experiment ? This isn't a film to see if you like neat closure.
I didn't mind it and it does seem to have been an influence on later films in this genre such as The Adjustment Bureau and The Forgotten , both of which are somewhat tidier in their execution.
Sewell is OK but he's never really convinced me that he's a top rate actor. Hurt is of course but his is a somewhat lazy performance and Sutherland does his usual creepy villain thing without pushing the boat out. Melissa George makes an impact with a nude scene early on but is hardly in it afterwards . Jennifer does what she can with an under-written role but ultimately is just another of the film's disappointments.
16. Waking The Dead ( 2000 )
Jennifer reunited with Billy Crudup as they played the lovers on this romantic drama executive produced by Jodie Foster.
It's a mawkish cross between The Way We Were and Ghost. Crudup plays Fielding Pierce , a young man in 1972 avoiding the draft by working for the Coastguard service before starting a political career with some vague notion of doing the right thing. Jennifer plays Sarah the young journalist working for his hippy brother Danny ( Paul Hipp ) a Catholic left winger who believes in more direct action. They start a somewhat fraught affair before she is apparently killed in 1973 by a car bomb aimed at the Chilean exiles she is assisting. Nine years later Fielding is running for Congress and engaged to Juliet ( Molly Parker ) niece of his sponsor ( Hal Holbrook ) but starts being plagued by visions and flashbacks leading him to believe that Sarah is still alive and disapproving of his course.
It's a decent film very ably directed by Keith Jordan who arranges all the flashback and fantasy sequences with great skill so you never lose track of what's going on. The conflict between Danny's liberalism and Sarah's socialism is expressed well without being allowed to bog down proceedings in political debate. It falls short of greatness largely because you can never quite root for Fielding despite a good performance from Crudup. Particularly because of the way he treats his brother and Juliet you don't feel he deserves either Sarah or a place in Congress. There's not much room for the other characters to develop - Ed Harris was virtually chopped out as Fielding's disgraced predecessor because his star power was too strong for a minor role - though Hipp, Parker and Brit Janet McTeer as Fielding's sister Janet all make an impression.
Jennifer seems a bit wooden in her earliest scenes but improves as the film goes on and there's another tantalisingly brief outing for her bazookas. The script perhaps loads things in her favour a little but she impresses as the impatient young radical not prepared to compromise her beliefs .
17. Pollock ( 2000 )
Jennifer had a small role in this biopic as Jackson Pollock's mistress Ruth Kligman.
The film was a personal project of Ed Harris and was ten years in the making. He directs , takes the lead role and did all the painting shown in the film. The film follows the abstract artist's rise to prominence, his relationship with the artist Lee Krasner ( Marcia Gay Hardern ) and struggle with alcoholism. I've not much interest in modern art so I don't know how historically accurate it is but I suspect it is pretty faithful from the slow pace and bewildering array of characters.
This film was positively received . Hardern won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and Harris was nominated for Best Actor. However it didn't do a great deal for me. Harris's perfomance is a tour de force but Pollock seems such an objectionable character that it's impossible to emotionally engage with his struggles. Hardern is more sympathetic but you get irritated with her for putting up with him. If you're not really interested in the art there's not much in the human drama that's going to draw you in. The grainy look of the film is also dispiriting.Another problem is that Harris, an actor who looks all of his years, was six years older than Pollock at the time of his death so he just looks ridiculous playing Pollock at 30 with people describing him as a young artist. He could at least have put a wig on.
The rest of the cast don't really get enough screen time to impress. I'm guessing Val Kilmer took the role of goofy Willem de Koonig as a personal favour to Harris. Amy Madigan ( Harris's real-life wife ) does well as Peggy Guggenheim and Jeffrey Tambor is good as glum critic Clement Greenberg but no one else sticks in the memory.
Jennifer only appears in the last half hour looking absolutely terrific but there's no real introduction of her character, no mention that Kligman was a painter herself. She's only there to fulfil her historical function as the unwitting agent of Pollock's death so her appearance is something of a disappointment
18. Requiem For A Dream ( 2000 )
This is probably Jennifer's most challenging role as a drug addict in Darren Aaronofsky's ultra-bleak second film as director.
Harry Goldfarb ( Jared Leto ) is a slacker, callously pawning his mother's TV to score with his mate Tyrone ( Marlon Wayans ) and girlfriend Marion ( Jennifer ). His mum Sara ( Ellen Burstyn ) is a lonely TV-obsessed widow who prefers to redeem the pledges rather than face the truth about her son. When she gets a call inviting her to a television show, she becomes obsessed with losing weight to fit into a dress she wore at her son's high school graduation ( a weakness of the film is that Leto doesn't look old enough for the implied passage of time ) and gradually becomes enslaved by the drugs she takes to achieve it. Meanwhile the youngsters scheme to get rich quick by becoming players in the local drugs trade.
The film's themes are fairly simple. Drugs are really bad for you and you can't get something for nothing . It doesn't end well for any of these characters as foreshadowed by Clint Mansell's mordant score and the last 15 minutes of the film are an orgy of human suffering and degradation. Some of it is stomach churning. I didn't mind the darkness of the film but found the stylised presentation with over-use of jump cutting and time lapse photography a bit hard on the eye. The repetition of the same jump cutting sequence every time someone took drugs was particularly irritating. ( Yeah I get it - they're taking drugs - now slow down a minute ! )
Ellen Burstyn was Oscar-nominated for her performance and well deserved it. It's a painful tour de force portrait of unhappy ageing and mental disintegration. The scene where she turns up dishevelled at the TV station when her invitation doesn't arrive punches you in the guts. Both the male leads are good, although Wayans looks a bit too healthy and Christopher McDonald scores as slimy, callous TV host Tappy Tibbons.
Jennifer also puts in a great performance as the selfish addict who ends up having to utterly humiliate herself to get her fix. She's not a very likeable character but you do feel for her. Strangely she reveals her nicely trimmed bush in a fairly gratuitous scene early on but keeps her boobs under wraps. Aliya Campbell also flashes some flesh in a small role as Tyrone's girlfriend.
19. A Beautiful Mind ( 2001 )
This is easily the most important film in Jennifer's career taking her into the big league as far as Hollywood was concerned. Jennifer won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for the lead female role as Alicia Nash in Ron Howard's biopic of the troubled mathematician John Nash. The film was based on a bestselling book and did not aim at a literal reconstruction of Nash's life
Nash is played by Russell Crowe from his days as a graduate student at Princeton to his acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994 . As a student he is brilliant but severely lacking in social skills despite the best efforts of his friend Charles ( Paul Bettany ). He later moves to Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he meets and romances Alicia as a student. His boredom and dissatisfaction there is assuaged when he is recruited by the Pentagon through a federal agent named Parcher ( Ed Harris, pretty much reprising his role in The Firm ) to break the code used by a Russian faction who have smuggled an H-bomb into the States. He works on that until Christopher Plummer pops up as a psychiatrist to tell the Nashes - and us- that much of what has gone before isn't exactly true. The rest of the film details their struggle to come to terms with John's condition.
Some of Howard's changes are more defensible than others. Nash only suffered auditory delusions ( i.e. hearing voices ) which is pretty much unfilmable so the decision to make Parcher and co flesh and blood characters is justifiable for that reason as well as springing a great surprise on the audience. The fibs about John and Alicia's life together are less excusable. Far from standing by her man throughout, Alicia divorced Nash in 1963 and only took him back as a paying lodger for 25 years up to the Nobel Prize win. The acceptance speech , which thanks her for her devotion is also a fiction.
Nevertheless it is a well-made absorbing film which tries to make the mathematical content as engaging to the layman as possible although you don't come away with much understanding of Nash's game theory. The performances are all excellent as is the make up effecting the Nashes' transition over the years.
As to whether Jennifer deserved her Oscar , I haven't seen the films containing her rivals' performances so I couldn't really say. However I should point out that she also won the BAFTA in the same category despite three of her four rivals being British so that should tell you something.
20. Hulk ( 2003 )
Fresh from her Oscar triumph Jennifer went into this superhero flick directed by Ang Lee.
For non-Marvel fans and people who didn't catch the TV series Hulk is a raging monster that emerges when scientist Bruce Banner ( Eric Bana ) gets angry after absorbing a dose of gamma radiation. His would-be-girlfriend is Betty ( Jennifer ), daughter of gung-ho General Ross ( Sam Elliott ) who leads the efforts to contain or destroy the beast. That much is true to the comics but here Banner's transformation is more due to a genetic inheritance from his father ( Paul Kersey then Nick Nolte ) an unhinged research scientist for the military who injected himself with "nanomeds" when Ross pulled the plug on his projects. Another plot strand concerns an unscrupulous former soldier Talbot ( Josh Lucas ) from a private organisation looking to take over from the military.
Although the film recovered its costs there are major problems with it. I can see that Lee was trying to bring out the human tragedy at the heart of the story which the TV series successfully did and not just deliver a CGI extravaganza but it doesn't really work because for all his traumatic flashbacks, Banner junior is too moody and petulant to be a sympathetic character. Bana and Jennifer play their early scenes together like they hated each other - maybe they did - and the only chemistry to be seen on screen is the lab equipment. In fact she gets a better deal when he is Hulk than when he's human.
It's stylistically inconsistent. The first hour of the film looks like a kid's been let loose with the editing software with so many split screen scenes and gratuitous transition effects that it starts to look like student coursework rather than a serious film. Then that all drops out and the action is presented straight for the rest of the picture.
It's also too long at two hours eighteen minutes with far too many pointless flashbacks and over-extended action sequences. The fight sequence where Hulk saves Betty from three monster dogs created by his father, who somehow gets the run of the labs by putting on an overall and posing as a janitor, is completely superfluous and isn't the last scene to be a bit too close to King Kong for comfort.
And there are gaping plot holes. Ross barks at Betty that Bruce is a danger because he works in the same field as his father so why has he allowed that to happen ? Banner senior is mad , we can tell that , but what exactly is he trying to achieve now ? Appealing to his son's filial instincts doesn't square very well with boasting about sending dogs to kill his best friend.
Although the epilogue sets up a sequel this didn't actually happen as Marvel allowed Ken Norton, who turned down the role in this, to re-write the script for the next one and make it a re-boot rather than a sequel. This film has effectively been disowned.
All the performances are fairly one note particularly Elliott's and I wouldn't exclude Jennifer from that. This is as poor as she's ever been.
21. House Of Sand And Fog ( 2003 )
Jennifer was much more impressive in this powerful drama based on a 1999 novel.
Jennifer is Kathy, a recovering alcoholic living alone in a house by the Pacific who is wrongly assessed for business tax but fails to respond to the correspondence and has her house seized by the authorities and auctioned off. The ad is seen by Masood Bahrami ( Ben Kingsley ) a former army colonel in the Shah's regime who has been forced to build a new life for his family in the USA and he buys the house to make a quick killing on the property market. Hence he is not open to persuasion as regards undoing the original transaction. Kathy needs to be back in the house quickly in order to disguise her problems from her mother whose visit is impending and soon finds an ally in new boyfriend Lester ( Ron Eldard ) a deputy sheriff with marital problems.
This is an interesting film because you're never quite sure where to place your sympathies . Kathy's problems are more than half of her own making and while Bahrami has solid values he's also an arrogant wife beater . His kind, timid wife Nadereh ( Shoreh Aghdashloo ) is the only unambiguously sympathetic character in the film. It's a shame the story tips over into contrived melodrama in the last 20 minutes but it's still worth catching.
Kingsley and Aghdashloo were both Oscar-nominated for their performances and these were well deserved. Eldard does OK with a character that stretches credulity.
Jennifer is very good as a woman in a downward spiral encompassing a couple of suicide attempts and a grisly injury though she becomes something of a spare part in the final action. There's the odd glimpse of nipple which seems like it's likely to be the last in her career.
22.Dark Water ( 2005 )
Jennifer took the lead role in this Hollywood re-make of a Japanese horror movie whose similarities to The Ring and The Grudge are obvious.
Jennifer is Dahlia, a recent divorcee fighting a custody battle with ex-husband Kyle ( Dougray Scott ) over daughter Ceci ( Ariel Gade ). She and Ceci move into a grim Rooseveldt Island apartment block managed by sleazy landlord Murray ( John C Reilly ) and maintained of a sort by surly janitor Veeck ( Peter Postlethwaite ). Once ensconced there they are troubled by the spirit of a little girl who announces her presence with floods of dirty water and, in Dahlia's case, visions of her own troubled past.
As that synopsis would suggest this isn't the most original of films and there are distinct echoes of the two films mentioned earlier, The Sixth Sense , The Shining , Eraserhead and particularly Silent Hill in its relentlessly gloomy settings and lighting. Nor is it particularly well-written with many of the characters ill-defined and inconsistent in their behaviour and some glaring plot holes going unresolved. And despite its Gothic trappings it's never very scary.
What turns it from being derivative and tiresome into a good-ish movie is Jennifer's performance as a young mother doing her best in very trying circumstances while beset by demons both external and internal. She has to cope with being soaked to the skin for much of the time . She also manages to give a rather unsatisfactory ending some poignancy. The film is actually quite good at depicting the challenges of living in post-divorce poverty.
I was quite surprised that both the screenwriter and original author are male since it seems quite a feminist tale. All the male characters are untrustworthy ; even Tim Roth's sympathetic lawyer tells lies to hide the bargain basement nature of his operation. By contrast, all the women such as Ceci's schoolteacher are warm and caring with Kyle's new lover kept off screen.
Besides Jennifer , Gade is engaging as Ceci and Reilly is superbly punch-able as the slimy cheapskate Murray but both Scott and Postlethwaite struggle with poorly scripted roles .
Top marks for Jennifer, could have done better for the film.
23. Little Children ( 2006 )
This is a good film despite Jennifer's limited role.
It's a film of interlocking narratives set in a wealthy U.S. suburb. The central character is Sarah ( Kate Winslet ) a bored housewife and mother whiling away her days in the park with her young daughter and three small minded and gossipy harpies. They draw her attention to pretty boy house husband Brad ( Patrick Wilson ) an underachiever compared to his TV producer wife Kathy ( Jennifer ). Sarah decides to pursue Brad after catching her husband masturbating over internet porn. Brad is also distracted by his friend Larry ( Noah Emmerich ) a needy ex-cop mounting a one man vigilante campaign against a relatively minor sex offender Ronnie ( Jackie Earle Haley ) living with his mother in the neighbourhood.
The two children ,though well-played, are a red herring. The real children are the adults who haven't really matured and follow their own selfish impulses when they should know better, Brad being the most obvious example. The narrative is interesting , unpredictable and particularly brave in humanising Ronnie. The scenes of the blind date arranged by his mother are both painful to watch and ineffably sad.
The cast is uniformly excellent. Wilson is note perfect as the irresponsible man - child who ultimately betrays everyone. Emmerich and Haley are both exceptional in eliciting sympathy for their pathetic characters. Kate Winslet is predictable both in the excellence of her performance and willingness to flash the flesh although all her naked scenes are short and to the point.
The only disappointment is the thin role assigned to Jennifer. Although second-billed she's not in it that much and has a very unflattering hairstyle ( actually a wig according to the credits ). It's a real shame that Kathy isn't afforded the same interiority as the other main characters. Jennifer plays the discovery of Brad's adultery beautifully but it's her only opportunity to shine.
24. Blood Diamond ( 2006 )
Jennifer moved on to this big budget political thriller directed by Edward Zwick.
She plays Maddy, a fearless reporter on the civil war in Sierra Leone in the late nineties who comes across Dan Archer ( Leonardo Di Caprio ) an amoral Zimbabwean mercenary turned diamond smuggler. He is travelling through the warzone with a native fisherman Solomon Vandys ( Djimon Hounsou ) whom he knows to have hidden a large red diamond found while working at a mine as a slave for the rebel forces. Solomon is looking to reunite his family after a rebel attack on his village scatters them. The trio unite to use each other for their own ends.
I've enjoyed previous Zwick films but this one's a bit disappointing. It's very worthy but the politics are not very clearly expounded ; you certainly don't find out which of the two armies you should be cheering. The plotting is a bit mechanical too - the circumstance in which Archer finds out about the diamond is extremely contrived and it's not the only lucky break in the course of the story. The action scenes are well-filmed but by the third time you've seen Di Caprio and Hounsou run/drive through a hailstorm of Kalashnikov fire unscathed while extras and minor characters cop it all around them, tedium starts setting in. One or two potentially interesting subplots such as Solomon's son being groomed as a child soldier by warlord Captain Poison ( David Harewood ) are disappointingly under-developed.
The bulked-up Di Caprio was Oscar-nominated ( as was Hounsou for Best Support ) and probably deserved it although his character arc is thoroughly predictable and the film concentrates on him so much that the others wilt in the shade. The film suffers from the lack of a principal villain; Arnold Vosloo and Michael Sheen are the bad guys but they're not in it enough. Hounsou is pretty good but his part is under-written particularly the reunion scene with his wife, a cardboard character.
Jennifer is alright but her character isn't very convincing, veering between hardboiled cynicism and sudden outbursts of foulmouthed crusading passion. Nor is her truncated romantic attachment to Archer very believable. It's not her best role by a long way.
25. Reservation Road ( 2007 )
Jennifer has the lead female role in this domestic drama about a couple of families affected by a hit and run accident.
Jennifer is Grace Learner , married to Ethan ( Joacquin Phoenix ) with two children. When the family stop at a garage their teenage son is killed by a side swipe from an SUV returning from a baseball game. The driver Dwight Arno ( Mark Ruffalo ) flees the scene , fearful of the consequences especially the impact on his precarious access rights to his son Lucas ( Eddie Alderson ). As he struggles with his conscience he discovers that his ex-wife (Mira Sorvino ) was the boy's music teacher and that Ethan is determined to track down the perpetrator.
This is a decent film about ordinary if well-heeled people struggling to cope with a traumatic event which relies on solid performances from the cast rather than melodramatics or big plot twists. The added complication of Dwight, a lawyer, being employed to harry the police on Ethan's behalf is unnecessary given the connection through the children but it's handled reasonably well. The film is never that exciting because the conclusion is pretty inevitable but the length is about right and it holds your attention.
Phoenix , who I didn't immediately recognise with the beard, is very good as the father who lets his grief slide into destructive monomania and Ruffalo works hard to rustle up some sympathy for his character. Antoni Corone also makes a good impression as the pragmatic police sergeant.
Though she's not afforded the same screen time as the male leads , this is one of Jennifer's best performances as a grief-stricken mother who has to pull herself together for the sake of her remaining child.
26. The Day The Earth Stood Still ( 2008 )
Jennifer took the lead role in this big-budget remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic.
She plays Helen , a widowed bacteriologist with mixed race stepson ( Jaden Smith ) in tow who is requisitioned by the U.S. government as an unknown object hurtles towards Manhattan. Armageddon is postponed when it turns out to be a controlled sphere which lands in Central Park and spews out humanoid alien Klaatu ( Keanu Reeves ) and a giant robot which turns rather nasty when threatened with violence. As the first human to make contact she helps Klaatu when his plans don't coincide with those of the government led by the Minister of Defence ( Kathy Bates ).
I haven't actually seen the original so I was coming to this with a reasonably open mind. As a standalone film it's a decent shot at a sci-fi blockbuster which retains some humanity and doesn't go overboard on the CGI. The narrative's a bit thin in parts - would a scientist like Helen really take such a huge gamble on so little information ? - and the ending's both abrupt and rather weak. The moral message also remains a bit woolly despite regular attempts in the dialogue to explain it.
The other main problem with the film is predictably the performance of Reeves. It still amazes me that his stint in the Matrix films seems to have stifled the criticism of his acting since he hasn't improved at all. There's absolutely no screen chemistry between him and Jennifer which heightens the problem identified above. Matters aren't helped by the presence of Smith who is whiney and obnoxious throughout or John Cleese as a very unconvincing Nobel-winning scientist. Bates is as reliable as ever.
As for Jennifer it's not one of her better performances. Let down by script and co-star you do get the sense she's slumming it here.
27. He's Just Not That Into You ( 2009 )
With the telltale name of Rachel Aniston in the cast we're firmly in romcom territory here.
Jennifer plays Janine who works at some sort of magazine with Beth ( Aniston ) and Gigi ( Ginnifer Godwin ) where little work seems to be done while the women support each other through their relationship difficulties. Gigi ( who has the most screen time ) is a needy serial dater who needs help reading the signs from Alex ( Justin Long ) a friend of one of her failed dates. Janine is married but her husband Ben ( Bradley Cooper ) is eyeing up knockout yoga instructor ( Scarlett Johansson ) while she frets over house renovations and whether he's secretly smoking. Beth in turn frets over the refusal of her long-term partner Neil ( Ben Affleck ) to marry her. Oh and you've also got Drew Barrymore , looking plainer with each passing year and once again inserting herself in a picture because she's got a hand on the purse strings. She plays some sort of magazine editor with no love life and is barely connected to the rest of the film.
It's amazing that you could put all this talent in - you've also got Kris Kristofferson as Aniston's dad - and come out with so little, just an extended episode of Sex In The City. Both the authors who wrote the self-help manual on which the film is based worked on that series and Sarah Jessica Parker gets a gratuitous mention in the dialogue. Much of the dialogue seems to be direct quotes from the book and there are frequent voxpop -style interventions from "members of the public", presumably where the words couldn't be fitted into the characters' mouths. The upshot is that you can't really care about any of the characters. There are one or two funny scenes and a good soundtrack which provide some sort of relief amid all the pseudo-counselling but that's not nearly enough.
Jennifer gives a rather mannered performance as a borderline OCD homebody. She's also lost too much weight and looks gaunt and unattractive so you can understand why her guy goes after Johansson who's never looked better. Godwin (a new name to me ) is too one-note and becomes annoying while Aniston's performance seems to consist of nothing but looking a bit glum. The men are just ciphers ; Long in particular represents the vacuous , successful pretty boy that seemingly all women desire.
I'm just not that into this sort of thing.
28. Inkheart ( 2009 )
This one is in Jennifer's filmography because she was visiting her husband Paul Bettany on set and was persuaded to contribute a one scene , two word cameo as his pining wife. It's very obvious that she wasn't available to appear in the reunion scene as it's filmed from a long distance away.
That left me with the task of watching this big-budget children's fantasy adventure and I can't say it was a very rewarding experience. Brendan Fraser is Mo , a "silver tongue", someone who can conjure up characters from books when reading them aloud. He has somehow managed to lose his wife ( Siena Guillory ) when reading a book called "Inkheart" to his daughter ( Liza Bennett ) while simultaneously letting loose a whole series of characters from the book, mainly a gang of thugs under the control of megalomaniac Capricorn ( Andy Serkis ) but also a surly fire eater called Dustfinger ( Bettany ) who pursues him in the real world to reverse the process. Except that Mrs Mo is actually back in reality though struck dumb and a prisoner of Capricorn. If that doesn't make a scrap of sense to you you've got a good inkling of what sitting through the film is like.
After abandoning all hope of untangling the plot's logic you're left waiting to see what the CGI boys can come up with and the answer is nothing very exciting, a unicorn , some flying monkeys and a climactic monster that looks suspiciously similar to the Balrog from Lord Of The Rings. The eventual resolution is disappointingly tame.
Fraser is a bland leading man and Bettany unsympathetic in a very poorly written role. Serkis does his usual thing well enough but is hardly in it and Jim Broadbent is alright as the book's eccentric author. The best performers are Bennett as the winsome teen heroine and Helen Mirren resisting the temptation to ham it up as a plucky aunt.
It might pass muster for its intended audience but I'd advise adults to avoid it.
29. Creation ( 2009 )
Jennifer teamed up with Bettany again as they played Mr and Mrs Charles Darwin in this period drama.
The film is based on a biography of Darwin written by his great great grandson Randal Keynes which focused on his relationship with his daughter Anne . The film begins around 1858 with Darwin agonising over whether to offer up his On The Origins Of Species for publication , knowing how opposed his religiously conservative wife Emma is to his ideas. The conflict is making him physically ill but we soon learn that it is not the only thing dividing them as Charles is regularly visited by his deceased eldest daughter Anne ( Martha West ).
That's the basics of the plot which is mainly told in flashbacks. It's not historically accurate ; Anne actually died in 1851 so it wasn't the recent event the film depicts. This basically dishonest compression doesn't sit well with the regular trumpeting of the truth of science by Darwin's cronies over superstition, represented by Emma and her ally the local vicar ( Jeremy Northam ) . The film is a bit schizophrenic jumping between celebrating Darwinism, with director Jon Amiel cramming in as much CGI and time lapse photography as he can, and heart-rending family drama as an idyllic family life reaches a crisis point . The film looks good and the acting's fine but it doesn't quite hang together.
Bettany's is the central performance and he does capture the appropriate sense of repressed desperation and becomes sympathetic. West is very winsome in her scenes and it's hard to resist a tear or two at her demise. Bill Paterson as a hydro-therapeutic doctor is the pick of the supporting players. Jennifer , looking gaunt and unattractive, doesn't have nearly as much screen time as her husband and her character is portrayed rather negatively but she's OK and makes a decent fist of an English accent.
30. Virginia ( 2010 )
31. The Dilemma ( 2011 )
Jennifer reunited with director Ron Howard for this relationship comedy where she plays the lead's girlfriend, Beth.
I've no particular animus against Howard ; his films are usually at least watchable but this one's a bit of a stinker. Ronny, a reformed gambling addict ( Vince Vaughan ) is some sort of car dealer in partnership with Nick ( Kevin James ) and nets a crucial investment to develop an electric car engine that goes vrroom ! because "electric cars are gay " ( the film's words not mine ). While Nick works against the clock to deliver the bacon Ronny discovers that Nick's wife Geneva ( Winona Ryder ) is having a fling with tattooed stud Zip ( Channing Tatum ) and agonises over whether to tell him or not , the dilemma of the title.
It's hard to know where to start on what's wrong with this film. Well for a start it's not funny enough; there's a scene where Ronny delivers an inappropriate toast at Beth's parents' 40th anniversary party which is very amusing but it's the only one. The film takes unbelievably long to get going ; the first half hour is so flat and dull it was hard to stay awake. It's confused in what it's trying to say ; the revelations about their marriage from Geneva ( a completely unbelievable character despite Ryder's best efforts ) when confronted raise issues which remain unresolved at the film's end. It's also surprisingly violent ; Ronny picking up some injuries which heal remarkably quickly.
There are also some big mistakes in the casting chiefly Kevin James. If he's supposed to be a sympathetic character he fails big time, an overweight charisma by-pass so your response to Ronny's dilemma is "what does the fat git expect ?" sinking the whole premise of the film. The last scene which gives him a big pay-off is excruciating. The less said about Queen Latifah as a horny business angel or Laura Whyte's miles over the top turn as Ronny's sister in a contrived , uninteresting subplot, the better. Vaughan is alright ; he's not exactly a comedy god but he does hold the movie together as much as anyone could.
Jennifer is a big plus; as the only wholly innocent party in the central quad she's the only character you can really sympathise with and she plays it well, better than the wretched film deserves .
32. Salvation Boulevard ( 2011 )
As stated above I didn't enjoy "The Dilemma" very much but this one's even worse. Jennifer plays Gwen van der Meer, a fundamentalist follower of preacher Dan Day ( Pierce Brosnan ). She has brought her husband Carl ( Greg Kinnear ) into the church ( or vice versa, I'm not sure that was made clear ) and as an ex-Deadhead he's become a poster boy for its powers of redemption. After stooge-ing for Day during his public debate with atheist academic Blaylock ( Ed Harris ), Carl is invited along when the two men meet up for a nightcap and witnesses Day accidentally shoot his adversary. He's then caught up in all the shenanigans that follow.
The label tags it as "Comedy, Thriller" but it's neither. I think it's supposed to be a religious satire but the material seems very stale , as if it's been in production since the late eighties hey-day of Jimmy Swaggart and his ilk. Jerry Garcia's been dead for nearly twenty years so it would make more sense if Carl were a Marilyn Manson fan .There are no laughs to be had at all . Thrillers require a plot that makes some sort of sense and a sympathetic protagonist, neither of which are present here.
I hadn't seen Kinnear since As Good As It Gets and after 96 minutes of his one, constipated expression I hope it's as long again. Even when he was doused in petrol and about to be set alight by Day's goonish henchman ( Jim Gaffigan ) I couldn't have cared less. ( Incidentally his escape from that situation is ludicrously implausible and gives rise to a classic night time / day time continuity gaff ) . In the few scenes he has with Jennifer there's zero chemistry between them.
Brosnan plays his cartoon character well enough although it's hard to tell what accent he's attempting ( South African ? ) . Harris mumbles through a straggly beard and hopes we won't recognise him and Isabelle Fuhrman as Jennifer's daughter does what she can with an underwritten role. Jennifer herself is wasted playing such a one dimensional unlikable character and you wonder where her career's going when you see her in tripe like this.
Clearly someone thinks this film has something to say and we're treated to a little " Where are they now ? " epilogue where we learn - wait for it - that Jim ( a pointless character played by a wasted Ciaran Hinds ) " now goes to an Episcopalian church". As if anyone gives a flying you know what . One of the worst films I've seen in a long time.
33. Stuck In Love ( 2012 )
Having loathed Salvation Boulevard you can guess how enthusiastic I was about another film pairing Jennifer with Greg Kinnear.
They play a divorced couple Bill and Erica . She's gone off with a hunk while he remains with their teenage kids Samantha ( Lily Collins ) and Rusty ( Nat Woolf ). Both hope to follow in his footsteps as a successful writer and both are irritated by his refusal to accept their mother's desertion. Rusty gets involved with a young drug addict Katy ( Liana Liberato ) while Sam prefers casual sex until worn down by the pursuit of the bookish Lou ( Logan Lerman ) .
This is actually a reasonably entertaining film. The main characters are all sympathetic despite being over-privileged ( much of the action takes place around Bill's gorgeous beach side home ). It's been described as a comedy but you'd have to go elsewhere for belly laughs . It's more a good-natured , occasionally mawkish , family drama which holds your attention without ever becoming particularly gripping.
I'm still not a great Kinnear fan but he's better in this as the easy-going academic .The kids are fine and there are brief cameos from Arnold Schwarzenegger's son Patrick as Katy's boyfriend / supplier and Stephen King ( voice only ) as himself.
Jennifer doesn't have as much screen time as Kinnear and she doesn't seem fully engaged to be honest.
34 A New York Winter's Tale ( 2014 )
Jennifer is some way down the cast list in this supernatural romantic drama that throws The Adjustment Bureau , Angel Heart, Ghost and Love Story into the blender and comes up with an unconvincing melange that didn't satisfy anyone.
Colin Farrell is Peter Lake who enters 1890s New York Moses-style as a baby on a toy boat after his parents are refused entry to America. He is adopted by an Irish gangster Pearly Soames ( Russell Crowe ) who raises him as a thief but as the action starts they've had a disagreement ( never really explained ) and Soames wants him dead . He's rescued by a white horse appearing out of nowhere to lead him to a big house where the beautiful Beverley ( Jessica Brown Findlay ) is dying of consumption. When they instantly fall in love Soames is revealed as a demon who must thwart any miracle that may arise from their relationship. While wishing to avoid spoilers , Peter ends up in the present day where he has a special mission to perform.
The cast is too good for this to be truly dreadful but I can see why it failed at the box office. The jarring interjections of occult violence and a ( tame ) sex scene prevent it from being suitable family viewing and yet as every other scene ups the ante in mawkishness ( even Will Smith's decidedly unscary Lucifer has a sentimental moment ) it's hard to see what other audience they were aiming for with this film.
Farrell's not the world's most expressive actor but he's alright and Crowe is appropriately menacing despite a fairly hopeless accent. Brown Findlay in her Hollywood debut ( I don't watch Downton Abbey so she was new to me ) is suitably wan and tragic and treats us to a little bareback nudity. William Hurt gives good support as her father. There's also a rare film appearance from veteran actress Eva Marie-Saint who looks pretty good at 89 but having her still working as a newspaper editor aged 107 is pushing it a bit. Jennifer's only in the relatively short present day section as a single mother. Again, it's a phoned-in performance and if she gets any thinner she'll become transparent.
35. Aloft ( 2014 )
36. Noah ( 2014 )
Jennifer reunited with Russell Crowe in Darren Aronofsky's attempt to revive the big Biblical epic.
The film is very loosely based on the story in Genesis. Aronofsky claims he was just filling in the gaps in a very concise tale but in at least two major respects it's in direct contradiction to Genesis. Noah ( Russell Crowe ) is a good guy living a nomadic existence in a hostile world with his wife Naameh ( Jennifer ) and three young sons Shem, Ham and Japheth . He receives a call from God , through visions, strange beings called the Watchers and hints from his grandfather Methuselah ( Anthony Hopkins ) rather than directly, to build an ark to ensure the animal kingdom survives a cataclysmic flood. So far so good but the Bible story explicitly says all his sons were married and took their wives on the ark to ensure the survival of humanity; here only Shem gets a girl ( Emma Watson ) and the other boys' enforced bachelorhood is a major point of conflict in the film. Now departing from the Bible doesn't make it a bad film of course but you'd expect the liberties would make it more logical rather than less. How's humanity going to re-sprout from two baby girls who only have two blood uncles , one of whom's wandered off into the wilderness , to impregnate them ? This is compounded by the inclusion of the most puzzling episode in the Noah story, his naked drink binge, minus the subsequent curse on Ham's son who of course doesn't exist in the film so the whole scene doesn't make any sense.
Noah also has to contend with a stowaway ,Tubalcain ( Ray Winstone ) a descendant of Cain who killed his father, and unsurprisingly wishes to survive the flood. He of course isn't in the Bible at all and neither are the Watchers, stone -encrusted earthbound angels who owe a lot more to the Ents in Lord of the Rings than anything in the scriptures. Their final battle defending the ark against Tubalcain's forces is very reminiscent of the Battle for Isengard in The Two Towers.
But is it a good film if you don't know the story ? Well no not really though it did get some positive reviews. The unearthly Icelandic landscape is well used and there's another "Emperor's New Clothes " score from former Pop Will Eat Itself goon Clint Mansell who seems to be making a good living from playing a few drony notes on a synthesiser,
Beyond a couple of impressive CGI scenes where they converge on the boat the animals are hardly seen with the film focussing on the family conflict. You also lose any sympathy with Crowe's Noah quite early on as he turns into a heartless eco-fascist wanting to exterminate humanity. His three pretty boy sons don't have enough screen time to compensate particularly Japheth who might as well have been written out for all he contributes to the story. That actually leaves Jennifer as the best performer in the film bringing a warm compassionate liberalism to bear on her mulish spouse.
37 Shelter ( 2014 )
This film was Paul Bettany's debut as a director and was inspired by the homeless he saw outside their Manhattan apartment.
Jennifer took the part of Hannah, a woman who turns to heroin after the death of her husband and ends up living rough on the streets of New York. Tahir ( Anthony Mackie ) is a Nigerian illegal immigrant , a devout Muslim who refuses the shelter offered by the local mosque as atonement for his acts of barbarism in the terrorist group Boko Harem. The pair find each other and try to navigate their way through the welfare system together. There's an interlude where they discuss religion and Hannah gets clean in a fancy apartment which someone has kindly left unlocked but they end up in a boiler room which Hannah secures by sexually servicing the security guard Walter ( Kevin Geer ). Peter's mild-mannered courtesy in negotiating the bargain gives his scenes extra poignancy and he gets the best line in the film ; "This is New York .it's not a something-for-nothing town" .
It isn't exactly a feelgood film ; the two main characters are equally hard to love, , a mass murderer and a woman who's abandoned her child so Jennifer and Mackie have their work cut out to extract any sympathy but they do manage it and the ending is not quite s bleak as seemed likely. It didn't do much business at the box office.
This is one of Jennifer's best performances and you do wonder just what she went through to achieve such a skeletal appearance.
38. American Pastoral ( 2016 )