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When Bad Movies Happen to Good Actors
by Denise DuVernay

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Look at that perfect hair!

Look at that perfect hair!
Recently, I was talking to my friend Diane, and she asked a very good question: Why do bad movies happen to good actors? She was referring to the newish remake of THE WOMEN, which has an array of terrific female actors, but, apparently, the movie sucks. (I have not seen it, but I have heard from several reliable sources that the best thing about this movie is the clothes). And while I think Diane meant the question as more rhetorical than anything, it was enough for me to shove the three half-written columns I have aside to think about some good actors who have fallen into bad movies.

Before I go about the business of bashing, I should mention that I realize that it might not be fair to harshly judge these actors for starring in bad movies (the one notable exception below is Tom Hanks). In general, you never know how something will play out just by seeing the plans – anyone who has tried online dating knows that. Someone or something that looks good on paper (or on computer screen) just might be a socially inept trainwreck.

Even if these actors had an inkling they may be making poor cinematic choices, everyone has bills, right? I mean, we all have to do things for cash that are a little painful or that we're not proud of. I have waited many a table. Heck, I worked for a year for Accountemps! (with a B.A. in English, no less. I'm still puzzled how that happened). The worst job: I sold, door-to-door, coupon books designed for suburban pizza places and dry cleaners under the guise of a "marketing club at the University." So co-starring with a dog in a buddy movie doesn't seem so bad in that context, right? Luckily for me, there aren't countless VHS
Great film, great cast: PHILADELPHIA

Great film, great cast: PHILADELPHIA
tapes out there of me delivering Sunset Passion Coladas and Ultimate Feasts while wearing a fish shirt. (At least, I pray there aren't). Red Lobster was my GIGLI.

So now that I've exposed my embarrassing moments, I don't feel so guilty ripping on the following Good Actors for their (in my opinion) Bad Choices. This is for you, dear readers, to prevent you from feeling more disappointment in this already disturbing world.

Ben Affleck
Granted, Affleck set the bar high early in his career with DAZED AND CONFUSED, a variety of Kevin Smith movies, and GOOD WILL HUNTING. I'm not saying that all Kevin Smith movies are great, but at least they do something. Smith's risk-taking is commendable. Hey, I just might be one of the seven people who liked JERSEY GIRL. I'm not even all that huge a Ben Affleck fan, although more so since I saw him on Real Time a week or two ago; but I'd still rather have a date with his wife. Ben's haircuts probably cost more even than John Edwards's, but Ben works a lot, so there is just no excuse for DAREDEVIL (2003). Thought I was going to say GIGLI, didn't you? Nope, too easy. Wow, 2003 was a bad year in movies for Ben Affleck. 2006, not so great either. Fingers crossed for 2009.

Tom Hanks
Hanks was Joe in the amazing and underrated JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO (1990). He was adorable as both Kip and Buffy. And as Uncle Ned, he delivered one of the funniest lines in 80s sitcom history. (In case you need a refresher, Alex tells Ned he has drunk an entire bottle of vanilla extract, and Ned is all like, what, did you want some?).

On the heels of two Oscar wins for PHILADELPHIA (1993), and
Diego Luna is an adorable Chilango

Diego Luna is an adorable Chilango
FORREST GUMP (1994) and a big voice role in the terrifically successful TOY STORY (1995), Hanks must have been so how high on himself that he thought he could spit on cupcakes and call it icing. Sadly, that's when he wrote and directed THAT THING YOU DO! (1996). True, it was not the worst film ever made, but it was, well, banal.

Meg Ryan
Meg Ryan was perfect in arguably the best rom com ever (yes, I'm talking about WHEN HARRY MET SALLY [1989]). She was a delightful flibbertigibbet in the obscenely underrated JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO. A few years later she impressed everyone with a rougher edge in WHEN A MAN LOVES A WOMAN (1994). And Ryan's depiction of Pam in Oliver Stones' THE DOORS (1991) was as annoying as the actual Pamela Courson probably was, so why, oh why would she sign on for IN THE CUT (2003)? If it was because of Mark Ruffalo, I guess I can forgive that, but didn't she ever see THE PIANO (1993)? HOLY SMOKE (1999) was alright, but overall, Jane Campion's movies are simply painful. I gave IN THE CUT an hour of my life that I'll never get back.

Querido Diego Luna,
Dude! You were in BEFORE NIGHT FALLS (2000), Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN (2001) and FRIDA (2002)! I get that you wanted to expand your presence in the English-speaking film realm, but didn't anyone tell you that if Patrick Swayze has a cameo, it's not a good idea? DIRTY DANCING: HAVANA NIGHTS (2004) was a bad choice. I say this as a friend and as someone who has seen the film multiple times and even owns the DVD—it was not a good idea to take this role. Don't worry, though. It's all good; I'm certain you've got a long, wonderful career ahead (in whatever countries and
I've often thought I've had a braincloud.

I've often thought I've had a braincloud.
languages you want); in fact, I'm looking forward to seeing the reunion with Gael Garcia Bernal in RUDO Y CURSI (which will be released in Mexico in December).

Drew Barrymore
Drew, when you were staging your comeback to the big screen you made some wise choices: The tiny little part in WAYNE'S WORLD 2 (1993), brilliant! You made the country, heck the world, want more of you. Being killed off right away in the beginning of SCREAM (1996)- ditto!. And while BOYS ON THE SIDE (1995) is not on my list of favorites by any means, it was a smart choice; just look at the rest of the cast. And everyone knows how much I love EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU (1996) and THE WEDDING SINGER (1998). Consider NEVER BEEN KISSED (1999)- while completely unbelievable (a copy editor with a huge office and an assistant: come on!) an adorable little movie. But HOME FRIES (1998), Drew? Really? While I have learned from my pal Mark Metcalf* that actors don't always know what vision the director has of the movie before they sign on, there had to have been some clues that HOME FRIES would completely suck. But, hey, it all worked out well for you and Luke as your careers are A-okay, so I guess I should quit busting your chops about that one. I'm looking forward to WHIP IT!, by the way.

*Speaking of Mark Metcalf, I misquoted the remarks he made on the direction of his upcoming film THE ADVENTURES OF BELVIS BASH: while he found my mistake "charming," the film he was referring to was not LA MORT du CHINOIS but was actually LA CHINOISE (1967) by Jean-Luc Godard. My apologies to the gracious Mark Metcalf.



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Semi-wholesome Midwestern girl and certified Geek Magnet offers her suggestions - often new, sometimes classic - for DVDs that are definitely queue-worthy.


Other Columns
Other columns by Denise DuVernay:

Goodbye, Du

Du Chats Movies With Comics Author Lonnie Millsap

Du Reviews ALPOCALYPSE by "Weird Al" Yankovic

Another Piece Praising BRIDESMAIDS

Friendship Films and DVD Picks for May 17

All Columns


Denise DuVernay
9 out of 10 librarians think Denise is a hoot. The 10th one couldn't corroborate because she was dead.


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If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Denise DuVernay by clicking here.


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