Common belief in Hollywood maintains that women over a certain age are not hot, not relevant, not worthy of good roles. Historically, it seems that magic number has been 40. Anyone who still holds that belief is wrong. Clearly. Many films have come out in recent years that celebrate the diversity and range of over 40 female actors, films that lack age jokes and cheesy stock characters, in favor of interesting stories and spectacular actors such as Jennifer Aniston, Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Tilda Swinton, and Julia Roberts.
Earlier this year, there was an enormous hubbub about Jennifer Aniston possibly going nude in upcoming films, especially the Judd Apatow-produced WANDERLUST (co-written and directed by Childrens' Hospital's David Wain). Articles and speculation abounded: will she do full frontal? Or will she show just the girls? The reports vary, but It sounds like we won't be seeing Aniston's bush anytime soon, but one thing is for sure: the thousands of people who drive past her Smart Water billboards aren't thinking "Damn! She is hot for a 41-year-old!" -- they're thinking "Damn! She is hot!"
My Jennifer Aniston pick: THE BREAK UP (2006). Yes, it was before she was 40, but she hasn't been in the 40-year-old hottie club for very long, and her performance in THE BREAK UP is understated but wistful.
This year's THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT featured Annette Bening and Julianne Moore. And while the film had its faults (very, very few), the performances of Bening and Moore were flawless. Impeccable. Life changing. I found it striking that Moore played the gynecologist, suspecting her husband of cheating in CHLOE (2009) and in THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, she's the one cheating on her gynecologist wife. And she played both of these roles with equal ease.
When I was younger, I didn't think either way about Annette Bening-- her work just wasn't in my wheelhouse (she was simply the BUGSY woman to me, and that movie bored me). But with incomparable performances in AMERICAN BEAUTY, RUNNING WITH SCISSORS, and MOTHER AND CHILD, along with THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, I've grown to respect and admire her. It's impossible not to.
My Annette Bening pick: THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT (1995). I know I'm reaching back on this one, but I can't help it. I love her in it. With terrific acting, a tight script, and the delightful direction of Rob Reiner, THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT is a tasty precurser to Aaron Sorkin's gorgeous writing and character development to come on The West Wing.
My Julianne Moore pick: CHILDREN OF MEN (2006). I'm not usually one for sci fi, or even speculative fiction, but this is a fantastic dystopian film. Everything about it is perfect: the casting, the set, the acting, the suspense, the Clive Owen.
The brilliant and quietly stunning Tilda Swinton has finally become appreciated of late with roles in THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, I AM LOVE, MICHAEL CLAYTON, and BURN AFTER READING.
My Tilda Swinton pick: I AM LOVE (2009), which I watched (and loved) mere hours after reading a strongly worded tweet by Roger Ebert (not that it was directed to me, but I still took it to heart).
I did not see Julia Roberts in EAT PRAY LOVE, Roberts' latest blockbuster, but I don't doubt that she was beautiful and charming as Liz Gilbert.
My Julia Roberts pick: CLOSER (2004). I have to admit: I really hate this gross movie. I detest it. It's painful and tedious and seems to never end. But Roberts is terrific in it, and it's one of the few films of hers that I don't think of PRETTY WOMAN when I see that trademark hair and all those teeth. So I'm marking it in the win column. Plus, I seem to be going with a Clive-Owen-as-co-star theme today.
Based on these lovely, ageless stars, I'm finding hope in the future of film and feminism. And if the examples above aren't enough for you to share my optimism, lemme lay some other examples on you of spectacular female actors who transcend age: Helen Mirren, Tina Fey, Pam Greer, Carla Gugino, Diane Lane, Holly Hunter, Katey Sagal, Kyra Sedgwick, and Sandra Bullock. Word.
That concludes this week's column, but not before I offer some highlights of stuff dropping soon:
Coming November 16
AVATAR Three disc extended collector's edition
CLASH OF THE TITANS (Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson)
DISNEY'S A CHRISTMAS CAROL (Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth)
Glee Season One Giftset
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT (Annette Bening, Julianne Moore)
THE LAST AIRBENDER (Noah Ringer, Dev Patel)
LOTTERY TICKET (Keith David, Terry Crews)
MODERN TIMES Criterion Edition (Charles Chaplin)
The Office digital shorts collection
Coming November 23
Deadwood The Complete Series [Blu-ray]
EAT PRAY LOVE (Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem)
GRANT MORRISON: TALKING WITH GODS
I'M STILL HERE (Joaquin Phoenix)
Murder She Wrote Complete Twelfth Season
TERMINATOR 2 JUDGMENT DAY /TOTAL RECALL Two Pack [Blu-ray]
What about the old pros: Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, and Bette Midler in The FIRST WIVES CLUB. In that movie, they WERE the story. That trifecta showed the "young'ens" (relatively speaking) how it's done.
Annette Bening- The Women
Julianne Moore- Magnolia
Jennifer Aniston- The Good Girl
Julia Roberts-So many- Pretty Woman, Steel Magnolia, Mystic Pizza, My Best Friends Wedding, Stepmom, and Mona Lisa Smile