While promoting her new perfume (and its accompanying ads with her sitting naked on a rock), Jennifer Aniston gave an interview with Women’s Wear Daily in which she announced her new show-business plans: to direct a film: “After you get enough movies under your belt, you sit back and go, ‘What’s next?’ It’s getting to be the time where creatively I want to turn in a different direction.” The divergent plans of shilling a new fragrance (which will compete on the shelves with Just Me by Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian’s eau de parfum) and becoming an auteur seem to cancel each other out in terms of high/low aspirations. And yet that very imbalance seems sadly appropriate when it comes to Aniston, whose career, ever since Friends ended in 2004, has been marked by wind sprints from fluffy rom-coms to prestige indies and back again, all the while never able to find a happy medium in which audiences truly embrace her.
Aniston’s recent films, The Bounty Hunter and Love Happens, fall into the standard romantic-comedy pit that she’s been swimming in since she headlined in Picture Perfect in 1997 (remember that one? Yeah, neither do we. Oh, wait, we vaguely recall Jay Mohr playing the hunk, but that can’t possibly be right). Both of these films had middling box-office performances; as usual, people’s interest in the movie was inversely proportional to the interest in her personal life. Her fans got more worked up about her off-screen relationship with Gerard Butler than her onscreen one. Reviews were terrible for these films, but then again, when she tried prestige indies like The Good Girl and Friends With Money, she got good notices, but audiences still didn’t care. The only films that really have worked are The Break Up, which, with her relationship with Vince Vaughn, was the perfect melding of film and personal life, and Marley & Me, at which people only politely put up with her just so they could get to the dead dog.
All this “What do you people want from me?” confusion may be what has driven her to flail out into so many directions. You don’t like me in Rom-Coms? Well, then, I’ll make you a perfume! Not into that? How about I become a director! And if those don’t work, I’ll design skateboards, then get my masters in literature, and then I give up! It’s hard not to sympathize with what seems like a frantic desire to sit anywhere except in her accursed designated sweet spot: looking sad on the cover of People magazine.