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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Jennifer Aniston: Exactly why is she a movie star?


Let's face it. When it comes to enduring mysteries, it's hard to come up with something more mystifying than how Jennifer Aniston became a movie star. After all, she's made an almost-unbroken string of forgettable movies that have rarely made a lot of money, a streak that looks like it will remain intact with the release of "The Switch" this weekend. So how did it happen? As it turns out, my favorite sports columnist, ESPN's Bill Simmons, has a provocative--and hugely entertaining--theory about how Aniston has managed to remain an A-list star, despite appearing in such hapless sludge as "Derailed," "Rumor Has It," "Management," "Love Happens,"  "He's Just Not That Into You" and "The Bounty Hunter." 

Aniston's biggest hit was "Marley & Me," though it's something of a stretch to say that she was the driving force for the film's box-office triumph. Or as Simmons puts it: "They could have made this movie with Betty White playing Owen Wilson's wife and it still would have made $100 million." So why hasn't Aniston faded into obscurity, ya know, like Matt LeBlanc and some of the other "Friends" lesser lights? Here's a condensed version of Simmons' theory:

"Because of the Angelina/Brad/Jennifer love triangle, which is like Brett Favre's comeback/retirement/comeback routine multiplied by 10, but has been cruising along for twice as long. The saga evolved in various forms: the betrayal itself; the aftermath, when Aniston licked her wounds as "Brangelina" took off; her futile search for a bounce-back boyfriend; the Brangelina clan expanding; everyone feeling worse and worse for Aniston, with her finally admitting that she was still bummed out; the Brangelina clan expanding again; Aniston's weird dalliance with the much younger John Mayer, which ended when he talked out of school about her; the Brangelina clan expanding again; Aniston approaching her 40th birthday and wanting a baby; the Brangelina clan producing twins; Aniston hitting 40 with no baby or husband; Aniston passing 40 with no baby or husband. People can't get enough of this stuff. Aniston resonates with women like no other celebrity. No matter how wealthy or famous or good-looking she is, the nuts and bolts of Aniston's "tragic" story could have happened to anyone: She lost her scummy husband to a seductive co-worker. Maybe it was the worst thing that ever happened to her personally, but professionally? Godsend."

Being The Sports Guy, Simmons compares Aniston to an aging athlete (think Karl Malone or Steve Nash) who, having never won a championship ring, is desperate to finally get into the winner's circle. In fact, he theorizes that if Aniston had remarried in 2006 to a rich Rande Gerber type and had a couple of kids,  by 2010, "would anyone care about Jennifer Aniston? NO!!!!!!" Only if she made good movies, something that has so far largely eluded her. Simmons suspects that Aniston doesn't much want to make great movies, saying "she's happy being a likable celebrity with decent comic timing who plays herself in every movie (with only her hairstyle and co-star changing)."

I suspect this strain of career success/personal unhappiness runs deep in the Hollywood DNA. After all, there are loads of old-school showbiz starlets, dating back to the days of Lana Turner and Rita Hayworth, who had all sorts of similar man trouble, the only difference being that in those days, you married all the louses and had to endure a quickie Mexican divorce before you could regain your freedom. Who knows? Maybe Aniston will find Mr. Right tomorrow and enjoy a burst of later-in-life happiness. If having a successful marriage freed her from the shackles of being on the cover of US every other month, I bet marital bliss couldn't come a minute too soon.   

Photo: Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman in "The Switch." Credit: Miramax Films


Comments () | Archives (117)

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Bill Simmons didn't say anything that me and dozens of other people have been saying for dog years. I was saying it even when Aniston was married to Brad Pitt. She has zero screen presence and is barely tolerable with her limited emotional range. Every movie she does is "Rachel Green as a grocery clerk" or "Rachel Green as Jim Carrey's wife" or Ben Stiller's wife or - yet the drift. I used to think Rachel Green was a character. Now I realize it's not - it's just Aniston being herself - and that AIN'T acting, folks.

Love it! Finally someone has actually stated the obvious in the industry...Aniston sucks! She should just hang her hat and retire. She was good (not great) in Friends, but after a string of failed movies, please...just STOP. I can't stand another slew of interviews from her, promoting another (failed) movie.
ps: all these "shocked" comments from people on the article..are for sure, from her publicity team...hats off to them, they have sold Aniston to the public so skillfully! Sale of movie tickets don't lie.

Some people feel sorry for Jennifer Aniston because they sympathize with her lack of success in her relations with the other sex. I'd prefer not to make excuses for Chinnifer Maniston. She didn't want to have kids while her ex-husband, Brad Pitt, did. Angelina Jolie comes along, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out what came next. The same thing happened to a few of my friends; their spouse didn't want to start a family so they left. Move on and get over it. Her scorned-woman shtick is getting old after all these years, and her inability to maintain a stable relationship makes it seem more like the problem actually has to do with her.

It's not exactly rare for a "star" to appear in a string of box office flops and still be considered one. Look at Ashton Kutcher. Many of his movies flop, and his latest flick, Killers, was cited as the reason for Lionsgate's lackluster quarter. Despite being talentless, he still gets roles so this phenomenon isn't just limited to Chinnifer Maniston.

not agree with keekee, hillary swank is a great actress, in million dollar baby, she was fabulous in the role, but i sincerely congrats mr goldstein, for this article... the worst of all is that jennifer aniston have and keep take advantage from the meltdown of her marriage, for make a career, i think she MUST retire before she commit the mistake of make a movie like norbit

Some one on this blog was right when they stated it's time to give another actress a chance to shine. I don't know why this one actress is in our face so often, but I was truly disappointed when Jennifer Aniston promo's cut into Julia Roberts' premier I would have like to see more of Julia since she had been gone for a while. She is a great actress. WHY IS JENNIFER ANISTON ALWAYS IN OUR FACE, " SWITCH" HAS BOMBED IT DID NOT HELP HER MOVIE!!

It's clear why Pitt left Aniston. Pitt wanted children and Aniston "wasn't ready." She put her career over the desires of her husband and lost him to a woman who said yes to Pitt about having children.

That's how Jolie "stole" Pitt.

Pitt said: Children!
Aniston said: I'm not ready.
Jolie said: How many?

This is a classic case of a woman who has it all, Aniston, but the one thing she really loved. She loved Pitt but her Hollywood dream A-list star status wouldn't let her agree to have children.

You see her priorities?

Talk bad about Jolie all you want but her priorities are about family and not her A-list status.

Aniston has it all. Jolie has it all plus a family, too.

mike t.

It's is so sad that I haven't been reading these comments for so long and I see nothing has changed. Articles to trash Jennifer Aniston, all kinds of lies and trics to promote Angelina jolie's 3rd class movie "Salt". Finally Brad looks normal but all the work is to promote Angelina jolie's movie!!!Maybe for her next movie Angelina Jolie will dress her daughter (Shila) like a girl and take all the attention. As a family they look terrible for a year but around the time to promote movies, they all dress up and look different. How funny is that all AJ's fans complain how much bottox JA uses but if you look at Angelina Jolie she is getting there too with all the bottox on her face!!! And then the reporters say "Angelina Jolie had almost none make up when we saw her" Ofcourse with all the bottox on her face why would she???? How stupid do you think we all are???

Since everybody already knows JA's movies are not that great and she hasn't had a hit movie (even though she had several like Marly and Me or Good Girl...etc) why don't you start writing something more real about Brad and Angelina Jolie (the reason I am talking about these two is it's obvious there is a certain reason why you are trashing JA so much)

And the more important question is WHEN WILL YOU ALL GIVE UP???

If a sports columnist on a sports website is talking about her movie career, then obviously she's doing something right. I wouldn't count her out yet. Look at Sandra Bullock before The Blind Side. People were grousing she'd only had two true hits, Miss Congeniality and Speed. They were all saying, why is she a star? Now look. All it takes is one.

What I want to know is, what did she have injected into her face? It is so awful and fake-looking.

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