MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

No Reservations? No Leading Lady

Catherine Zeta-Jones is an extraordinarily beautiful woman and a pretty good actress.  It is quite unfortunate for her that she was not born fifty years earlier because would have been one of the premier movie stars of the forties and fifties.  That beautiful face of hers, the slightly exaggerated mannerisms in her roles, that husky voice; she would have been a perfect leading lady to pair opposite Cary Grant or Jimmy Stewart. It is a shame, however, that she is stuck acting in the present because her style and beauty does not translate to an audience that is more and more interested in attainable beauty.

One of Catherine Zeta-Jones’ problem is that she is too stunning, simply too good looking to be an actress today.  One could argue that Angelina Jolie is just as beautiful, but Jolie has that hard edge to her, that soupcon of something broken and damaged.  Zeta-Jones simply projects too much maturity and etiquette to appeal to the horny teenagers who populate the multiplexes today.  Julia Roberts is not a classic beauty, but she has a spunk that the reserved Zeta-Jones doesn’t quite have.

Zeta-Jones first burst onto the scene playing a sex symbol in The Mask of Zorro andEntrapment and the young guys loved watching her slink around in skintight pants.  However, it seemed that she quickly grew tired of being just a bombshell and played a pregnant woman in Traffic, a married woman in America’s Sweethearts, and (winning an Oscar for) playing a 20’s showgirl in Chicago.  She might have been sexy in each of these movies, but she wasn’t trying to be, and certainly none of these films was aimed at an audience younger than twenty-five.  And marrying Michael Douglas certainly didn’t help keep her in the consciousness of the younger set.

She hasn’t worked very often, having made only four films since winning her Oscar.  All of them have been commercial and critical disappointments (The Terminal, Intolerable Cruelty, Ocean’s Twelve, Legend of Zorro).  And her latest film, No Reservations, is her first in two years which is a long time to wait for a woman in her thirties.

No Reservations is a trifle of a movie and is a disappointment for anyone familiar with Mostly Martha, the German film on which it is based.  It is about a tough female chef named Kate (Zeta-Jones) who winds up being the guardian for her niece Zoe (Abigail Breslin) after her sister dies in a car accident.  At the same time, her restaurant hires the bombastic Nick, who specializes in Italian food as well as making Kate swoon.

It’s a nice movie and everything is cute, but it doesn’t measure up to the original which seemed fresh and interesting and was made with passion.  Scott Hicks, the director of films like Shineand Snow Falling on Cedars, is filmmaker with an eye for cold precision which works great in the kitchen scenes but kills the emotion in any sequence away from the restaurant.  Eckhart is terribly miscast, simply because he doesn’t project the kind of arrogance that is needed for this part.  Whatever he brought to Thank You For Smoking, he left it at home this time around.

Zeta-Jones is … okay.  She doesn’t do anything particular great or particular awful, she is just kind of … there.  The idea of remaking Mostly Martha was a bad one from the start, but Zeta-Jones is simply too beautiful and sophisticated for the part.  When she is supposed to be falling apart, we can’t buy it because she gives off an aura of having it together.

I think this film represents what is wrong with Zeta-Jones’ career.  No director has quite figured out what to do with her.  She obviously has some talent and is strikingly gorgeous. It would seem to be a slam-dunk to put her in a film opposite someone like Clooney or Pitt and just let the sparks fly.  Unfortunately, she has been cast in roles opposite both Clooney and Pitt and the sparks didn’t fly.  The problem was that while the couples looked great together, it seemed like Zeta-Jones was from another era.  She looked young enough to be their girlfriends, but she acted old enough to be their grandmothers.

The best onscreen couple that Zeta-Jones has been a part of was opposite Sean Connery. For some reason, they seemed suited for each other and he’s at least thirty years older than her.  Maybe that’s why she married Michael Douglas.  I don’t know if I would quite call it old-fashioned, more that she is just old at heart.

I still think there is hope for Catherine Zeta-Jones, but I don’t think it will be as a typical leading lady.  I think now that she is approaching forty, she would be excellent in a Mrs. Robinson type of role, seducing a younger man.  In other words, I think she will be a great onscreen mother and I think she will be capable of giving some wonderful performances in that vein.

It would be a shame if Zeta-Jones doesn’t get something to really sink her teeth into, but I also get the sense that she doesn’t really care that much about being a movie star.  She doesn’t work very often and seems more concerned about being with her family while doing cell phone ads.  After all, she’s already won an Oscar and made more than enough money.

William Goldman once wrote that Robin Wright was so beautiful that she could have been the biggest star in the world if she wanted to.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) she didn’t want to be.  Perhaps Zeta-Jones doesn’t want to be a movie star and if that’s the case, then we can only wish her the best and hope to see her turn in some better performances in the future.

– Noah Forrest
August 10, 2007

Noah Forrest is a 24 year old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.
The opinions expressed in these columns are the writers and do not neccessarily reflect the opinions of Movie City News or any of its editors or other contributors.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.

Frenzy On Column

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon