When Friends, formerly titled Insomnia Café, first hit TV screens way back in October 1994, no one imagined the worldwide success it would achieve, let alone that the six actors who played the lead roles would become such international stars. It has not been so rosy since the series ended in 2004, however, as neither David Schwimmer, Courteney Cox, Matthew Perry, Matt Le Blanc, Lisa Kudrow, nor Jennifer Aniston have made noticeable and befitting transitions to the cinema screen, although Aniston, with her sharp comedic talent and spellbinding sexuality, has continually defied expectations, detracting reviews and unappreciative film roles to become something of an underrated winner.
It’s easy to see why she’s had the most success. While there’s no doubt that each member of the Friends cast brought their own talents to the table, it was always Aniston who stole the show as plucky fashionista Rachel Green, and her storylines were arguably the most entertaining (Rachel singing Copacabana in an unflattering pink dress at her ex-fiancé’s wedding, anyone?). She’s also someone who, despite whatever you may have read about her in celebrity magazines, comes over as a genuinely charming and kind human being; someone who you want to root for and who deserves far more recognition than she receives.
So, why exactly is it that she hasn’t had the level of recognition she deserves? Well, while a lot of it stems from the reputation she’s amassed through no fault of her own and bad luck (she was originally earmarked for Angelina Jolie’s role in A Mighty Heart before obvious circumstances forced her to leave the project), it’s mostly due to the roles she selects. For someone who had one of the best starts anyone could have asked for in her acting career, her film choices have been less than desirable. Sure, she’s had minor hits with The Break-Up, Bruce Almighty and Just Go With It, and even received wide acclaim for her performances in Horrible Bosses and Wanderlust, but it’s mostly been let-down after let-down; a trait started so spectacularly by her involvement in a little-known horror film by the name of Leprechaun (somewhat of a cult classic in the eyes of many), incidentally her feature film debut.
Even though the film didn’t stop her from winning the role of Rachel in Friends, it has been something of a precursor to her entire film career. It’s a shame, not only because her skills tend to outweigh the vehicles she chooses, but also because she has a certain type of personality and class that make her perfectly suited to the big screen, if only she’d be a little more careful with the projects she takes on. It’s not like she’s short of magazine covers or struggling for money, so it’s a wonder why she isn’t a little more nit-picky with the roles she opts for. It’s only now, in her late forties and with a raft of box office flops behind her, that she’s starting to pay a little more attention to her career, and the upcoming projects listed on her IMDb page are certainly her most interesting in years.
This coming week, she’ll enter production on We’re The Millers, a Weeds-style comedy written by Dan Fybel about a pot dealer (Jason Sudekis) who creates a fake family as part of a plan to smuggle huge amounts of weed into the US. She’ll play Sudeikis’ fake wife, while Emma Roberts and Will Pouter will star as their similarly fake children. Later in the year, she’ll relocate to London to shoot Paul Andrew Williams’ dramedy Miss You Already, which centres on two life-long friends (Aniston and Toni Collette) whose relationship peters out when one falls pregnant and the other falls ill. And, while nothing is concrete at this time, she’s also rumoured for a role in director Daniel Schechter’s Jackie Brown prequel, Switch, an adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel.
It’s a mixed bag to say the least, but each of the aforementioned projects has shed loads of potential. But then, so have her past projects, so it’s not necessarily a guarantee that we’ll be seeing an award-worthy performance from Aniston in light of her role opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in The Good Girl, which was abhorrently overlooked by awards voters and is by far her most radical and stripped-back part to date. That said, considering how stable her personal life is at the moment, and the age-old myth that actresses improve as they get older, we surely can’t be far off a performance that will finally give her the acknowledgement she so rightly deserves.
Whether Aniston’s future lies in film, TV or even behind the scenes (she directed a segment of Lifetime’s breast cancer film Five) is up for debate. Arguably, she’s at her best when on TV, whether it be in Friends or cameo appearances, particularly as Liz Lemmon’s bombastic high school friend in the hysterical 30 Rock episode cleverly titled ‘The One With The Cast Of Night Court’, or as a lesbian in the short-lived series Dirt, which saw her reunite with Cox. Then again, there’s nothing more satisfying than when a Jennifer Aniston film comes along that allows her to be herself and not typecast by a predictable, unfunny or badly written script.
Come on, film executives, don’t make me hide away for the rest of my life defending her for films like The Bounty Hunter or Love (shudder) Happens. Grow some balls and find roles, writers and directors willing to showcase her talents. It’s in your best interests.