Julia Roberts became a star with Steel Magnolias and a superstar with Pretty Women, or that's the argument. For people my age (Gen X), she became a star with Mystic Pizza. Though a lot of the then-over 30s missed that, it was a hit with Gen X at the theater and on video. And she tried to return to that sort of role with Dying Young which might have worked if cancer were a hot theme for a summer movie and if Campbell Scott were attractive, had a normal voice or was even remotely believable as a human being.
Julia really began her flame out then with the drug rumors and the tantrums on the set of Hook (earning the nickname "Tinkerhell"). She took some time off -- needed.
And she came back with The Pelican Brief which remains a tense movie. Darby Shaw was quickly forgotten as she did I Love Trouble and boy, was she trouble. I've heard the tantrum stories of Something to Talk About. Kyra Sedgwick deserves to be a star with The Closer if only for enduring Julia's tantrums and repeated calls to cut Kyra's part (Kyra played her sister) and that tacked on ending is surely the worst film ending of the 90s.
Mary Reilly should have proved to everyone -- including Julia Roberts -- that she was a passable actress at best and couldn't pull of real acting. I can take Conspiracy Theory and wish Julia had more screen time but believe it was the first film since The Pelican Brief to use her effectively. Then came five hits in a row.
Three are classics. My Best Friend's Wedding is the best anti-rom-com there is. And it is anti. Julia loses the guy. Runaway Bride which reteams her and Richard Gere and is 100 times better than Pretty Woman (and Joan Cusak is amazing in the film!). (And don't underestimate the work of Laurie Metcalf either.) And the last one was Notting Hill. Those are three distinct and different films. With enough difference that you almost believe Julia has an actual range.
Sadly there are two other hits in the five. Erin Brokavich. The performance is nothing but a sneer and a push up bra. That's all she's doing. And it can work as a comedy with a heart and meaning. But let's not pretend she's acting a character, bringing anything to life. It would have been a nice diversion. But she won the Osacr and suddenly decided she was an actress.
Let's drop back tot he earlier bad of the five: Stepmom. I suppose to be a star of Julia's magnitude, you have to be able to delude yourself. Which explains both the movie and Julia's attempt to bring back Flo Henderson's Carol Brady hair cut. In the film, Julia's with Susan Sarandon's ex-husband and she and Sue don't like each other until Sue gets cancer and then Sue confesses to Julia, "I want to eat your p**sy." Sadly, that doesn't happen. It would make more sense. Especially since no care is taken in filming Ed Harris (a great actor) so we see things like ear hair and back hair that we really don't need to see. The film -- unintentionally -- really makes the argument that marriage to Ed Harris is the ultimate punishment. Which may explain the goo-goo eyes Sarandon and Julia exchange throughout the film.
Since Erin Brokovich, Julia hasn't carried a film to blockbuster status -- and remember, she's the highest paid actress in US films. America's Sweethearts was a bomb as was The Mexican. Mona Lisa Smile was Julia in a Maggie Smith role and demonstrating that she will never be an actress. The Closer was a career maker . . . for Natalie Portman. Charlie Wilson's War saw her bomb with Tom Hanks. Duplicity saw her try to do the snarl as seduction opposite Clive Owen. Eat Pray Love was the closest to a blockbuster she had and she followed that with the bomb Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks can't do romantic comedies -- Meg Ryan carried him in their films).
And now comes Mirror, Mirror.
The first thing you may notice is that Julia's looks have been restored to the height of her initial fame: She's a red head. None of that awful 'blond' hair she's sported for the '00s. Someone needs to tell that woman that the bleaching does not make her look blond or attractive and that it makes her hair look like straw or greenish (when she was promoting Full Frontal, her hair looked green -- I didn't cover Full Frontal above because it was an ensemble, I left out all of the ensemble films).
She looks like the Julia we loved in the 90s. But she's such a bad actress. I don't think she's ever been this bad. And she probably thinks it's a wink-at-the-audience performance. It's not. It's just bad, self-ware, look-at-me 'acting.' Somewhere Roger Moore's feeling vindicated over all the criticism of his James Bond.
Ann pointed out Nathan Lane was the only good thing about the film. I'll go further, Nathan Lane steals every scene he's in, steals the picture and is the only reason to see the film.
Lily Collins? I kept asking myself? Is she supposed to be asleep when she's standing? How about when she's talking? Animated films have more genuine life than Lily Collins' performance.
Arnie Hammer plays the Prince. He is so bland you forget him as soon as the credits roll. Although there is this one scene where's he's acting like a dog that stands out -- for all the wrong reasons.
Mirror, Mirror is a lousy film. And an anti-woman film as well. Because Julia's in on the joke does not make the sexist notions any better.
Mainly Mirror, Mirror is the film that announces that after 40 you really do need something other than looks to fall back on. Julia was a beautiful empty shell in her 20s and 30s, allowing America to projects its own dreams and desires on her. All these years later, she's still an empty shell and the exterior's not enough anymore.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"