With a smile to launch a thousand romantic comedies, Julia Roberts' career seems hinged on her natural beauty and her 'girl next door' charms. And this is exactly the reason I can't stand her over- sized grinning, maniacal, celluloid presence. Readers may suspect the green ink of writer's envy, but trust me the issues go beyond skin deep; in fact it goes to the heart of the
In the late eighties
Roberts had progressed from girl to woman and now she was not only pretty but sassy, loud and a force to be reckoned with. A spate of romance films interspersed with thrillers would secure Roberts with the highest price tag in
It's not a crime to lack acting abilities but it isn't something you should parade in front of millions either. It's best to try and keep it covered up, like an ingrown toe nail, or a patch of mould on the ceiling, or your insane uncle Thaddeus. But the
In 2000 Roberts finally got credit where credit wasn't due for portraying the real life ball breaker Erin Brockovich. It was clearly Oscar winning faire, from the evil corporations to the struggling single parent, and not even its TV movie quality could detract from Robert's moment in the spotlight at the Academy Awards. There she stood, Oscar clamped in hand, gushing platitudes about “sisterhood” and unleashing terrifying bouts of laughter. If this was the girl next door, you would tell her politely but firmly to leave, before changing the locks. Oscar had it charms but really it was affiliation with Steven Soderbergh that informed her next career move; Roberts got cool. Out went twinkly eyed Gere and in came Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and John Cusack, to name a few. More importantly Roberts' roles decreased from scene swallowing automaton to ensemble player; a much more shapely fit. It's a hard task disliking a person through their entire career, and inevitably something will break through the defences. For me it was film number thirty six, written by Patrick Marber and directed by Mike Nichols in 2004: Closer. Julia Roberts completely failed to annoy me in her role as philandering photographer, Anna, though there was much to dislike about her. For the first time Roberts was allowed to be unlikeable, which had a conversely appealing effect.
What Closer highlighted was the wealth of bland roles Roberts has taken in her career. Partly