This article originally appeared on Den of Geek UK.
For some reason, Jennifer Aniston is an actress who’s attracted a fair amount of ire for her film work. This is in spite of the fact that she’s starred in some huge hits (Bruce Almighty), and been willing to take chances on riskier projects (most recently, Cake). I don’t want to name names, but I came across an article last year whose headline was something along the lines of “Jennifer Aniston films that actually don’t suck,” and was taken aback. Had I missed something? Did a memo go around saying we had to not like Jennifer Aniston movies, or just be pissy towards her?
Because I think that Jennifer Aniston is an acting talent who has skillfully managed to move from being a massive TV star to an interesting film performer, by being willing to choose some interesting roles. Sure, she’s played a few safer bets, but then I do think each of the following films is well worth seeking out…
She’s The One
Edward Burns was once upon a time the next big indie director, courtesy of his breakthrough movie The Brothers McMullen. She’s The One was his follow-up to that, and it was effectively a bigger budget remake of the first movie. But it remains a good, solid project in its own right.
She plays Renee, a not brilliantly fleshed out role of a woman whose husband is cheating on her. But Aniston, to her credit, puts a shift in and makes it work. No classic, but an early sign on the big screen as to just what she could inject into a movie.
For most readers of this site, Office Space is not an underrated movie. Sadly, out there in the wider world, many still haven’t even heard of Mike Judge’s fabulous 1990s comedy masterpiece.
It’s a film utterly stolen by Gary Cole’s outstanding Bill Lumbergh, but nobody emerges from a movie like this with no credit. Aniston here takes on the part of Joanna, and proves to be a generous and gifted part of a comedy ensemble. It’s a film that will be watched, or certainly deserves to be, long after we’ve all moved off this planet…
The Iron Giant
It’s a masterpiece. An utter masterpiece. You can read more of our love of The Iron Giant– a rare instance of Aniston lending her voice to an animated project here.
The Good Girl
This was probably the movie where people actually sat up and realised that not only could Aniston bring something to a role, but also that she was willing to gamble on interesting projects as and when they came up. Prior to this, she’d just popped up in the decent Rock Star, but The Good Girl, for director Miguel Arteta, remains one of Aniston’s standout performances.
Alongside Jake Gyllenhaal, she plays a woman struggling with her marriage, unhappy at her core, and flying beneath people’s radars. There’s a core of sadness about the three dimensional character she creates here, and she’s at the heart of a good, strong drama.
The Object Of My Affection
A bit of an up and down mix of romantic comedy and drama, worth seeking out for a towering central performance from the late, sadly missed Nigel Hawthorne. Again, though, we see Aniston taking a slightly different role here, playing with expectation once more.
She plays Nina, best friend of Paul Rudd’s George, and her character covers interesting ground in the movie, that Aniston puts across really very well. It helps that the film itself, whilst bumpy, was more ambitious, even if it feels just a little dated now. Everyone gets acted off the screen by Hawthorne, of course.
The Break Up
I don’t actually like The Break Up a great deal, but in a strange way, I like that it exists. It’s a diverting antidote to the glossy Hollywood romcoms that put two familiar characters through familiar sets of situations to get to a familiar ending.
The Break Up, though, starts at the end of a relationship, as Aniston and Vince Vaughn go about tearing each other apart on the screen. Aniston’s good value here, though, and the film was a sizeable hit. I include it here for her performance, and also for her continued willing to play with the image that she gave through the character of Rachel in Friends.
Friends With Money
Nicole Holofcener consistently makes interesting films, that consistently fail to get much attention. In this one, Aniston joins a strong ensemble that includes Frances McDormand, Joan Cusack, Jason Isaacs, and Catherine Keener. It’s a comedy drama where she takes on the role of Olivia.
Olivia is at the centre of a circle of women, and she’s the one most struggling to make ends meet, working as a maid in Los Angeles. What I like about her turn here is, once again, she plays a character willing to explore shades of grey to try and get on. It’s a film where Holofcener, as she always does, presents rounded characters with some very real flaws to them. Aniston is a key part of why it works so well.
We’re The Millers
Whilst she’s been exploring an assortment of darker characters in her big screen work, Aniston hasn’t done so at the expense of comedy. She’s a hugely gifted comic performer, and is, for instance, one of the better parts of the pretty middling Horrible Bosses films.
She’s having far more fun in the much better We’re The Millers, though, delivering the kind of funny, endearing comedy performance that she makes look easy. It’s only when you start to count how many others could do it that you realise it’s not. We’re The Millers may be too long, and it may be a bit baggy, but it’s fun, and has a cracking moment in the end credits that Friends fans in particular won’t want to miss.
Arguably Aniston’s best film role to date, and one that sees her taking on a strictly dramatic role. She plays Claire Simmons, a woman whose life is dominated by the chronic pain she has to battle just to get through each day. Thus, Claire is far from the most likeable character Aniston has portrayed, and yet she feels the most painfully real.
It’s a dark and harsh film at times, as director Daniel Barnz gradually reveals more and more of the torment that Claire has to live with. But it’s also a movie with light to it, one that deserved perhaps a little more applause for it and for Aniston that it ultimately got.
I fully subscribe to the notion that Adam Sandler’s heart has long since left his movies, but I did quite enjoy Just Go With It, the last one of his films that I remember chuckling at. Aniston is good value in that. Ironically, one of her biggest successes is the one I can least stand. Put Marley And Me on, and I’ll be out of the room in seconds…