Is Julia Roberts still queen of the screen?
Julia Fiona Roberts, I freaking love you. I always have, and I always will. I don’t care what that mean man from Newsday says about “the ravages of time.” I can’t wait to see you in Duplicity and John Anderson (who as Mark Graham duly noted really hates early ’90s you and has a weird obsession with Charlie Wilson’s War) is a total nincompoop if he doesn’t realize that most of America feels the same way — especially “in this economy.” Populism has never been hotter.
But it’s not just the fact that you’ve picked a great time to come out of your semi-retirement. They just don’t make ’em like you anymore Julia. I mean, the closest the next wave of Hollywood starlets has come is Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon, but even she lacks your carte blanche with audiences. (I would blame this not on lack of talent, but rather a lack of warmth. In many ways she’s never been able to shake the ghost of that scheming manipulator she played in Election, Tracy Flick — a cold, calculating perfectionist. If you look hard enough, you can even see glimpses of her in Legally Blonde. It’s in the eyes.)
That’s where you’re different Julia. Because even as you yelled and swore your way through Erin Brockovich (arguably one of your tougher to love roles), your character had warmth. She was relatable. She was earthy. She wore horrible, ill-fitting clothes and she had a houseful of rugrats, and yet we all wanted to be her. “Bite my ass, Krispy Kreme!” Adorable! “They’re called boobs, Ed.” Charming! That crazy speech with the numbers in it. Love it!
You don’t become America’s Sweetheart just because you’re beautiful. You become America’s Sweetheart because you’re beautiful and you’ve managed to convince audiences that if they ever ran into you — be it in an airport or on the sidewalks of New York — you’d be everything they’d imagined all along. You’d give them that big Julia Roberts smile and make them feel like your best friend, even if you were secretly pissed because they were interrupting your precious free time with Danny or the kids. You know, like that scene in Notting Hill where Hugh Grant’s character drags you to his little sister’s birthday party and you’re so gracious, even when that chick follows you into the bathroom.
I’ll admit it: Just as John Anderson probably isn’t so impressed with Julia Roberts just because he’s a dude of a certain age, I will be forever enamored of you because I am a woman of a certain age. When you broke onto the scene with Mystic Pizza in 1988, I was seven. I wanted to be Daisy, the pretty one, not Cat, the one who got to go to college. When you returned to the big screen with Steel Magnolias in ’89, I decided that the colors at my future wedding would be “blush” and ‘bashful”, and was convinced for weeks that I might be diabetic. The following year, I wanted to become a hooker/Cindafuckin’rella. You guessed it, Julia. I had just watched Pretty Woman. (I could also tell you how you made me want to become a daring medical student, a battered wife, a nurse in love with a dying guy, a fairy, an investigative journalist, a journo again, a cheated wife, the girlfriend of an IRA leader, a woman with a gay best friend, a woman working for the government, a stepmom, a movie star, a runaway bride, a woman dating a crook, a movie publicist, a woman married to a crook, a CIA agent, an art professor, a photographer, a woman married to a crook again, and a scary conservative lady.)
This weekend my guess is that Duplicity will sweep the box office — the only real competition you have is that strange Paul Rudd/Jason Segel bromantic comedy and some dumb Nicholas Cage flick about space. Even if you’re nervous about your own clout these days, you’ve got the added star power of Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, and Tom Wilkinson, and the fact that your film is about two hot spies in love. People love that. And it looks awesome. (Side note: So does your hair.)
Which is all part of my long way of re-answering Anderson’s silly question — Is Julia Roberts still queen of the screen? You betcha. Well, I’d bet the Flavorwire farm on it (or 40 million dollars… whichever is worth more) but what do I know? I’m just a blogger, writing about a movie star, telling her I love her.