Rogue of the Week: Jennifer Aniston

Thursday, 07 July 2011 16:00 Written by  Jordan DeSaulnier
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Rogue of the Week: Jennifer Aniston

This weekend's new R-rated comedy Horrible Bosses presents ample opportunities for dark comedy and unabashed bad behavior.  It's not, after all, simply a story of three terrible employers, but is actually about their three meek employees who conspire to live out the American Dream by murdering their bosses.  The content, along with Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis playing the schlubs looking to dabble in homicide and Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, and Colin Farrell as their bosses, provides ample opportunity for actors to cut gleefully loose.  While pretty much all the castmembers do so to varying degrees, it is our latest Rogue of the Week Jennifer Aniston who does so most successfully, playing way against type.

Fun fact: before she became a national celebrity and turned a haircut into a global phenomenon with Friends, a young Aniston starred as Jeannie Bueller, Ferris' older sister on Ferris Bueller, a short-lived sitcom version of the John Hughes favorite Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Back to the point, however, it was her role as Rachel Green on NBC's Friends that shot Aniston to prominence in 1994.  Her early haircut, dubbed "The Rachel" became a salon mainstay in the mid-nineties and the series went on across a decade and 238 episodes.  It did so largely by being unassailably squeaky-clean.  The six eponymous buddies inhabited a fun, fantasy version of Manhattan divorced from practical realities and human nastiness.

Aniston's film career, similarly, has been characterized principally by romantic comedies without an excess of mean-spiritedness or darkness.  That's not a qualitative judgment or an argument that any and every film should be dark and twisted, either.  Comedies and romantic comedies with a broad appeal like Along Came Polly, Marley & Me, Bruce Almighty, and The Switch are, in many ways, right in Aniston's wheelhouse.  And it's worked insanely well for her since Friends.

But there some interesting exceptions wherein Aniston displays a willingness to go someplace else, someplace meaner and more audacious.  There was her starring role in Miguel Arteta and Mike White's 2002 darkly comedic drama The Good Girl.  There, Aniston plays a dissatisfied small town cashier with a pot-smoking husband (John C. Reilly) who begins an affair with a troubled young co-worker (Jake Gyllenhaal).  And there was her involvement in the Mike Judge's much-quoted 1999 comedy Office Space, in which she displayed her "flair" by flipping the bird.  She even showed up in a third season episode of South Park.

In those last two, however, she basically plays the straight man to the comedy happening around her, but in Horrible Bosses, Aniston embraces her inner scene-stealing sorceress.  More than any other member of the formidable ensemble assembled under director Seth Gordon, Aniston goes big and broad, unstoppably vamping as unrestrained, hypersexualized dentist Dr. Julia Harris, D.D.S.  While sexually harassing her dental assistant played by Charlie Day, Aniston is frequently, as you might expect, several shades of sexy, but the character is so joyously abhorrent that she is also the most horrible of the bosses.  It is, in some way, a revelation to see an International Movie Star® with such an established persona abandon said persona with such zest.

Jennifer Aniston, who for so long has been associated with either the adorable world of friends or any number of romantic comedies, not only makes the line, "You're gonna give me that dong, Dale" plenty funny, but she conveys a surreal threat as well. 

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