Three Actresses in Need of Movie Makeovers

Jennifer Aniston, Katherine Heigl and Uma Thurman could follow Sandra Bullock.

April 12, 2010— -- Jennifer Aniston's canoodling across Europe with hunky co-star Gerard Butler generated plenty of headlines but little heat for the U.K. premiere of their movie "The Bounty Hunter."

According to the Daily Mail, the action-romance took in just $5.8 million last weekend when it opened in the U.K. Across the Atlantic, the film earned a decent $21 million during its opening weekend in the U.S., but critics roundly panned it.

For Aniston, it's another in a recent string of flops at the box office. Before "Bounty Hunter," there was "Love Happens," last year's romantic comedy with Aaron Eckhart, which only pulled in $22.9 million domestically. That was still far and above "Management," a dark comedy with Steve Zahn, also released in 2009, which earned a paltry $935,000 at the box office.

Perhaps it's time for Aniston to take a break from the "Rachel" friend-next-door-type roles she's played in her last several movies and try something different. Fellow actresses Katherine Heigl and Uma Thurman could also use a new direction.

All three have only to look at Sandra Bullock. After one too many romantic comedies, Bullock took a year-and-a-half break from acting. She came back with the Oscar drama "Crash." She also made a return to comedy that was more screwball than romantic in the 2009 hit "The Proposal." But it was her role as a tough Southern mom in the drama "The Blind Side" that appealed most to critics and her commercial audience -- and won her the ultimate prize, an Oscar. talked to Adam Markovitz, a film writer at Entertainment Weekly, to find out what movie makeover he would prescribe for Aniston, Heigl and Thurman.

Jennifer Aniston:

"It seems like she's content to just play the Jennifer Aniston role, the girlfriend role, the sassy but strong woman along for the ride," Markovitz said. "With 'Bounty Hunter' coming so soon after 'Love Happens,' it seems she's happy to repeat B-level romantic comedies that don't have a particularly great concept."

Markovitz suggests that Aniston look back to her groundbreaking role in 2002's "The Good Girl" with then-unknown Jake Gyllenhaal. "I would love to see her go back and take on a meaty role," he said.

While some think that, at 41, Aniston, highlights and yoga body aside, is getting too old to play the girl next door, Markovitz believes she is "just as vibrant as she's ever been." But he said she should use her experience and her long-time audience to stretch a bit. "Anything that shows a slightly darker side or more thoughtful side would be really cool," he said.

Katherine Heigl

Like Aniston, Heigl is hoping to make the leap from the small to the big screen. Just recently on the cover of EW, she announced she was leaving ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" this season after five years.

Already, she has shown some box office chops with "Knocked Up," "27 Dresses" and "The Ugly Truth." The latter, with Gerard Butler, earned an impressive $88 million. But while Heigl has shown the potential to be a movie star, critics have knocked her last two films.

"People think she's making product that's commercial and not trying for anything more than that," Markovitz said.

If she wants to pattern herself after those other romantic comedy giants, Bullock, Julia Roberts and Reese Witherspoon, Markovitz said, she will need to take some risks.

"It would be fun to see her in a role that's unexpected territory, a drama or a horror, perhaps," he said. "People really like her and I think they'd be willing to follow her in different roles."

Perhaps she's already headed in that direction. After her upcoming romantic comedy "Killers," with Ashton Kutcher, Heigl will move into a dramatic role in December, playing a woman who adopts her deceased friend's orphaned daughter in "Life As We Know It."

Uma Thurman

If Aniston's movie flopped in the U.K., then Uma Thurman's absolutely bombed. Released at only one theater, "Motherhood" made a mere $130 its opening weekend, which means only about a dozen people bought tickets.

The movie fared slightly better in the U.S. during a limited release in October, bringing in just over $50,000. Clearly destined for DVD, Markovitz blames some of the movie's poor box office on distributor Metrodrome's lack of marketing muscle.

He says he also thinks Thurman, who received a supporting actress Oscar nomination for "Pulp Fiction," was miscast and has been in many of her recent films. "She's always been so unique and unusual. When she's cast in the right role it makes her electric," Markovitz said. "With Hollywood, it's difficult to throw her into the stock parts. She doesn't seem like she could be the next door neighbor's girlfriend or pushing the stroller."

For that reason, Markovitz said her career was always going to have ups and downs. Thurman has also had to transition from being the "it" girl to becoming a respected working actress.

Advice from Markovitz: return to the offbeat roles, like the ones in "Pulp Fiction," "Gattica" and "Kill Bill" that made her famous. "Embrace that offbeat spirit and don't try to fit into the Hollywood mold," he said. "She could have more success by trying to be less commercial."

For all three actresses, he said, "It takes a little chutzpah to break out of the commercial roles that are crowd pleasers and try to do something different."