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Monday, September 2, 2013

Worst Actors - Katherine Heigl

Katherine Heigl: "Huh?!  Did somebody
say one-sided feminism?!"
Hollywood is rough on women.  Stories of corrupt and perverted producers using their power and influence to manipulate women with the promise of fame permeate the history of film and go all the way back to the silent era.  It may seem as though things have gotten worse, but for those that make that argument, I refer them to the 1970’s, when entire theaters devoted to showing movies involving gang rape, exploitation and simulated sexual murder existed.  The famed 42nd street Grindhouse theaters in Manhattan poured out seemingly endless misogyny and it was, at least for the most part, accepted, but not respected.  Over the years, actresses have been more and more outspoken in their desire to be seen as artists, not as sex objects.  

The problem that seems to work against this trend is the fact that such a large portion of the film audience is male.  However, in recent years, the MPAA has reported an increase in size and the frequency of female audiences across the country.  This can be largely attributed to the massive and steadily-growing demographic of teen girls, who have generally controlled mainstream popular culture since the 1960’s.  They are the most devoted and most valuable market in the entertainment industry as a whole.  Still, the overall value of the films aimed at female audiences seems to remain at a steady rating of bleh!

There are a few types of female-centric films. These range from the typical, predictable romance to the movie about a strong female overcoming adversity.  You also have the Jane Austen-style high-art romantic drama that has had ebbs and flows throughout the last thirty years or so.  Do not forget the film about a troubled young girl and her struggles or the coming of age movie aimed at adolescent females.  Still, with all of the cliches and forced drama found in those above categories, the worst sub-genre of them all is the dreaded romantic comedy!  

Rom-coms are no strangers to worst of the year film lists and the Golden Raspberry Awards ceremonies.  This has remained true for decades.  Still, somehow things have gotten worse over the last five or six years.  This is largely due to the fact that a recent trend in romantic comedies is to attract women in their thirties and forties with highly sexual and shamelessly one-sided romance plots.  This is likely the result of the massive spike in divorce rates and the market-tested idea that men are worthless and women should be presented as their superiors.  Now, as a male, I find that offensive, which makes me a chauvinist, at least according to those that push this agenda.  

One such agenda-pusher is Katherine Heigl.  This was a lot of setup, I know, but I’m going to make a point here: Katherine Heigl is a despicable human being.  Most people do not remember her pre-Grey’s Anatomy career.  This is because she spent most of it bouncing between low-to-no budget movies with little-to-no value.  The two most prominent roles of her early career were a fairly large part in the dirt-stupid horror cash-in Bride of Chucky and the asinine Steven Seagal vehicle Under Siege 2: Dark Territory.  In 2001, she had a supporting role in the mostly-forgotten teen thriller Valentine, released in a period where this genre was still riding the waves of success created by the overrated Scream franchise.  This was then followed up by a few seasons spent on the WB series Roswell.  

I breezed through that last paragraph because, despite her having a strong and fairly consistent showing early in her career, she never made an impact on anyone.  This is telling because even Denise Richards maintained some credibility despite her lack of talent, and she was billed above this actress who would go on to have far more success than her.  Heigl was barely a B-lister, floating around from role to role, trying to find that breakout hit.  

In the mid-2000’s, Grey’s Anatomy was looking more and more like a pit stop for Heigl.  The show centered on a group of female medical interns and residents who slept around with each other’s boyfriends, got into bitter arguments and cried about broken friendships and failed romances for five years.  E.R. was a good show.  It was serious, had characters that were likable throughout its run and it felt like there were actual lives at stake in the show.  Grey’s Anatomy, as a rule, put the medical drama on the back burner in favor of a bland-as-hell sex drama focusing on narcissistic and generally unlikable people.  The show was, however, considered by some to be sexually-empowering to women.  I hate the term sexually-empowering, because it really just means, if a woman writes a female character that is a slut, it’s okay.  This trend has kept us from having a strong, engaging female protagonist in a quality film because most of them are still sexual objects, no matter which gender wrote them.  The double-standard here is infuriating.  I don’t like it when men pigeonhole women into sex-centric parts that exist for titillation, so why would I find it okay when a woman does it?  This, by the way, would become the focus of Katherine Heigl’s entire career.

During her run on Grey’s Anatomy, she appeared in several movies.  I’ll talk about them in a second, but I want to focus for a moment on a little 2006 film called Zyzzyx Rd.  The story of Zyzzyx Rd. involves a married man sleeping with a women he meets at a casino.  That woman (played by Heigl), has a psycho boyfriend named Joey who interrupts their little fling at a hotel and attacks her new-found lover.  Joey is overpowered, however and is thought to be dead, but as they drive to the middle of nowhere in the Southern California desert to dispose of the body, Joey escapes and pursues the couple.  It’s a pretty by-the-numbers thriller.  There’s nothing particularly special about it or anything… at least nothing about the plot is special.  No, what makes Zyzzyx Rd. so captivating is it’s post-production history.

It has never been officially confirmed or denied, but the director of Zyzzyx Rd. may have been trying to take advantage of a tax loophole that saves him some coin if his film gets a recognized theatrical run.  That is why, some think, the movie ran for a few days, with only a few showings, in a single theater in Dallas, TX.  The film’s total gross was $30, and all of those tickets went to the director, Heigl and a few other cast members.  Nobody saw this movie.  In fact, Heigl has come out as actively trying to block it from getting a DVD release, something that did not happen until a few years later.  So there you have it, folks!  Katherine Heigl’s most significant footprint in film history: She starred in the lowest-grossing movie of all time.

After the Zyzzyx Rd. debacle, Heigl appeared in the 2007 Judd Apatow comedy Knocked Up.  The film followed a loser who accidentally impregnates a woman after a one-night stand.  It’s a funny indictment of the stay-at-home generation and slackers in general.  As I mentioned in my Adam Sandler article, I believe Judd Apatow is talented enough to wring a good performance out of even Billy-freaking-Madison!  So, how did this pan out for Heigl?  Not good!  She was stiff, obnoxious, unsympathetic and just all-around unlikable through most of the otherwise-good movie.   Heigl actually came out after the movie and said she did not like the character she played and that she thought the movie was sexist.  Heigl has a tendency to lash out at her projects if she feels women are not painted in the proper light and in the case of Knocked Up, she thought the movie made her look like a stuck up woman with no sense of humor or empathy.  So, in response to this, she teams up with her mother (of all people) to write a feminist sex comedy in which she plays a stuck up woman with no sense of humor or empathy!

Heigl is apparently a follower of Zardoz!
"Penis... is... evil!!!"
For those who do not know me, I consider the Ugly Truth one of the most purely-awful movies ever made (read my likely-poorly-written review here).  I hated every second of this pandering, sleazy, unfunny disaster of a movie.  Gerard Butler comes off as a complete asshole, and he is meant to be the male proxy of the movie!  He represents ME!?  No!!!  He represents all men!  All men care about is sex.  They don’t want to talk, they don’t have respect for women, they just want one-and-done, bang and gone, here’s $100 now have a nice pregnancy, SEX!  …  PENIS!!!

I laid out my opinions of this film before.  The premise involves a TV executive named Abby (played by Heigl), who’s cat (she’s single with a cat… progressive!) changes her TV channel by stepping on the remote and she ends up on a relationship advice show called the Ugly Truth hosted by a pig named Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler).  Chadway doles out terrible relationship advice from the perspective of a guy who probably learned everything he knows about relationships from beer ads in the late 80’s.  So we get a brief scene where Abby calls the show, instantly gets through (likely because this show probably wouldn’t get more than six viewers in the real world) and attempts to rebuke him to no avail.  Then, the very next day, she finds out that Mike Chadway has been hired on her news program!  Now, let’s put aside the fact that as a producer she would have at least some say in who makes it on her show.  If we actually gave it any thought whatsoever, the entire premise of this movie wouldn’t float in Jello, so we have to just take what we are given.  From here we get numerous scenes where Chadway says things on live TV that would get the show numerous FCC fines and would definitely get him fired, followed by him giving Abby relationship advice from a guy’s perspective, and I’ll tell you, it IS the kind of advice an obviously anti-man writer would write for a male character like this too.  One contrivance follows another until the end.  It was awful.  It still is not the worst romcom I’ve seen, but it’s up there.  It’s really, REALLY high up there!

The Ugly Truth was pretty much a resounding death knell for Heigl’s mainstream career.  She spent the next few years appearing in uninspired romantic crap like 27 Dresses, a movie I did not see, and the absolute epic-fail of a movie called New Year’s Eve, a failed follow-up to the ensemble romance film Valentine’s Day from 2010.  The film was directed by famed TV writer Gary Marshall, who also has a history of directing mostly-bad romantic comedies.  In New Year’s Eve, Heigl plays Julie, an ex-girlfriend of a singer who is scheduled to perform at the holiday ceremonies.  She was stiff and bland as always but she, like everyone else in this movie, is lost in the shuffle.  There are literally a dozen romance plots happening simultaneously in this film at any given point.  It would be even harder to follow if the characters were not all cookie-cutter archetypes living out soap opera romance cliches.  

In One For the Money (2012), Heigl plays an out-of-work, single woman who turns to bounty hunting and then who tracks down bail jumpers for spare cash.  I swear this plot was put together using those sentence refrigerator magnets or worse, the notorious movie plot dart board!  It is so contrived, so badly-acted, and so unoriginal that I actually did not finish watching it.  I started, got to the point where she is assigned to track down a guy with mob ties despite having no training or proper gear… and that was it for me.  I could not take it anymore.  It also brought back horrible memories of the 2010 movie the Bounty Hunter (review here), a film I hated more than the Ugly Truth.  It’s also worth noting that One for the Money tanked at the box office, barely clearing half of its overall budget domestically, and with total worldwide gross totaled in, it still lost roughly $4 million of its $40 million dollar budget.  It’s looking like sunset on this once-praised performer’s career.

Her most recent film is this years flop the Big Wedding.  I did not see it and I do not intend to, really.  I just don’t have any interest in her pandering tripe anymore, not even for the purpose of a review.  Katherine Heigl had a slow rise, and it had nothing to do with the fact that she’s a woman.  No, her issues with breakout out into the mainstream came as a result of her utter lack of anything resembling talent.  She is, and I am saying this with all sincerity, one of the worst female leading ladies I have ever seen in any major Hollywood film.  She makes Tatum O'Neal look like Katherine Hepburn!  She has to be one of the luckiest women alive too, because for about five years, she was one of the biggest new stars in Hollywood, for no reason except that she was attractive.  That’s it.  What’s truly amusing about this is I am not alone in this opinion.  She has been the subject of ridicule for years due to her bad performances and her complete refusal to just go away!  The Onion News Network released one of their funniest segments about her, and she has maintained a fairly steady and justified army of haters ever since 2005.

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