Bullock calls for real comedy

Posted by · 10:55 am · March 22nd, 2010

Sandra Bullock in All About SteveIt’s not like one needed a further reason to hop on the “We Love Sandra Bullock” train in this of all weeks, but the actress obligingly provides one anyway in this highly enjoyable Guardian interview with John Patterson. Speaking of the genre that has become her bread and butter over the years, she offers these rather forthright words:

Usually comedy is only available to us ladies in the romantic comedy. That’s why I hate romantic comedies. I want to make comedic-comedies – let’s get back to being funny!

There are so many things to like about this statement, only one of them being that it’s absolutely true. She may have predictably made her Oscar breakthrough by crossing over to “respectable” middlebrow drama, but Bullock is one of our most gifted screen comediennes, possessed of wit, timing and physical performance ability surplus to the requirements of the lame comedic vehicles she is usully given.

In another Hollywood era, it’s possible Bullock could have been a Carole Lombard-type riot — but as it stands, her material is rarely as funny as she is. For some reason, despite the continued success of fratboy comedies and the male stars they spawn, studios seem to shy away from producing similarly broad comic fare for female leads.

True comic actresses, then, are largely resigned to TV (Tina Fey, pending a certifiable big-screen breakthrough) or supporting “character” parts (think Joan Cusack or Catherine O’Hara). Bullock’s beauty and charisma made her a bankable leading lady, but it arguably limited her comic options. As it is, she’s one of the few female stars who can headline goofy non-romantic comedies like the “Miss Congeniality” films, but they aren’t exactly Ernst Lubitsch, are they?

In the absence of sharp comic writing for women, then, it’s inevitable that Bullock — together with similarly talented comic actresses like Amy Adams and Jennifer Aniston — must fall back on cookie-cutter romantic comedy fare more often than not. The problem is that in recent years, that genre has been largely populated with female protagonists that aren’t genuinely funny so much as lightly neurotic, making these stars interchangeable with the less comically gifted likes of Katherine Heigl and Jennifer Lopez.

Whatever you make of Bullock’s much-maligned slapstick vehicle “All About Steve,” it is at least an attempt — a weirdly unhinged attempt, but an attempt nonetheless — to accommodate the outsize comic personality of its star within a romcom format. As such, it’s of more interest (if perhaps less aesthetic value) than last year’s blander but more digestible “The Proposal.” As the actress heads out of the industry’s preferred age bracket for romantic comedy heroines, it’ll be interesting to see if she continues to seek out comic material that fits her — Meryl Streep, after all, has proved that it can be a viable career route in middle age.

Some might see Bullock’s statement as an instance of biting the hand that feeds her. But I like the fact that she’s so comfortable and pragmatic about addressing the limitations of her career options. We’re all guilty on occasion of blaming stars for making unchallenging but profitable films, as if they specifically sought that material above everything else. It’s important to be reminded that even Oscar-winning actresses get what they need more often than what they want.

→ 35 Comments Tags: , , , , | Filed in: Daily

35 responses so far

  • 1 3-22-2010 at 11:06 am

    James D. said...

    Hmm, if only she had rejected the majority of roles she took during her career.

  • 2 3-22-2010 at 11:09 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    And taken what instead?

  • 3 3-22-2010 at 11:14 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Indeed. She is so well liked because of those many roles. Simple as that.

    Also I believe a realy ladies comedy that isn’t romantic won’t work with the female audience. It’d be something like the ladies-Hangover and somehow I don’t think that would work for women.

  • 4 3-22-2010 at 11:31 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Well, “The Sweetest Thing” bombed, but I don’t think that’s sufficient evidence to suggest there wouldn’t be an audience for a well-conceived, riotous female-centred comedy. It’s not only guys who made “There’s Something About Mary” a hit, after all.

  • 5 3-22-2010 at 11:35 am

    Hardy said...

    I think you’re giving Sandy way too much credit for her performances. Even in her comedies, she isn’t that good, IMO.

  • 6 3-22-2010 at 11:42 am

    McAllister said...

    Great article, Guy.

  • 7 3-22-2010 at 11:46 am

    Jim Τ said...

    I have come to respect and like Bullock now that the Oscar season is over, and I, too, appreciate her honesty and sense of reality.

    I am in between minds at the “work in shitty films or not work at all” thing. I don’t know whether I understand it or criticize it. Then again, she doesn’t force me to see her movies, so I don’t have a serious problem. I am more angry with Meryl for being in J&J.

    Any way, I think comediennes need movies like Death Becomes Her. Like the movie or not, it is pure (black) comedy.

    By the way, I love that you (Guy) are so open minded. You dig artsy films and Aniston and Bullock at the same time? That is real movie love.

  • 8 3-22-2010 at 11:52 am

    Chad Hartigan said...

    I’ll jump on the We Love Sandra Bullock train when she makes a movie worth a damn.

    She has her own production company and can produce whatever films she wants so I’m not sure who she’s complaining to.

  • 9 3-22-2010 at 11:59 am

    Fitz said...

    Hope she manages to push through some of these comedy-comedies she’s talking about. Maybe we’ll be lucky and The Bounty Hunter will be the death of formulaic rom-coms.

  • 10 3-22-2010 at 12:48 pm

    carrie said...

    so she only has a bad taste to chose her movies?!

    when i saw “all about steeve” or her “hemingway” movies or others, i don’t believe on her acting!!

  • 11 3-22-2010 at 12:57 pm

    billybil said...

    Actually, didn’t most of the great Carole Lombard or Katherine Hepburn comedic roles still have something to do with men and women? I guess I’m not learned enough to remember what non-“romantic” comedies to which you’re referring. Maybe something like the Thin Man series – I could see Bullock handling such a thing with great flare and fun. Maybe “buddy” comedies for women could work – something like Thelma and Louise but funnier. I just watched NINE TO FIVE recently and was disappointed – I remembered it far better than it plays now – but sure as hell Bullock would have been great is such a vehicle. And I do remember Goldie Hawn fondly…hell, come to think of it, wouldn’t Bullock have been able to handle Pvt. Benjamin really well too? So now that I’m thinking about it…OK, there were more non-romantic comedies for women so I agree – let’s get some frigging good scripts in Bullock’s lap right now!!! (By the way – unless the production company she owns includes several fantastic writers then they are still stuck waiting for/finding the right scripts!!!) It isn’t like they grow on trees, for goodness sakes!

  • 12 3-22-2010 at 1:37 pm

    James D. said...

    Guy, she can make bad movies if she wants, but don’t complain about it. It would be like Sam Worthington complaining about stupid big-budget nonsense.

  • 13 3-22-2010 at 2:03 pm

    Bia said...

    I liked that film she did with Ben Affleck…Forces of Nature.

  • 14 3-22-2010 at 2:13 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    Whisper it soft, but so did I.

    I want more Maura Tierney in movies.

  • 15 3-22-2010 at 2:39 pm

    Chris138 said...

    Well, I agree with Bullock. I’m pretty damn sick with the large majority of romantic comedies these days as well.

  • 16 3-22-2010 at 3:05 pm

    Me. said...

    Can we please get over Sandra Bullock? Yes, I got, she’s got charisma, social skills but her acting is MEDIOCRE. I mean, for the life of me, I cannot understand WHAT was good about her performance in “The Blind Side”. Also, she’s made like a thousand romantic comedies…

  • 17 3-22-2010 at 4:10 pm

    lenny said...

    Guy, I’m not knocking your opinion, but recently, I notice that now you have this new big love for Sandra Bullock ‘s charisma and her acting. I like Sandy’s personality , yet she has never given us a performance that is truly remarkable- she can’t conceal her trademark sunny personality. I will admit , her best performance to date is probably in “Crash”. But, you don’t care for Anne Hathaway- another rom-com girl . Why is that ? You basicly said Anne is charismatic, but has no depth. Hathaway’s performances in “Brokeback Mountain (especially the telephone scene) ” & “Rachel Getting Married ( so raw & naked) ” were incredible. Also, Anne displayed great comedic timing when she hosted SNL back in 2008- most A-list movie stars can’t perform live. Hathaway is already getting early rave reviews for her comedic & dramatic performance in “Love And Other Drugs” . And , the industry insiders are already predicting her to win another Oscar nomination.

    P.S. After Bullock winning the gold, hopefully, she will be more selective, pursue prestige projects, and display more of an acting range.

  • 18 3-22-2010 at 4:57 pm

    /3rtfu11 said...

    “I think you’re giving Sandy way too much credit for her performances. Even in her comedies, she isn’t that good, IMO.”

    No he’s not. He sees the genius of Jennifer Aniston.

  • 19 3-22-2010 at 4:59 pm

    Chris said...

    Bullock hasn’t been in a single film I would watch again, since “Speed”. So, I can’t really get on the Bullock train some people are riding right now. Sure, she’s charismatic, but so are plenty of people. (Speaking of which: where’s the love for Matt Damon?)

    Sure, she’s right about romantic comedies, but still I don’t see why one should be heaping praise on her for saying something that’s blatantly obvious. Now, if Meryl Streep had said something along those lines, I would have been more interested, because she actually stars in non-romantic comedies. As Chad said, so could Bullock, if she really wanted.

  • 20 3-22-2010 at 5:41 pm

    Glenn said...

    Sigh. More people who can’t see past their bias. Just because, for instance, “While You Were Sleeping” is a romcom doesn’t it’s a) not a good movie and b) Bullock isn’t great it it.

    I’d say Anna Faris is the only female comedian out there doing non-romantic comedy. While “The House Bunny” obviously had a romance subplot, that wasn’t the main gist of the film (and Faris was incredible in it, despite what one may think of the movie itself) while “Smiley Face” is a stoner comedy and “Observe and Report” is… whatever “Observe and Report” was.

  • 21 3-22-2010 at 6:40 pm

    Jim T said...

    Guy, you’re probably going to despise me for saying that, but are planning to see Love Never Dies?

    I have the feeling Webber only aims for one or two good songs in each musical of his. In this one, it’s Beneath A Moonless Sky, for me. But the lyrics kind of suck.

    And just to connect it to Bullock… Minnie Driver was in Phantom. She was also in Good Will Hunting with Affleck, who co-starred with Bullock. :p

  • 22 3-22-2010 at 8:46 pm

    sosgemini said...

    What, no mention of Anna Faris? She seems to be finding comedic roles that are quality.

  • 23 3-22-2010 at 9:02 pm

    token black girl said...

    I’m a fan of some of Bullock’s work like Miss Congeniality, Hope Floats, The Proposal, and her Harper Lee is sadly underrated but she shares the blame when it comes to formulaic romcoms. I said as much in the weekend box office thread about Aniston. She, like Aniston, has her own production company. She like Aniston, is not hurting for money. If she wants better scripts, better roles, then she must develop them.

  • 24 3-22-2010 at 9:32 pm

    SJG said...

    I’m gonna have to agree with Guy that Jennifer Aniston and Sandra Bullock are genuinely talented and kind of underrated.

    But that doesn’t excuse them for making shitty movies. At least not entirely.

  • 25 3-22-2010 at 10:39 pm

    BurmaShave said...

    How about the story of a movie star who marries a white-trash-wins-lotto guy whose ex-wife is a psycho pornstar and who is screwing the Illustrated Woman on the side? Sounds like a farce.

  • 26 3-23-2010 at 12:51 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Lenny: It’s not “new” love for Sandra Bullock on my part — I’ve just never had occasion to write about her on the site until recently. I’ve always thought she’s talented. Not sure where you get the idea that I don’t care for Anne Hathaway, though — sure, I wasn’t a big fan of “Rachel Getting Married,” but I like her. I’m just waiting to see a little more from her before I fully commit.

    Glenn and Sosgemini: Good call on Anna Faris. Glenn, I agree with you about “While You Were Sleeping,” which is a world away from much recent Hollywood romcom fare in terms of conception and characterization — and even then, it was no “When Harry Met Sally.” I’m glad that you and some others see how hard it is for an actor to make these films look easy.

    Jim T: I won’t be seeing it. Never been a fan of “Phantom.”

  • 27 3-23-2010 at 1:23 am

    Rachel said...

    Bullock is so underrated in “Infamous”, it’s not even funny. I also think she’s given one of the top rom-com performances in “While You Were Sleeping”. She should have been Oscar nodded for those two. Whether she makes shitty movies or not, she’s good at what she does. Problem is she worked herself into a niche and it became hard for her to get any decent dramatic roles at her age when they were all going to Nicole Kidman (let’s be real, Kidman took work from EVERYBODY. She was the go-to girl for the better half of the decade).

    The Bullock venom that is spewed is ridiculous, still. I guess I’ll take Bullock’s natural performance over Marion Cotillard’s “my hands are bleeding, now I’ve got the shakes” mannerisms shit any day. That was some unbearable shit right there.

  • 28 3-23-2010 at 6:48 pm

    med said...

    Bullock can make as many “real” comedies as she wants and she will still be a below average actress. But, hey, why not give the media and pundits Bullock in a “real” comedy and they can campaign the academy to give her a second Oscar for it…

  • 29 3-24-2010 at 5:37 am

    Megan said...

    I’ve been avoiding all the brouhaha about Sandy’s Oscar and just about every other facet of her life lately.

    That being said, I still havent sipped the Bullok Kool-Aid yet.

  • 30 3-24-2010 at 9:48 pm

    Lea said...

    Sandra Bullock is a great manipulator and spin-artist. One of our most gifted comediennes? That is a joke, right? Her Oscar win was a joke. She won, because like The Hurt Locker, had the best campaign. Her so-called appeal is so fake.
    I don’t get why the world jumps on idiot bandwagons for these “America’s Sweethearts”
    who are mostly calculating, shallow egomaniacs
    who know how to play the media game who also tend to be very overrated actresses. Quit with this constant promoting of Aniston. Your delusions about her are clouding your judgement and distorting your senses. Amy Adams is a real talent who also seems genuinely nice, don’t categorize her with those hacktresses. Quit being such a media whore and giving into tabloid mania. Don’t let that influence your tastes. It’s like almost every blogger blindly supports whoever the media dictates is lovable when usually those people are not worthy of admiration.

    It is also annoying how Bullock is reaping the benefits of victimization when she is a homewrecker. She had an affair with Jesse James when he was married, his then-wife was pregnant. He left his wife for her. He never apologized to his other wives he cheated on, only because Sandy is so popular. Now Sandy is playing this up when she is really suffering some karma for her despicable behavior. She is not that different from the whores who wrecked her marriage. That is not the only reason I dislike her. Her image is not authentic. I find her shallow and lacking in range as an actress.
    Then Hollywood slides that real scandal under the door like they did with Julia Roberts yet hypocritically loves to spread so many lies, misportrayals, contradictions, hatred against actresses who get entangeled in pseudo-scandals because of presumptions caused by calculated gossip. Decent people have wrecked reputations that creates a backlash & bias while crappy people become beloved and press favorites while conning the public into such deep ignorance.

    Sandy did not deserve that Oscar. All the other nominees wer e far more deserving. Carey Mulligan was robbed. Sandra will probably follow the same path as Julia Roberts after her Oscar win. I can’t people are gushing over her manipulative interviews.

  • 31 3-24-2010 at 9:54 pm

    Lea said...

    I usually admire and respect your tastes in movies…please quit worshipping these hollow frauds who manage to gain power in Hollywood by using tactics. Don’t try to influence the public into turning into drones of the system and lackeys of these pathetic women. I like your taste in movies most of the time but not in people. I bet you love Clooney too. Ugh.

  • 32 3-25-2010 at 11:10 am

    James said...

    Totally agree with her…

  • 33 3-25-2010 at 4:25 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    James: With Lea? Or with Sandra? ;)

  • 34 3-28-2010 at 4:59 pm

    Patryk said...

    If Bullock is so keen on getting back to real comedy, the rest of the world should be free from worrying about garbage like “The Net,” “In Love and War,” “Murder by Numbers,” and a host of other non-comedic movies she was horrible in.

    Bullock is still a popcorn movie star and not an actress. And she herself has chosen to grab the big money for trashy movies rather be a little bit discerning in choosing her projects. I just can’t believe she hasn’t been offered some truly challenging indie films that may have offered her a chance to shine, but at a fraction of her huge salary demands. (And “Infamous” doesn’t count).

    I offer Catherine Keener as a comparison. She is an extremely talented actress who can do both big studio comedies and then wow us in quirky independent stuff.

    “Oscar winner Sandra Bullock”

  • 35 4-02-2010 at 3:35 am

    Glenn said...

    I’m fairly certain she’s still an “actress” no matter the quality of the movies she appears in.

    And what if Catherine Keener actually voted for Sandra? Did you ever think of that? I mean, you need a good swag of votes to win, it’s fair to assume that a big number of people a lot of you guys worship actually voted for her. She did win the SAG, too, ya know.