People are always surprised when I tell them that I find Julia Roberts.sort of immoderately impressive. I'm not exactly sure why it's such a shock - I guess I'm suppossed to be more cynical than that –but I'm actually suspicious of anyone who claims not to get any sort of pleasure from watching her films. When a Julia Roberts movie comes on TV – any Julia Roberts film, whether its a deliciously dated guilty pleasure like Mystic Pizza or Sleeping with the Enemy, or even something resoundingly mediocre, like Stepmom – I simply can't look away. Putting aside Pretty Woman for a second – which I maintain has aged incredibly well, to the point where it more and more seems like a tragically undervalued update on 30s rom-com convention – she's got the ability to make the otherwise unwatchable undeniably compelling.

It's hard to unpack what it is that Julia does that's so good. It's not acting, exactly; it seems strange to even talk about it as though it's something that can be broken down into technique. But, still - I just stumbled across this little rant about Ms. Roberts, from a Guardianinterview with Ethan Hawke, and it seems a little strange. Though he does take pains to be diplomatic about Julia's own technique, he still blames it for a kind of disease that he says has infected the industry.

"The person who's had the most impact on acting since Marlon Brando, the only person who's really changed acting, is Julia Roberts," Hawke says. "It's an excess of competence. She's got all these imitators, and they just basically get on screen and smile...Julia Roberts does something with it, but all her looks simple to them and they copy it, but they're missing the thing that made it special." Obviously, this isn't exactly a compliment. But what is he actually saying? Who are these imitators? And have any of them actually managed to stick around long enough to wreak the kind of havoc Hawke describes?
categories Cinematical