Sandra Bullock may yet be one of our great living movie stars, capable of stealing just about any scene from any other actor. If only she could just find her place. Her role as the woman who winds up driving the bus in Speed was the breakout performance of a lifetime. In one scene, the bus approaches a lady crossing the street pushing a baby carriage. There's nothing anyone can do, so Sandra just screams and covers her eyes. The baby carriage goes flying, and -- not a baby -- but empty cans go flying and rattling all over, with the angry woman shaking her fist at the departing bus. Keanu Reeves tries to calm Sandra down by explaining that it was just cans. Her hysteria lasts a few more seconds, but it's so over-the-top utterly charming that Keanu can't help but smile at her. I've always suspected that that was a genuine smile from Keanu, not in character, and that director Jan de Bont just left it in.
After that she starred in While You Were Sleeping (1995), an above average Hollywood romantic comedy that made a nice profit. From there Bullock found herself locked in a struggle with her own career. She was perfect for romantic comedy, and whenever she made one, it was a hit, up to and including this past summer's The Proposal. The trouble is, it seems, that Bullock doesn't really want to make romantic comedies, but whenever she tries anything else -- like her great performance as Harper Lee in Infamous (2006) -- no one notices. She even became her own producer several years back in an effort to grab the steering wheel of her own career, but she's wrestling with a much older problem. It's called typecasting. Nobody ever wanted to see Charlie Chaplin make serious movies, nor did anyone ever want to see John Wayne play meek and mild-mannered.