What does Hollywood think of Katherine Heigl? "She's not on any lists at all," one anonymous "top talent agent" said to Vulture recently. "She's on a respirator. She's not the girl anymore." As Vulture points out, studio executives think Heigl is less bankable than such contemporary leading ladies as Emma Stone, Amanda Seyfried, Scarlett Johansson, Mila Kunis, Kristen Stewart and Kirsten Dunst. Except maybe they're wrong? At least you could make that argument following the surprisingly decent box-office returns for "One For the Money," a bomb-in-waiting that Lionsgate rescheduled twice before Heigl opened it to around $11.75 million this weekend. Not bad! Especially considering the unanimous negative reviews and overall apathy about the project.
There are caveats, of course, to the non-failure of "One For the Money": Lionsgate paired with Groupon to offer discount tickets for the film, something the studio did because of sagging pre-release tracking figures among Heigl's core constituency -- women age 25-to-35, who fall into the sweet spot of Groupon users. (It's also based on the beloved and popular Janet Evanovich book series about Stephanie Plum.) That said: does anyone think Seyfried, Kunis, Dunst, Johansson or Stewart could have actually done better with something as flaccid-looking as this dud? The answer you're looking for is no; none of those actresses has ever led a movie by themselves to an opening as "lofty" as nearly $12 million.
Which makes you wonder why some people in Hollywood hate Heigl. You know why the Internet hates Heigl -- she's outspoken, prickly, annoying, ridiculous and filled with crazy hubris; she also mommy blogs -- but making movies is a business that thrives on results and "what have you done lately," not making friends. In the case of Heigl, what she's done lately is take seeming direct-to-DVD dogs and turn them into something that resembles mediocrity. That's a backhanded compliment, true, but it's also kind of impressive. Can you even believe that "Killers" grossed $47 million? Or that "Life As We Know It" topped $53 million? Do you know one person who saw either of those? Do you know one person who saw "One For the Money"? Heigl has consistently performed as a leading lady. Take out "Knocked Up" -- her biggest hit and a movie that was sold on Seth Rogen's face -- and her grosses since 2007 are as follows: $76.8 million ("27 Dresses"), $88.9 million ("The Ugly Truth"), $47 million ("Killers"), $53 million ("Life As We Know It"). Toss in $54 million for "New Year's Eve," a disappointment that can't be blamed on Heigl since it featured 17 other famous people, and that's a solid run. You know what you're going to get from Heigl, and in a world of dwindling stars and dwindling grosses, that steadiness is not something that should be tossed asunder.
If Heigl does have a problem, it's her eye for material. For lack of a better term, she's blind. With the exception of "27 Dresses," the run of movies Heigl has made since her "Knocked Up" breakout have been variations on bad to worse to unbearable.
"It's funny, because the question we were asking ourselves last night is, 'Does she have really bad management, or just terrible taste?'" said another anonymous person to Vulture, this one a public-relations maven. "[P]art of the problem seems to that she seems to have become incredibly complacent with her choices: She's out there promoting crap, and people are not respecting that." Even if they are still paying to see it.
Still, Heigl needs to find better material. Which is maybe not what the anti-Heigl cabal of bloggers, jilted publicists and agents want. If she could open something like "One For the Money" to $12 million, imagine what she'd be able to do with a movie that's actually good and/or actually focuses on her chillier attributes. She's the bad guy, after all. Put her in a new millennium-take on "My Best Friend's Wedding" and watch the receipts pile up.