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Hollywood's girls-next-door, my ass. I may have grown up on a farm where no one lived next door but I'll tell you this, I don't know of anyone, except the people that actually did live next door to Julia and Sandra, who lived next door to anyone like these two.

I'm a fan.Well, I'm a fans, or however you would say it. I like them.  I like them for more than the obvious reasons. I'll enumerate.

1) They make brave movie choices. The movies they make aren't a whole lot like the movies that made them. It took Sylvester Stallone two decades of mindless action movies to break out and do something challenging like Copland. Sure, Bullock made Speed II, but only so the studio would make Hope Floats. I admire the courage it takes to branch out in Hollywood.  And Runaway Bride, which was billed as the next Pretty Woman - heck, it even starred half the cast of Roberts' breakthrough film, was no Pretty Woman - it was deeper and had more meaning. It was about a woman finding herself.  Not finding herself through love, but falling in love in the middle of finding herself.  There is a big difference. 

2) The characters they play.  Everyone can love Vivian, the oh-so-very-actually-quite-unbelievably-pretty hooker-with-the-heart-of-gold from Pretty Woman. She was, of course, oh-so-very pretty and she was funny and she was written to be a little bit of what everyone loves - every girl's best friend, every guy's fantasy girl. But how do you love Jules from My Best Friend's Wedding?  She's a bitch, she's selfish, she's thoughtless and she's mean. And after she's mean and selfish and thoughtless and a bitch, how do you forgive her? Because she's played by Julia Roberts and you just do. Sharon Stone couldn't pull that off, neither could Minnie Driver...they would just be too annoying and, well, believably mean.

And Gwen from 28 Days, she's a drug addict and an alcoholic and she ruined her sister's wedding cake. Later in the film, you find out she did more than ruin her sister's cake, she said some things during a toast that were unforgivable. How do you forgive her? You just do. She's Sandra Bullock. Glenn Close couldn't pull that off, neither could Julianne Moore...they're too brittle and, frankly, they can be a little frightening, and you might want them to get a bit lost in that rehab place in the wilderness and never come back.

3. They make me believe. They make me believe you can be beautiful and flawed and unapologetic for both. Roberts especially makes me believe. She became a big star very quickly, the biggest female star possibly in history. She fell in love with (and even became engaged to) most of her male co-stars (how very cliché - although one of them was Dylan McDermott, which is understandable)...she even practically left one at the alter. She's made movie flops but didn't snap back to the formula. She continued to choose interestingly and, history has shown, wisely. She did it and it's done and on to the next thing. She's in love and happy and making movies that she wants to make and I don't know if she's even worried about what anyone thinks of it. She's made it and her place in film history is assured.

4.  They aren't afraid to be unglamorous.  Bullock's Hope Floats' self-involved, jilted, bedraggled, ex-homecoming queen Birdee wasn't the most glamorous sort - and then there is puking, drug-addled Gwen from 28 Days.  Who picks these parts? Not House-of-Chloe-wearing-yoga-instructor Madonna...and not hair-extensions-to-be-or-not-to-be Paltrow.

I go to their movies and I enjoy myself. I see myself in the characters they play, which makes the characters all the more real. I look forward to wondering what they are going to do next. What is Roberts' singing voice like (Everyone Says I Love You) or, for that matter, Bullock's (The Prince of Egypt)?  Who's going to steal the show - Sarandon or Roberts in Stepmom, Kidman or Bullock in Practical Magic (and what a relief that none of them did - generosity in acting, unheard of!)? Will Bullock help to make Ben Affleck seem any more attractive in Forces of Nature (yes)? Will Roberts make Mel Gibson seem any less pompous in Conspiracy Theory (no)?

I look forward to their movies - they are women's films (rather than being relegated to chick flicks) that show us (women) as being the complex, likeably unlikable, unlikeably likable, glamorously ugly, unbearably glamorous, unbelievably stupid, remarkably bright beings we actually are.

I appreciate that.


CineScene, 2000