She was the "Pretty Woman." She won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her work in "Erin Brockovich." She's been called America's Sweetheart, she was the first actress to break the $20 million salary barrier that
previously had only been held by men.
But despite the Academy Award for Best Actress, despite the dozens of hit movies she's starred in, and despite that charming laugh, the news from this weekend is that her latest film, "Duplicity," opened in (only) third place and brought in (only) $14.4 million. (It was behind "Knowing," with Nicholas Cage, and "I Love You, Man," with Paul Rudd And Jason Segel.)
Suddenly, if you read the reports, she's old (at 41). She's a mom. Because she's taken some time off to raise her small children, her career "has taken a back seat." And apparently, she's lost her power: Successful actresses are at their earning peak at 33, says E! Online, in comparing the revenues brought in by top actors and actresses over age 40:
To wit: "Since hitting the age that shall not be mentioned, the films of Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry, Sandra Bullock, Ashley Judd, Nicole Kidman, Demi Moore, Sarah Jessica Parker, Meg Ryan, Naomi Watts and Roberts have cumulatively averaged $38 million — about 17 percent below their overall combined career marks.
"Jim Carrey, George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Eddie Murphy, Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves, Adam Sandler, Will Smith and Ben Stiller, on the other hand, cashed in after their 40th birthdays, thanks to animated films and blockbuster franchises, averaging $106.1 million per film after the middle-aged milestone versus $82.5 million for their entire careers. That's an increase — an increase — of nearly 30 percent."
One entertainment web site called "Duplicity" the "litmus test" of Roberts' career. Another said she's "lost her golden touch."
Is this really still the way we see our female actors -- and, therefore, ourselves, in many ways -- today? Have we not gotten past the stereotyping yet? Why is it that one movie opening spells "the beginning of the end" for the most successful actress ever? Why have we not gotten to the point yet where we judge quality over age, or performance over personal attributes?
Ah, because it's only about money. It's only about the boxoffice. And when many fans might also be women -- who themselves might also be balancing work, home and family life in such a way that they don't see a film during the first two days it's out -- what happens is that the power of that demographic goes away.
Despite what we would like to think, I wonder if we've really made as much progress in this area as we might hope.
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